Yesterday we spoke with Kurt Gutenbrunner about the meaning of “neue” cuisine and the release of his just-published cookbook. Today he tells us more about his restaurants and why it’s not so much the type of food that matters, but the experience.
Do you have an overall philosophy vis-à-vis your eateries?
I always believe the bigger point to be successful is not to look at the nationality too much but look at the customality. What do you want to create to have your customer feel, like, ‘Oh, I want to go there because I can’t get it anywhere else”?
Your restaurants are all similar in that they follow a Germanic tradition, but what would you say the biggest differences are between them?
The biggest difference is that the conceptions are all different. Wallsé is 12 years old now, and it’s really been established as a fine-dining restaurant. We have the biggest Austrian wine list in the United States. Café Sabarsky is a classic Viennese café. Blaue Gans is more of a bistro version of a bierhaus, with space for draft beer and sausages and calf’s liver. Then I have a wine bar in the West Village. And I consult for the beer gardens at the Standard Hotel.
Do you think about opening another restaurant?
There are so many things I want to do in my life. I want to write a book with my daughter. It’s very important that we think about nutrition as education. We have a good chance now with the administration and Michelle Obama raising awareness. Working more in this direction would make me happy. I also really loved L.A. [having opened the beer garden at the Standard]. Not the driving so much, but the love of life and it’s cool. So I don’t know what I’m going to do next. If you want to do something right, you have enough to do on a daily basis.
Have you ever thought about not cooking Austrian cuisine?
The beauty with Austrian and German cuisine is that there’s a huge influence in there from before when it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Parts of Italy like Trieste were part of it, and so was Slovakia, Yugoslavia … You see those traditions, too. As I said before, the steps I took [to open my restaurants] were necessary because that was the expectation. When I opened my first restaurant, had I done an Italian restaurant, I don’t think it would have lasted. Now things might be different, though.