Star Chef Peter Knogl from the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois in Basel has opened the doors of the Cheval Blanc by Peter Knogl Restaurant and reflects on the fascination of a gourmet cigar.
Davidoff and Gault Millau have named you “Cigar Man of the Year 2017”.
What does this title mean to you?
In my view, “Cigar Man of the Year 2017” is not only something very special, but also an incentive to continue to do my utmost. But this title should really have been awarded to the Cheval Blanc by Peter Knogl Restaurant and to our bar and Salon du Cigare in the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois. My colleague, cigar expert Thomas Huhn, advises aficionados from all over the world after their meals.
Our Salon has a walk-in humidor and a view of the Rhine, enabling our guests to sit back and relax, enjoying cigars from our wide selection with the perfect drinks to accompany them. A wonderful way to forget the troubles of daily life.
You are an aficionado yourself. How did that happen? What do you associate with a pleasurable cigar?
I was 17 the first time I tried one. Of course my affinity with cigars has grown much more intense since then. Every day I work with the finest aromas, and I believe that an excellent meal goes hand-in-hand with an after-dinner cigar. For me, time is essential to enjoying a cigar that feels, smells and tastes wonderful. Enjoying it and relaxing is real meditation – a luxury that I love to savour. I believe that a well-aged rum or a luxurious red wine provide the perfect accompaniment.
You have been awarded 19 Gault Millau points and your third Michelin star last autumn. How do you intend to get even better?
Success means hard work and discipline for everyone in my team. Now we are very conscious of maintaining the three Michelin stars and the high quality. We will simply have to do our homework.
That not only means stamina and constantly striving for perfection, but also unrelenting innovation and creativity. I was deeply inspired on my trips to Korea and Japan. And of course my passion for cooking is the driving force behind this growth and further development. I don’t think excellence is possible if you are not passionate about the subject. That is why cooking is not just my job, it’s also my hobby.
Together with other top chefs, you have helped to create a Davidoff Gourmet Cigar: the Chefs’ Edition. What did you enjoy about this project? How was the experience?
I took a personal look at the tobacco fields in Jicomé in the Dominican Republic with Davidoff’s tobacco blender, Hendrik Kelner. I wanted to become intimately familiar with all of the stages in the production process, right through to the finished cigar. I know that I am very privileged to have had this opportunity, but it was also crucial for me to understand the fundamentals because, just as with cooking, you have to know where the products that you use actually come from. It is only when you know and understand their origin and how they grow that you know how to handle them correctly. That is how it is with wine, which has similar rhythms and requirements during cultivation and production.
The whole environment is important and decisive. It’s exactly the same for cigars. I enjoy looking back on the fascinating aromas, colours and the happy people that I got to know on my trip into the homeland of tobacco.
Then, when I got to know my colleagues Renato Wüst, Ali Güngörmüs, Léa Linster, Michel Trama, Maria Marte and the Davidoff team for the first time in the course of discussing the tobacco mixture for the first Davidoff Chefs’ Edition, I attached great value to every connoisseur who enjoys the final product. As a chef, one of the most important goals for me is to create new delicacies and to create pleasure for those who enjoy them. That is why I love my job, and that is why I love the Davidoff Chefs’ Edition project.
This year was the first time you inaugurated the Davidoff Tour Gastronomique in the Dominican Republic in the five-star Casa de Campo resort. Is a new Davidoff Tour Gastronomique planned for 2017?
My colleague Maria Marte from Spain and I will be inaugurating the Cheval Blanc in the spring of 2017 for the Davidoff Tour Gastronomique, and we will then invite all of our guests to enjoy a Dominican menu. After their culinary journey the guests will be treated to a major highlight of the evening: a rum and cigar tasting.
Our idea is to present the lightness of these pleasures, joie de vivre and aromas, as well as the Chefs’ Edition at this gourmet dinner, and also to celebrate the fusion of Caribbean and European cultures as a brand new creation. I am particularly happy that my Dominican colleague, Maria Marte from Madrid, is supporting me in this endeavour.
She left her home country, the Dominican Republic, twelve years ago to start an adventure that would determine the rest of her life. Today, the Spanish press lovingly refers to her as a modern-day Cinderella, without a prince but with a happily ever after. Now she is the only chef in Madrid to boast two Michelin stars.
The Davidoff Tour Gastronomique offers great culinary moments, accompanied by the Chefs’ Edition and the finest of Davidoff cigars. The unique alliance between star chefs Peter Knogl and Maria Marte (Club Allard Experience from Madrid) has not only inspired the creation of the Davidoff Chefs’ Edition, but is also inspiring luxury-seekers to sample it.
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