Andreas Caminada, 45, has been the owner since 2003 with his wife Sarah of Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau, Switzerland, three Michelin stars. He also looks after the kitchen line at Casa Caminada, OZ and the 4 Igniv restaurants in St. Moritz, Bad Ragaz, Zurich and Bangkok.
Waiters with salaries of 4,300 euros per month, dishwashers at 3,500, zero interns, workers all in order from day one, labour costs for companies well below the continental average. It may be the most expensive country in Europe, but in the assessment of costs and benefits, the latter clearly prevail if restaurants in Switzerland are packed with gastarbeiter, Italian, French or German workers who ultimately choose to live happily in one of Switzerland's 26 federated states.
The canton of Graubünden is the most temperate of all, explains Andreas Caminada as he strolls through the vegetable gardens cultivated in the shadow of Schloss Schaunstein in Fürstenau, the castle he took over from a bankrupt school in 2003. Seven years later the Michelin stars were already 3, a determination that, more than anything else, can be explained by the hard work he and his wife Sarah have put in over the past 19 years.
For that matter, the Caminada family now has a total of nine stars - the same as Enrico Bartolini's, the most Michelin-starred Italian ever - if the tally also includes the four Igniv restaurants, which are controlled a little at a distance. But to judge the value of a chef by the macaronic abacus is to look at the finger and not the moon. Far better to drive a couple of hours north of Como through the fairy-tale green hairpin bends to the warm Domschleg, a valley with an average of 1,500 hours of sunshine per year.
Fürstenau is a sleepy hamlet of 350 inhabitants who speak Romansch. More or less directly, they are all involved in the fiefdom of Andreas Caminada, a young man who boasts prominent ancestry: his great-uncle was elected bishop of nearby Chur in 1941. 'Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of that,' he jokes. Yet the devotion his people bring him is evident when observing his employees and suppliers.
The former are 45, they were four in the beginning. And you find them busy with good manners between the castle restaurant, the vegetable garden and greenhouses opposite and Casa Caminada, the guesthouse of minimalist elegance opened a decade ago just around the corner. A former barn with alternating iron and larch wood furnishings, its charm is hard to place in time. Andreas and Sarah have converted it into a few bright rooms with large windows overlooking the castle and surrounding valleys, a traditional table, a bakery that bakes loaves of bread we can still smell and a small shop dripping with self-produced goodness.
There are 58 suppliers in all: we know this because we were able to meet them one by one the other week, when Caminada summoned them for one of the most joyous gastronomic festivals we have ever observed, 'Fall in love'. Once a
year for the past five editions, just a step away from the autumn, producers of cheese, sausages and cold cuts, honey and saffron, vermouth and gin, chocolate and potatoes, plums and sea buckthorn jams set up their stalls in the narrow streets of the village. Five thousand people came from the surrounding valleys and villages to buy and enjoy the fresh food cooked on site: sausages, lamb chops, capuns from Graubünden and even pisarei e fasö that had come up who knows how from Piacenza. In the evening, everything on the streets was as clean as if nothing had happened.
The model is praiseworthy and could be replicated very easily in the small gourmet and beauty villages of Italy, from Vencò to Licata: it makes the tasting of hidden edible pearls accessible to ordinary people and greatly strengthens the feeling between restaurateur and supplier. It was a pleasure to see the enthusiasm of the producers as our king of the castle passed by. He had a smile for everyone, a kindness that reverberates in the loyalty of his staff: «I have nothing but respect for everyone who works with me,» Andreas explained, «the time for abuse in the kitchens is over. It must become normality».
Philanthropy is an important value at Fürstenau: in 2015, Andreas and Sarah founded the Uccellin Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides under-35 chefs from all over the world with five-and-a-half months' experience and scholarships in around sixty of the most important restaurants and producers on the planet. «We had to give back all the good we have received in these 20 years. To give young people who deserve it a chance to dream».
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Schloss Schauenstein, 16th/18th September 2022
The Bakery attached to Casa Caminada churns out fragrant bread every day and sells many small homemade goodies, from the much sought-after granola (fruit, chocolate or classic) to sea buckthorn jams, from sausages of all kinds to croissants, pain-au-chocolat to Andreas’ books (all in German)...
On the minus one floor of Casa Caminada there is a long list of home-fermented local products: 70 per cent are classic pickles, the rest lacto-fermented, kimchi, sauerkraut...
A detail of the vegetable garden in front of Schauenstein Castle: the Caminada team cultivates more than 700 types of herbs and tomatoes there. At the moment it covers 90% of the vegetables cooked in the vegetarian restaurant OZ. «The goal,»explains chef Andreas, «is to reach 100 per cent soon».
The bucolic scenery in front of Schloss Schauenstein
The front view of Schauenstein Castle. The original layout dates back to 1272. Andreas Caminada bought it in 2003, renovating and completely redesigning it. It was awarded its third Michelin star in just a few years (in 2010). The restaurant is ranked 40th in the World's 50 Best and has 19 twentieths in the Gault/Millau Guide
The main dining room of the Castle restaurant. Tasting menus cost 240, 265 and 280 Swiss francs for 3, 4 or 5 courses. Reservations must be made months in advance to find a table
The appetisers in the tasting menu: of particular note are a delicious Pastrami taco (far left), an Onion tartlet and a Mmushroom millefeuille. Caminada's cuisine underwent a fundamental change eight years ago, when the chef decided to switch from classic to contemporary cuisine and focus almost exclusively on the bounty of the surroundings: freshwater fish, pigs and deer, local vegetables, wild herbs
Detail of pastrami tacos
Beetroot juice and yoghurt tartlet. In the long series of initial appetisers a wise use of acidity and restrained sourness stood out
Masterfully made bread and butter
Pork, bacon, onion and dehydrated pear, one of Andreas Caminada's great classics
Chamois, turnip and mushrooms, classic concept, infinitesimal cooking
The formidable (Swiss!) cheese trolley at Schloss Schauenstein. Over 20 types: Blaue Geiss, Reblochon, Hölzig Schaf, Chèvre frais, Jersey Blue, Rheintaler Schafskäse, Blauer Büffel, Prättigauer Geiss, Andeerer Traum, Andeerer Rustica, Andeerer Granit, Bündner Bergkäse, Caprinello, Chäller Käse, Gonzenstein, Bergfichte, Splunger Tröimli, La Tomme Vaudoise, Tannen Käse, Stranser Fladä, Quadretto, Huus-Spezialität... Panforte can also be glimpsed at the top left
Before the dessert, ingredients that you would have imagined more as an aperitif such as sausages, salami, potatoes... return to the table
The residue table. And the wine pairings? Highly sought-after and niche labels, between Switzerland and France
Andreas Caminada with Schloss Schauenstein executive chef Marcel Skibba
The most traditional table at Casa Caminada, a stone's throw from the Castle
Two classics of Graubünden cuisine: the very popular Capuns, a mixture of eggs and flour in chard leaves, boiled in milk and broth, and Pizzoccheri with cabbage, bacon and crispy onions
The 12-cover horseshoe at OZ, the vegetarian restaurant that opened a year ago, also in Fürstenau, next to Casa Caminada. We were not lucky enough to go there but had written about it extensively here
Grilled peas and watercress, OZ's signature dish. The 2 tasting menus cost 196 and 222 Swiss francs for 7 and 9 courses (plus 165 for the pairing)
Every year for the past five editions, Andreas Caminada has organised 'Fall in Love' in mid-September, a festival where all his suppliers (58 this year) bring all kinds of goodness. The other day, 5,000 people turned up, all lined up, all ordered in, eating lamb chops, pisarei e fasö, cheeses and sensational sausages
In addition to the 3 restaurants in Fürstenau, in 2015 Andreas Caminada opened 4 restaurants with the same name, Igniv ('nest' in Romansh) in Bad Ragaz and St. Moritz (2 Michelin stars each), Zurich and Bangkok (1 star each). Informal, very pleasant but no less rigorous in execution and service. In the photo, shared dishes at Igniv in Zurich (tasting menu, 165 euros)
Ines Triebenbacher and Daniel Zeindlhofer, respectively restaurant manager and chef, partners in life, at restaurant Igniv in Zurich
Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.