Schliessen
Schliessen

Top Cuisine, no stress

Behind the scenes of a KD Dinner
For the third year in a row, some of Germany’s top chefs are demonstrating their culinary prowess as part of KD’s dinner cruise programme. One of them is Philipp Wolter. RheinZeitmagazine had the privilege of looking over his shoulder while the top chef from Düsseldorf prepared his menu in the MS RheinFantasie galley.

Let’s be honest: Just the thought of having to simultaneously cook for 70 people would cause most amateurs to break out in a cold sweat. And to produce a four-course meal in just two hours and do it all in an unfamiliar kitchen? The quantity of ingredients you have to buy alone... But when a leading chef like Philipp Wolter is faced with such a task, the whole thing appearsto be just a warm-up exercise for him – one involving great concentration, of course, but mastered with consummate ease. The most recent setting for this “warm-up exercise” was the MS RheinFantasie, the most elegant and modern ship in the KD fleet.

Philipp Wolter has been head chef at the stylish Restaurant Phoenix in Düsseldorf since the beginning of 2017, and besides working in his own gourmet restaurants, his résumé includes a number of 3-star establishments. He’s part of the line-up of cooks who give culinary guest appearances on board as part of the KD dinner cruise programme. Their concept is as simple as it is ingenious: For one evening, an award-winning guest cook takes over the on-board kitchen and treats the assembled gourmets to a four-course meal especially created for the occasion.

Perfectly prepared

On the day of “his” dinner cruise, Philipp Wolter arrives at the KD jetty in his estate car at 5pm. The first plate is due to leave the kitchen in exactly three hours, but the top chef is a picture of composure as he and RheinFantasie head chef Dominik Frühauf greet each other. They know one another from the previous year when Wolter made his début aboard the KD. With him in the car are two cooks from his Düsseldorf team and a few boxes. No huge kitchen staff, no huge quantities of food. Once on board, they’re given a brief tour of the kitchen, stow some of the food they’ve brought with them in the cold room and don their chef ’s whites.

The cooks unpack their knives and get started without further ado. Philipp Wolter and his team have already done a lot of the preparation work in advance at their Düsseldorf kitchen. The meat and fish are already cut and trimmed, side dishes and dessert are prepared. Wolter has brought home-made stock in several large preserve jars, and most of the work in the galley in the following hours consists of finishing cooking semi-prepared ingredients, cooking meat and fish “sous vide”, i.e. at low temperature which is an especially gentle method of cooking, and attractively arranging the various components on the plates.

Philipp Wolter

We’ve prepared everything as much as possible in advance... But we prepare all the fresh produce here, of course.”

They get started with a large crate full of all various types of toma-toes: Large bulbous ones lie beside small, almost black ones, medium-sized yellow ones alternate with red-green marbled examples. The cooks cut them all up into slices, and that takes quite a while even for the professionals. Another fiddly task is to carefully pluck the many fresh herb plants the guest chefs have brought with them in small growing pots.

Teamwork

By now, the saddle of veal is cooking. Philipp Wolter inspects the forward salon on the main deck of the ship together with Dominik Frühauf. His services will be needed today when it comes to serving. Frühauf sends some his people into the kitchen in order to lend their colleagues from Düsseldorf a hand. The tomatoes have now been sliced and the herbs harvested. The delicate beluga lentils are put into a pan.

The ship’s manager welcomes the first guests aboard and the waiting staff guide them to their reserved seats and serve a glass of Sekt as an aperitif. The forward salon on the upper deck gleams in festive white, the evening sun shines through the panorama window and reflects off the polished glasses on the tables. One deck lower, and things are starting to pick up pace. Bright green pea mousse is removed from the cold room and the pre-prepared polenta cubed. The wels catfish is also ready, neatly wrapped in a jacket of lardo.

Like a well-oiled machine

Once the last of the guests have taken their seats in the upper salon and the MS RheinFantasie has weighed anchor, Philipp Wolter sends out the “amuse bouche” to whet the appetite. The top chef then appears in person before the gath-ered connoisseurs to introduce his creations for the evening, before once again disappear-ing back down to the kitchen. The tables in the lower salon, which has been reconfigured as aserving area, are now laid out with plates. The menu says “Faux Tomato with Burrata”. What is that exactly? Philipp Wolter smiles: “We decided to have a laugh by separating the tomatoes into their constituent parts, as it were, and reconstituting them again.” This “laugh” looks very appetising as it’s arranged on the plate with the creamy soft Italian cheese. It joins the finely chopped, variously shaped tomatoes that form a wonderful salad accompaniment.

Four people are working hand in hand to ensure that every plate leaves the serving area as a perfectly formed miniature work of art: The first places a bed of salad leaves on the plate, the next arranges the tomatoes and a third the burrata. Last of all is the head chef, who arranges the “faux tomatoes” and performs a final inspection of each plate. Removing a few lettuce leaves here, adjusting the tomato mixture there or wiping a vinaigrette drip from the edge of a plate. And all the while nonchalantly explaining how such a menu comes into being: “I try and use seasonal ingredients, of course. And a lesson I’ve learnt from last year is that each course shouldn’t con-sist of too many components, otherwise we won’t have enough time to get everything done.”

While the guests are enjoying the harmonious tomato-cheese creation accompanied by a perfectly matched 2014 Riesling, the fish course is nearing completion in the galley: The lentils are cooked and now form the bed on which the wels catfish in its aromatic lardo jacket will rest. This time, the food is plated in the kitchen, with the on-board and guest cooks working together as an efficient team, and the waiting staff serve the second course as the ship reaches the southern outskirts of Cologne.

Philipp Wolter allows the gourmets a small break before he spoils them with a perfectly cooked, melt-in-the-mouth saddle of veal, variation of peas and sautéed Polenta.

He concludes the menu with a wonderfully creamy milk choco- late ganache with strawberries and vanilla panna cotta before right at the end entering the salon once more, still apparently completely at ease, to the rapturous applause of the guests.

As the MS RheinFantasie reaches its berth in the shadow of Cologne cathedral at around 10pm, the last of the dessert plates are empty and the kitchen cleared away again. Their work done, the guest chefs and ship’s cooks drink a Kölsch on deck to the successful evening.