Hiltl - Vegetarian Heaven
Finally, I can share this with you! The exciting event that I mentioned days ago. I was invited to learn how to cook Vegetarian Antipasti, and finger-food at Hiltl, the world oldest, definitely also one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the world!!!
Hiltl was started by a German tailor Ambrosius Hiltl in 1898, and had been passed on now to its 4th generation. It wasn't always easy back then to run a vegetarian restaurant, when the whole concept of 'vegetarian' is considered eccentric. But now, thanks to the trend of healthy living, awareness of animal welfare, globalization, and the current owner's new strategy, Hiltl is now doing incredibly well and growing fast.
When I arrived in Zurich for my cooking class, I first visited Hiltl's 'Vegi-Metzg" (Swiss German for "Vegetable Butcher"). It is a beautiful little shop, which sells vegetarian take-away dishes, anti-pasties, sauces, spices, cookbooks, and so on. On the second floor of the shop, you can also find some seats for you to sit quietly and enjoy the dishes or where you can work on your laptop.
After the quick visit of the shop, I went into the Hiltl restaurant, where the cooking lesson was going to take place. Inside, on the ground floor, there was a huge vegetarian buffet, with dishes from all over the world, India, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, and etc. You name it they have it. The food looked so colorful and fresh. My mouth was just watering as I walked pass them. I was also impressed by the large collection of cooking books in the their library, over two thousands of books!
The Kochatelier (cooking studio) was in fact set up in the middle of the 2nd floor of the restaurant (clever way to get new customers!). I was greeted by Wolfi (the chef) and his assistant Desirée. Around us, everything was beautifully set up: dining table, cooking stations, fresh herbs, spices, ingredients, cooking pots and pans, basically everything you need for cooking!
Wolfi started the lesson by giving us a brief introduction of himself. Prior to his role at Hiltl in Switzerland, he worked for many prestigious restaurants and hotels and lived in China, Hong Kong, India, and Middle East. He did much of his vegetarian cooking training in India. In a nutshell, we were having a true vegetarian cooking guru here to teach us! Lucky me!
After the brief bio, Wolfi went on to teach us some basics of cooking, for example, how to use the knife ( I need to attend another lesson just on this topic!); various spices and herbs (did you know that there exist hundred kinds of cinnamon?). Then it is time to cook! We were divided into teams with two in each and each team needed to cook up two dishes. My team was to cook Tomato-Orange Cappuccino soup and Super Quick Tortilla.The recipes were very easy to follow and we got help and guidance from Wolfi and Desirée from time to time. In between, I also walked around to see what other participates are working on. After an hour of cooking and eating, we finally presented our dishes to the tables for all of us to try. But before we sat down, we were given a tour to see the kitchen of Hiltl! Goodie!
Desirée led us the tour through different floors of the kitchen (three floors they have!) explained to us how the food was typically prepared. They have every kitchen tool you can imagine (but some of them in giant sizes), huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and large collection of spices. Just look at the pictures below, then you will know what I mean. Hiltl also took pride in how international their team is. They hire chefs from all over the world to cook their specialities there, so the customers can experience the true world-food.
After some stairs climbing, it is finally time to sit down and eat! Moment of truth! I mean, WOW! They were so delicious!!! What I found most interesting is that in each dish, there was that one "surprise ingredient" to lift the dish. Tortilla with potato crisps, Crostini with shaved Brie, Crispy Tofu with cornflakes... I think you got the picture. My personal favorite dish were Crostini with Date and Brie Mousse and Tortilla with Leek, Eggs and Potato Crisps.
All in all, I loved my cooking experience at Hiltl and I wish I could also try some of their other cooking lessons some other day. They offer more than 10 different classes with specialties like Moroccan food, Asian food, Italian food, and so on (http://www.hiltl.ch/de/haus-hiltl/kochatelier/kochkurse-fuer-erwachsene). They also offer cooking lessons in English and for family and kids! If you are in the area of Zurich and love cooking, you should definitely visit Hiltl and try their food and cooking lessons. I promise you, you won't regret it!
Thanks again, Hiltl, Wolfi and Desirée for such an unforgettable experience! I will be back, soon!