Vitus Winkler, chef from St. Veit, in an interview

Vitus Winkler and his wife Eva-Maria took over the gourmet hotel Sonnhof in 2012 in the fourth generation from his parents. Since then, Vitus has been constantly working on the further development of his cooking skills.

With success: Vitus’ cuisine is characterized by regionality, closeness to nature and creativity and has now acquired an excellent reputation far beyond the borders of the country. She is now awarded four hoods.

The gourmets of this world gather in the Stüberl with pine panelling and in the modern a la carte restaurant “Herbal Kingdom by Vitus Winkler”. While you look for exotic ingredients such as lobster or oysters on your plates in vain, you will be surprised by the variety of regional products. Vitus Winkler knows exactly how aromas, flavors and ingredients combine to form a work of art: from the “Bach landscape” to moss and river stones to the “calf at the Marchfeld” with wild garlic meadow and asparagus on mushroom soil.

In December 2019, his new masterpiece will be on the market: “Herbal Kingdom – Secrets of Alpine Cuisine”.

At Vitus we have learned what inspirations and emotions are behind it and accompany him to the summit of pleasures.

The St. Veit-Schwarzach Tourist Board in an interview with chef Vitus Winkler

TVB: What prompted you to create a second cookbook?

Vitus Winkler:
I wanted to bring my development in the kitchen back into book form, as my first cookbook has been on the market for several years. It wasn’t until Rainer Schillings – a food journalist, author of various cookbooks and a great person at the same time – came to us on holiday two years ago that I began to play seriously again with the idea of creating a second cookbook.

Mr Schillings was so enthusiastic about our kitchen that he suggested to me that I should come forward if I want to write a book again. I accepted this offer immediately.

TVB: How long did the planning for the cookbook “Herbal Kingdom – Secrets of Alpine Cuisine” take?

Vitus Winkler:

The preparations for the book concept and the search for the right publisher took about six months.

After the contract with the publisher was signed, it was time for implementation.

TVB: How important is the selection of publishers, photographers, producers?

Vitus Winkler:

First of all, you make the decision to publish a book yourself or with a publisher – this of course makes it easier and risk-free. I was lucky that the publisher Matthaes was very enthusiastic about our project – it was a knighthood, as the publisher Matthaes only produces books with top chefs from all over the world.

The photographer is one of the most important factors when the whole thing is finished. As you know, the eye eats not only when eating, but also in cookbooks.

Nowadays, it is called a visual language and the right design in photography. For my project I know no better photographer than Mario Stockhausen. It combines the two factors perfectly. Mario Stockhausen takes pictures in such a way that the right mood is transmitted for every photo.

Only by selecting the right photographer, graphic designer, copywriter, paper, etc. can a good book be created. I believe that through countless hours and know-how of all, we have made the cookbook “Herbal Kingdom” a very great work.

TVB: What do you care about alpine cuisine? What is the special feature?

Vitus Winkler:
Alpine cuisine is NATURE AND CULTURE at the same time. The recipes handed down generations and KNOWING certain life-MEANS, that is the peculiarity.

Cooking with respect for nature and to handle resources carefully. Bringing these regional products to the plate so close to nature is particularly close to my heart. The guest should know where he is, in Salzburger Land.

TVB: “Herbal Kingdom” is the message of your cookbook. What emotion is behind this word?

Vitus Winkler:

No emotion, but PASSION!
The herbs give strength not only to my dishes, but also to myself.

TVB: For which target group is the book? What cooking skills should you already have?

Vitus Winkler:
The book is a timeline of my knowledge and that’s what I want to pass on.

The recipes range from hobby cook to professional. You don’t always have to cook the whole recipe, but every single recipe is a taste bomb.

TVB: Please tell us a little bit about your book. What’s in it & behind it?

Vitus Winkler:

“Herbal kingdom – secretness of alpine cuisine” – says the name. Secret recipes that are actually only passed on in the family.

I have divided the dishes at different heights, one makes a kind of herb hike from the village to rivers and lakes, from meadows into the forest and up to the alpine pasture to the summit of pleasures.

Each dish reflects the NATURE, or a story that I personally have. In addition, each dish focuses on a herb, which is also explained and what special feature it has.

In short: for me, the alpine KITCHEN of the modern era.

TVB: How important are regional products to you?

Vitus Winkler:
“Very important” is actually still too little!
Regional products are essential for my cuisine! Only through a regional product in focus can one speak of alpine cuisine.

TVB: Do you think it’s easy to cook with mostly regional products?

Vitus Winkler:
Usually not, but for me it’s a limitation that I enjoy. As a creative chef, I struggle with too much choice. That’s why I always write down only individual products, on which I can build and create a new dish from them.

TVB: Is it really the case that you pick your herbs, mushrooms, etc. yourself in the forest, on meadows etc. and then use them in a dish?

Vitus Winkler:

Honestly, yes, we go every two to three days together with my team or each individual and collect wild plants, berries, wild herbs and everything you can find, or as much as is needed for our guests.

With mushrooms I have some helpers of the region, who provide me with fresh mushrooms. Once a week I go with our hotel guests to collect herbs to raise awareness of these great treasures of nature.

Collecting is very good and is a nice balance for cooking. The power of nature on the Salzburg sun terrace is quite special.

TVB: Are you a natural person? Do you love the peace or the stressful everyday life of the kitchen?

Vitus Winkler:
The question was actually answered almost before. Yes, I went to hunting or the alpine pasture as a child. I had a beautiful, nature-loving childhood.

We humans are and should behave in this way. We are hosts and not guests on this planet. Going into the forest, just switching off and enjoying the treasures of nature, that’s something very special for me. But I also love the stressful everyday life of the kitchen when I am allowed to work at full throttle highly concentrated in the kitchen.

Actually, I like both – the tranquility of nature and the stressful everyday life in the kitchen.

People feel it when you cook with love, and so much comes back. That’s why I love this profession so much. To put a smile on people’s faces with just one bite – a real joy, not just for me.