Meet In Your Kitchen | Nobelhart & Schmutzig

by meike peters

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“Nature is much larger than our actual doings as humans because she can create so much more variety and so much more depth in taste.” – Billy Wagner / Nobelhart & Schmutzig

Nobelhart & Schmutzig seduces the hungry mind with a vibrant cosmos that is hard to resist. The restaurant is not just about food, there is a rebellious, a critical attitude behind it that likes to challenge the comfortable eater. Restaurateur and sommelier Billy Wagner and chef Micha Schäfer create dishes with verve, heart, and precision. They skillfully caress their guests’ tastebuds yet a visit at their Berlin restaurant goes beyond an exciting flavor experience. Billy and Micha dare to question and shake up established structures, to reshape and experiment with all the facets that a visit to a restaurant is about.

When you ring the restaurant’s door bell, when you’re seated at the c-shaped counter – the ‘kitchen table’ framing the open kitchen -, when Micha and his team cook and serve their refined compositions right in front of you, and when Billy, the conductor, takes care that you’ll never forget this evening, then you’re part of an almost orchestral experience that includes all your senses and excludes the outer world for a little while. There’s the excitement of the unexpected but there’s also the comfort of an ambience that allows you to be fully yourself. Isn’t that what a visit to a restaurant should be about?

Rewarded with a Michelin Star only nine months after the opening and with 16 points by Guide Gault Millau 2021, ranked at No. 57 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (extended to 120 restaurants in 2019), Nobelhart & Schmutzig quickly found its fame in the Berlin and in the international restaurant scene. As good as the praise may feel, the ‘old couple’ Billy and Micha – that’s how it feels when you meet them – entered the culinary scene with more profound intentions.

Billy comes from a family of restaurateurs; named Sommelier of the Year several times, gaining experience at the German 2-Star Michelin restaurant Zur Traube amongst others, he achieved a deep understanding of what a satisfying visit to a restaurant should truly be about. Dropping out of the 2-Star Michelin restaurant Villa Merton in Frankfurt at the innocent age of 27 and taking over the responsibility for the culinary creations in Billy’s endeavor right from the start in 2015, Micha also had a very clear vision of the food that inspires him as a chef.

Both men envisioned a menu that pulls the single ingredient right into the spotlight, and with that also the farmers, the butchers, and bakers that are responsible for each ingredient. Focussing, reducing, leaving out the unnecessary, that’s where they found their mantra and the clever and tasty answer to a changing way of eating and indulging. It’s about pure taste, thriving and prospering from seasonal, regional, and responsibly handled resources. And above all, it’s about having a good time and forgetting about obsolete conventions. Nobelhart & Schmutzig is the seductive synergy of two men, two opposite poles, one calm the other impulsive, which Billy modestly describes with the words: “Micha takes care that our guests enjoy the food and I take care that the guests are there.” Below you can find the recipe for Micha Schäfer’s Mashed Potatoes, Onions, Unripe Apples and Savory that he cooked for me at the restaurant.

The Nobelhart & Schmutzig podcast episode is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Billy and Micha on:

Spotify / Apple / DeezerGoogle / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Mashed Potatoes, Onions, Unripe Apples and Savory

by Micha Schäfer / Nobelhart & Schmutzig

“Our recipes strongly depend on the quality of the ingredients – this counts for each ingredient and that makes the difference. The more regional the ingredients that you buy yourself to prepare this recipe the bigger the possible differences to the ingredients that we held in our hands when we created this recipe and that’s great, that’s really good! This offers the possibility to experience cooking in a new way and to learn to always base a dish on the produce, that’s your starting point, just as we do at Nobelhart & Schmutzig. So be brave and adapt this recipe to your own local conditions!“ – Micha Schäfer

Serves 2

For the onions

  • 150g / 5 1/4 ounces onions
  • 80g / 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • Fine sea salt

For the mashed potatoes

  • 300g / 10 1/2 ounces waxy potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked butter (you can buy smoked butter online, in the Nobelhart & Schmutzig shop, or replace it with regular butter but then, unfortunately, you’ll miss out on the smokey touch)
  • 60g / 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 90ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the water used to cook the potatoes
  • About 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Fine sea salt

For the apples

  • 1 large or 2 small firm sour baking apples or unripe apples
  • unsalted butter, to cook the apples
  • 1 medium sprig savory

For the onions, peel the onions and dice them very finely. Heat the butter in a small pot over medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring once in a while, over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes or until very soft and pale-golden; they shouldn’t be brown.

For the mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes then cut them into halves or quarters and boil them in salted water for about 20-25 minutes or until soft; mind to keep the water used to cook the potatoes when they are done and set it aside. In a medium pot, mash the potatoes until very fine; you can also use a very fine sieve. Add the smoked butter and the butter and, using a wooden spoon or a whisk, beat / whisk until combined. Gradually add 75ml / 1/3 cup of the potato cooking water, whisking constantly, adding more of the liquid until the mashed potatoes reach the desired creamy texture. Season to taste with vinegar and salt, cover with a lid, and set aside.

Core the apples (don’t peel them) then cut small apples into quarters and large apples into 8 wedges. Heat a teaspoon of butter in a small, heavy pan over high heat (the pan should be very hot). Quickly sear the apple wedges in the hot pan on both sides until golden brown; they should stay firm.

Arrange a spoonful of the onions and a spoonful of the mashed potatoes on 2 plates then arrange the apples on top of the onions. Sprinkle with savory and serve immediately.

Guten Appetit!