Photo by Patrick Giang
German-born Stefan Hartmann would like Canadian diners to know there’s more to German cuisine than crispy-fried schnitzel and big steins of beer. After owning his own restaurant, Hartmann’s, in Berlin from 2007 to 2013—during which time he received a Michelin star—the chef made the move to Canada, where he’s now at the helm of Bauhaus, an upscale German restaurant in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood.
How would you describe the culinary scene in Vancouver?
It’s so multicultural. Asian and South American foods are everywhere, and there’s great European food at places like Le Crocodile. You can travel around the world just being here in Vancouver.
When people think German food, they usually think “heavy.” Is that a misconception?
Well, it depends on who is cooking for you. If my grandparents were cooking a dish, then yes. You’d see a lot of cream. But I don’t cook like my grandparents would. I go way lighter on the sauces and make it all a little more refined. At Bauhaus, we cook with a lot of vegetables, too. I like having a freshness in my food—that’s something people really enjoy.
How has German cuisine evolved over the years?
In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, chefs in Germany would go work in France to learn the [proper skills] and also that French style of cooking. My generation still learned that French style, but then [many of us] stopped to think, ‘What can we do with the food that we grew up with?’ I look at my roots, then take those things I’ve grown up with and do it in a more modern way.
Is there a dish you grew up eating that diners will find on the Bauhaus menu?
I’m from North Germany, and on the coast, we grew up with smoked fish like mackerel and halibut. It was one of the things you’d eat with rye bread and a little bit of apple and horseradish on it. At the restaurant, we have a dish of smoked mackerel where we make a sauce out of apples and celery and then a horseradish foam and a “soil” of rye bread. When you eat it, you have all of those [traditional] flavours, but presented in an interesting way. It’s a really beautiful dish.
Hartmann’s Vancouver Food Picks
Weekend shopping: Granville Island Public Market
“I love going to the farmers’ market on Saturday. It’s something nice for me to start the day with.”
Afternoon snack: Siegel’s Bagels
“I like to get bagels from Siegel’s [with locations in Kitsilano and Granville Island] and eat them on the beach with my girlfriend.”
Fine dining: L’Abattoir
“It’s maybe 50 metres from Bauhaus and, to me, it is one of the best restaurants in Vancouver.”