Hubert Burda Media

What do these 7 chefs love about Christmas?

Celebrated chefs share what they love best about the flavours of the holiday season. 

ANDREAS CAMINADA
Schauenstein Schloss


With three Michelin stars and 19 Gault&Millau points to his name, the Fürstenau-based Swiss Chef travels abroad twice a year for cooking collaborations.

My childhood Christmases…always featured fondue chinoise, a typical Swiss holiday hotpot dish. It was about sharing and staying at the table together for dinner.

What I remember best about Christmas…is that when it starts snowing and getting cold, you put up candles everywhere and light the fireplace. I once spent the year-end holiday season in South Africa and it didn’t have the same feeling. Growing up, there’s snow outside, you play with your sled during the day and when you go back home, there are freshly baked cookies — that is something you never forget.

Christmas for the senses involves…the sound of bells and the smell of Mailänderli, a type of cookie with a lot of butter. That’s when you know December 25 is coming.

For a festive meal for family and friends, I would make…something prepared in advance, perhaps a roast and maybe an appetiser of rösti, a crispy potato fritter, with tartar on top and caviar — sometimes you need to celebrate.

SAM AISBETT
Whitegrass


Before leaving his native Australia for Singapore, where he serves his interpretation of modern Australian cuisine, the chef–owner of the year-old Whitegrass worked under Peter Gilmore and Tetsuya Wakuda.

Christmas for the senses involves…earthy warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and cardamom, and pine; whisky and eggnog; and barbeque, because that’s how the holiday is done in Australia, but with lighter flavours and more fresh salads and slaws as the weather is so hot then.

For a festive meal for family and friends, I would make…tacos at home, which I’ve been doing in recent years. We make ours with turkey mince and I usually set up a DIY taco bar. It may not be your traditional roast, but I think this kind of food really evokes the spirit of Christmas — it is fun, festive food. Everyone sits around the living room, having a great time, chowing down on tacos and drinking beers.

The ideal gift for anyone would be…to give an experience, either an amazing dinner at a great restaurant or just cooking a meal for someone. I prefer this to giving someone a physical gift.

All I want for Christmas is…a Porsche!

KAMILLA SEIDLER
Gustu


Newly crowned Latin America’s Best Female Chef 2016, Seidler moved to La Paz, Bolivia, in 2012 to become executive head chef at Gustu and is known in the region as the Andean Danish.

Christmases during my childhood…meant watching the Queen of Denmark’s speech on TV at 6pm and then having dinner, before anxiously waiting to open presents after singing carols and dancing around the tree.     

What I remember best about Christmas is…the cooking that goes on before the holiday — baking cookies, making duck confit — and getting the tree and decorating it.

Christmas for the senses involves…cinnamon, clove, carols, marzipan, duck sauce and take-away Thai food when you get too much Christmas!

For a festive meal for family and friends, I would make…pork roast with cracklings, duck confit, pickled red cabbage and ris à l’amande, a rice pudding with toasted almonds and cherry sauce.

HENK SAVELBERG
Savelberg


Having earned Michelin stars for four of his establishments in the Netherlands, the Dutch chef chose Bangkok to set up his first overseas restaurant after a trip to the Land of Smiles.

Christmases during my childhood… saw my siblings and I playing in the snow together. In the Netherlands, we don’t really have mountains, so we had snowball fights and built snowmen.

My best memory of Christmas…is the time it suddenly started snowing outside as I was serving Christmas dinner in my restaurant. I never close the restaurant on December 25: It’s very nice to work then; it’s the best time of the year.

For a festive meal for family and friends, I would make…pheasant with sauerkraut, as this poultry is in season and preparing it gives a great aroma.  

An ideal gift for anybody is…diamonds, because they shine so nicely.

GILLES MARX
Amuz Gourmet Restaurant


After growing up in the Alsatian countryside in France, the Chevalier de L’Ordre du Mérite Agricole and chef–founder of Amuz in Jakarta traversed the globe seeking fresh flavours and organic produce throughout his 30-year culinary career.

Every Christmas during my childhood…we started December with an advent calendar — a beautiful Christmas-themed picture with small windows and chocolates hidden behind each one. On St Nicholas’ Day on December 6, well-behaved children received flat gingerbread with white sugar glazing and mandarins or oranges. Decorating the tree was a family affair, and my dad would pick a pine from the backyard a week in advance. On December 25, we’d go to church while my mum prepared a full French lunch, which started with apéritif and ended with home-brewed Alsatian eau de vie.

What I remember best about Christmas is…the moments when everyone gives a hand to prepare a great meal, while telling stories from previous years or from our childhood. Everyone would be assigned a task, preparing the canapés, cleaning the vegetables, salad, setting a beautiful table, preparing the roast or baking the dessert.  

Christmas for the senses involves…the cookies my mum baked, the first sign of the holiday’s approach. Outdoors, it’d be cold, so when you entered the warm kitchen the smell of butter, cinnamon, gingerbread, chocolate, roasting walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts hit you. There’d be carols in French and German too, since I grew up in this dual-language part of France.

The city with the best festive atmosphere is…Strasbourg — to me, no place beats it — and the small villages in Alsace, France. The decorations, markets and holiday spirit are just incredible.

JULIEN ROYER
Odette


The French chef–owner at the two-Michelin-starred venue devotes himself to terroir and seasonality, inspired by his grandmother’s lessons on creating complex beauty from honest ingredients.

Christmases during my childhood…saw us sharing a roast, maybe turkey or guinea fowl, from our farm and it’d be a long lunch that turned into dinner. We were in the centre of France, and there wasn’t much seafood, so there was usually a dish of pâté en croûte (a chicken, duck or foie gras meatloaf encased in a dough crust), pumpkin or squash soup and for dessert, it was always chocolate bûche de noël (Yule log).

What I remember best about Christmas is…being a kid, a little boy, still believing Santa will bring you presents. That’s what the holiday was all about for us — to have this little moment of magic, when you wake up and see the tree full of gifts.

Christmas for the senses involves…the smell of honey, cinnamon and pine needles.

For a festive meal for family and friends, I would make…maybe a big seafood display, where everyone can help themselves — you don’t want to spend too much time cooking; you want to be at the table with friends and family. And there has to be lots of champagne.

All I want for Christmas is…a good time with people I love, sharing great food and wine.

VICKY CHENG
Vea Restaurant


The executive chef returned to Hong Kong after stints in Toronto and New York, and his French–Chinese concept restaurant, VEA, earned its first Michelin star just last month.

This year, it’ll be…my first Christmas as a father and my mum will meet her first grandchild. I will, for the first time, take a few days off to spend with my mum and sister from Toronto.

Every Christmas during my childhood…my parents used to ask me for a wish list for Santa and I’d put everything on it, hoping I’d get at least one present as I believed Santa was real then. Of course, being the great parents they are, they ended up getting everything for me. But after two years, they wised up, so my list got longer and longer, but I received less and less.

What I remember best about Christmas is…that it is the one day out of the year’s 365 days that I’d wish for snow.

For a festive meal for family and friends, I would make…cranberry, turkey, maple bacon stuffing, caesar salad, mashed potato and roasted honey carrots. I love the “sharing” and “family style” of food during this dinner.

The city with the best festive atmosphere is…New York! I love, love New York during Christmas.There is something about Fifth Avenue and Times Square, a vibe and feeling that I don’t get elsewhere.