Life Lessons with… Tim Raue

He's one of Germany's most celebrated chefs, with a very sweet tooth, a penchant for very expensive sweaters, and Chip & Dale as his ideal dinner guests. Tim Raue lets us in on his innermost thoughts…

Words by Adam Lechmere

Tim Raue is one of Berlin’s most-decorated and flamboyant restaurateurs. Born in 1974 in the once-scruffy but now chic district of Kreuzberg (in the 1970s, the area was notorious for its poverty and instability – Raue’s CV includes a stint in a violent street gang) he is one of a handful of German chefs to have made a name for themselves internationally.

At Kreuzberg’s two-Michelin starred Restaurant Tim Raue – which has been a regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List since 2016 – there’s nothing typically ‘German’ about the food, which is Asian-inspired, a mix of Thai, Chinese and Japanese culinary traditions. Raue says, “I love Asia but I am a native of Berlin. You can see it in these dark blue Prussian colours [the restaurant’s décor is predominantly blue] and in the way I work, which is very precise.”

I’m not looking for quantity but for a rollercoaster of sensations

Raue says he wants to ‘attain the purity’ of eastern cuisine, and eschews all wheat, gluten and starch. Dishes like monkfish with sambal manis (sweet chilli sauce) and mandarin, or wagyu beef with beetroot and black truffle are created around “spiciness, acidity and natural sweetness. I’m not looking for quantity but for a rollercoaster of sensations.” And while Raue insists his approach is traditional – “The Chinese were using sous-vide 2000 years ago” – he doesn’t necessarily mean German traditional.

In addition to his flagship restaurant, Raue is culinary advisor to the Brasserie Colette Tim Raue in Munich, Constance and Berlin, and to the Villa Kellermann in Potsdam. His Asian restaurant concept Hanami was launched on the TUI Mein Schiff 5 cruise ship in 2016, and has since been rolled out to three more of the fleet’s ships.

During lockdown, Raue didn’t close his five restaurants; in common with thousands of others around the world he switched to take-away for more than two months. “It worked great,” he told Club Oenologique. Here’s what else he had to say…

What was your childhood ambition? 

To survive.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 21? 

I wish I’d known how much time you need to become a Michelin starred chef. I started when I was 17 and received my first star aged 31.

Inside Restaurant Tim Raue: "I am a native of Berlin. You can see it in these dark blue Prussian colours"

What exercise do you do?

Crossfit, and lifting a glass of excellent red wine to my lips, again and again.

What is the character trait you most wish you could change in yourself? 

I would like to be more relaxed.

What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought (aside from property)?

A navy blue vicuña sweater from Loro Piana. I am addicted to blue cashmere and I decided to buy myself vicuña as a treat. I also purchased a bottle of 1830 Garrafeira Port at auction and ended up paying twice as much as I had planned [the 1830 Garrafeira is currently changing hands for about £2,500 a bottle].

Rare breeds: Raue says the two most expensive things he's ever bought are a bottle of ultra-rare 1830 Garrafeira Port, and a vicuña sweater. The fleece of the vicuña, a relative of the alpaca, is astonishingly light and warm - and stratospherically expensive.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why? 

I am very lucky that my life – in normal times – allows me to travel the world, so the places I actually live [Raue has an apartment in Berlin, his wife Katharina Wolschner has an apartment in Graz in Austria, and he owns a house in Sicily] are the ones I really adore: the vibrant city of Berlin, the cosy town of Graz and the baroque village of Modica in Sicily, a Unesco World Heritage Centre.

There are many places Raue would like to live - and he's lucky enough to have a house in all of them, including the baroque village of Modica in Sicily

If you could do any other job what would it be? 

I don’t want to do another job. I do what I do best, and that brings me the best fun, all the time.

What luxury item would you take with you to a desert island? 

How long do I have to stay there? Do they have a great wine list? And Zwiesel 1872 glasses? 

What haven’t you yet achieved that you want to? 

Every service is a new challenge: we have to make our guests happy on a daily basis. As long as I’m doing gastronomy, me and my team have to achieve this every day.

If you were king or queen of the world, what’s the first law you would enact? 

I am not so childish as to think that I could rule the world. But 20 years ago I would have said that I would make sure everyone can live his or her life as he or she wants, and that no-one is allowed to be violent against another.

Whom would you invite to your fantasy dinner party? 

Chip & Chap [as the long-running Disney cartoon characters Chip & Dale are called in Germany] would be fun. Then my loved ones and friends, and the owners of Domaine Armand Rousseau, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Château Latour, Champagne Krug and Weingut Tement. They’d have to bring their best wines, of course.

Aubert de Villaine
Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, along with various of his peers, would be make a brilliant dinner guest - though what the eminent Burgundian would make of Chip & Dale (see below) is anybody's guess

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

Sugar. I am totally addicted to ice cream, chocolate (especially Domori Milk Chocolate with Fleur De Sel) and lemonade.

What’s your secret talent? 

I can be very, very lazy (if I have time).

When were you happiest? 

When the business is running well and I can have a relaxed dinner with a mature red Burgundy and friends, and it’s sunny and around 25˚C outside.

Whom do you most admire? 

People that are consistently nice, and handsome, and give you a smile directly from the heart.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 

Verfickte scheisse [“fucking shit”]

What’s your greatest regret? 

Sometimes, when I host wine dinners with my friends, I get so excited that I open a few too many bottles; then we get so drunk that we can’t cherish them.

What’s your current favourite box-set, TV programme or podcast? 

Two and a Half Men, The Blacklist, Hollywood, and Chef’s Table

The Blacklist, Chef's Table and Two and a Half Men make up an eclectic list of box-set favourites

What’s your most treasured possession? 

My custom-made Blaken Rolex in black & blue. It was my birthday gift to myself for my 40th birthday; then there is the 1830 Garrafeira, and a beloved bottle of Rousseau’s Clos de Bèze.

What time do you go to bed? 

As early as I can, mostly around 23.00