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Heinrich Schneider

Heinrich Schneider

Heinrich’s style of cooking has developed with time. René Redzepi is one of the chef’s mentors, as they both put foraging at the forefront of their cuisine. There are fifty different local mountain herbs that Heinrich will use throughout the year, including Lady’s Mantle, Silene, Iceland Moss, Birch, Garden Cress and Plantain. ‘I use them in different ways depending on their texture,’ he explains. ‘They can be used in starters, side dishes or as a filling, and sometimes I dry them and use them as powders. The sweet-scented bedstraw, for example, is only good when dried and used as a seasoning. You cannot buy these plants. You have to know the woods.’

It’s this knowledge of unknown ingredients, combined with a quest to create strange new dishes, that makes Heinrich one of the most exciting chefs in Italy today. Being based in South Tyrol makes this more possible than other parts of Italy. ‘You can find traditional food all over the country,’ explains Heinrich. ‘But because South Tyrol is both Italian and Germanic there’s more freedom. We get lots of international tourists who are willing to try new things and people are generally more open-minded. We’re lucky to have this mix.’

When coming up with a new dish, Heinrich always starts with the raw materials. He travels around the mountains asking friends and farmers about specific ingredients he hasn’t used before, which he then brings back to the restaurant. ‘The key is to take these ingredients and mix them with flavours I’m already familiar with,’ he tells us. ‘I make some strange combinations.’

When asked about his future plans, Heinrich doesn’t have any great ambitions. He just wants to carry on championing the local flavours which have surrounded his whole life, and to put South Tyrol in its rightful place as one of Europe’s truly great gastronomic destinations. ‘I want to develop my passion and desires here and for people to enjoy the surroundings, walking around the area and discovering this magical place.’

Three things you should know

Spring is the best time for foraging in South Tyrol but the winter is particularly sparse, so Heinrich preserves as many herbs and vegetables as he can during the warmer months for use later on in the year.

Only a few dishes on Heinrich's menu have been there for more than a year, as he likes to constantly experiment and evolve his cuisine.

In 2004, Heinrich went on a two year course to becoming a qualified cookery teacher, so he could pass on his knowledge of South Tyrol's cuisine.