When diners are tempted to lick their plates clean, and when even a tiny bit of food that has escaped the fork is eyed with regret, it’s the flavours that are speaking loud. This is food as it should be—bursting with flavour, robust and utterly delicious. Behind the handiwork is Wilfried Bergerhausen, just 31 years old, but with 17 years’ experience in the kitchen and a long list of accolades, topped by a ‘chef of the year’ title in 2017.
You would expect someone his age to show off, especially in this age of theatrics, but Bergerhausen shows remarkable restraint in what he puts on the plate. Every ingredient has a purpose, and every element synchronises beautifully to come together as a symphony that is so pleasing on the palate. Not that he doesn’t like to have fun. A quail dish he serves at Le Cirque at The Leela in the capital, where he cooked recently, is inspired from the story of a goose and its golden eggs. What looks like folds of ravioli in another is actually delicate lace of kohlrabi enclosing lobster tartare. An extremely slender, match-stick like tree is crafted out of mashed potato. The risotto has no rice, but very finely diced heart of palm instead. “I stay young in the mind, but make sure everything I put on the plate tastes good” is his mantra.
Classic flavours are what he bets on, but he likes to play around with them as well. “I am not stubborn about having just Italian or French flavours. I mix things up. Like yuzu with lobster and chamomile in dessert. I utilise everything I see around me,” he says. Not surprising, considering he was born in the south of France in Cannes, from where Italy is just minutes away. His father is German and mother Armenian. “With my varying backgrounds, I pick a bit of everything from everywhere,” he says.
A pinch of salt is what he also takes his various accolades with. “The awards are a result of teamwork and not the work of just one person. Accolades are great, they are good for the ego and for showing off, but they are not everything. Being a chef takes long hours in the kitchen, it’s a lot of sweat and hard work, and being recognised in some way makes a big difference,” he says.
So has he tired of it all, given he recently quit his position as executive chef of Le Cirque, Las Vegas? “I have a special project in the works that will hopefully bear fruition soon,” he reveals, hinting it probably is a restaurant of his own in the US. But right now what he’s doing is travelling, which he never got time for earlier. “What I dream of is to travel right now. There is so much to learn and so many places to see,” he says.