“I want to have an authentic encounter with my guests, without any frills to distract from what is on the plate or in the glass. This is also the reason that my restaurant is so modest in appearance.” And with this, as we chatted with him, the half-Greek chef got right to the heart of his philosophy.
When trying to find out what exactly defines this straightforward, exceptionally talented chef, a glimpse at the past is useful. Konstantin Alexander Filippou was born in Graz, Austria, as the son of a Greek father and an Austrian mother. The multicultural union of his parents and the Mediterranean influence of his childhood were early sources of inspiration for his professional path. He incorporated the tastes that he became familiar with as a child in Austria and in the Mediterranean region into the early stages of his career. Following his initial experiences in Hotel Unterhof in Filzmoos, Restaurant Obauer in Werfen and the Steirereck Restaurant in Vienna, he set out to hone his skills on an international level and perfected the art of cooking under Gordon Ramsey (also known from Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares), Le Gavroche (London) and Arzak (Spain) before returning to Austria, where he delighted people’s taste buds in the Novelli Restaurant for a consistent 6 years.
During this time, Filippou’s desire for a restaurant of his own blossomed. The pessimistic winds of opposition could not dissuade him from carrying out his plan. He started his project single-handedly, taking on full risk and the bank breathing down his neck, but with a healthy dose of confidence to go alongside. Most people would not dare to take on such a venture without a potential investor in the background.
With meticulousness and great cost awareness, he developed an unprecedented restaurant concept. He turned his back on the notion of fine dining as such. “What’s crucial is the sole motivation for why one goes out to eat! You want to have fun, spend time with nice people, enjoy good food and good wine, and not have to wade through rigid court etiquette.” It quickly became clear that he has no wish to create a restaurant that is sought out for special occasions only. As a result, one can now enjoy excellent food in 4 or 6 courses in an informal, puristic atmosphere.
The top priority in Konstantin Filippou’s kitchen organization is absolute freshness. In order to keep it to the essentials here too, Filippou does not work with overloaded cheese trolleys or endless bread baskets, from which a great deal of food would end up in the garbage, but instead with selected dishes that encapsulate the essence of his style. The bread is freshly baked twice a day and barely anything is thrown away, and this is not only due to cost awareness but also out of respect for resources. There are only very few things that can ruffle the award-winning chef, these being unnecessary noise and unnecessary waste. In this regard he remains strict with his loyal 16-strong (!) team and sharpens their awareness when necessary.
The refined menu ensures empty shelves each evening and guarantees freshness the next day. This minimalism may leave some open-mouthed. Very few restaurants can manage their day-to day business without a cold storage facility, but Konstantin Filippou can and does.
Nonetheless, he still draws from abundant resources for his kitchen. In accordance with his background, he brings together two worlds on the plate; culinary results are presented as compositions of ocean and land. He mixes whatever pleases – popular and unusual ingredients – so that you might stumble across stockfish brandade with caviar of char, organic egg with sepia and pork belly as well as meadow thistle with meadow mushrooms, Périgord truffles and Jabugo ham. Harmonious, seductive, homegrown and delicious.
Konstantin Filippou’s inspiration starts with his imaginative palate. “I can imagine a great deal on my palate, and then of course the optics have to match too.” Sounds like a simple, logical formula, and yet it is precisely here that his inimitable talent lies. The half-Greek chef has been an enthusiastic iSi user for a decade: “For me, iSi Whippers are fantastic products and I cannot imagine my kitchen without them. The trick lies in using them to make the flavor of the food stand out, but not adulterating the flavor with the binding agent such as gelatin or starch.” After having sampled his dishes, we can only confirm that he has brilliantly mastered the art of the iSi Whipper. You can find iSi recipes by Konstantin Filippou here.
Foodies from countries all over the world (Spain, Russia, Switzerland, Belgium, France and Japan) arrive wanting to experience the authenticity of Konstantin Filippou’s cuisine. 65% of his guests are international. The Vienna Tourist Board has also played more than a small role in this matter. The repositioning strategy in the culinary sector has come at just the right time for Konstantin Filippou. The idea is to move away from the clichés that have had to serve visitors for so long, and in the direction of new types of guests who want to experience something innovative. It almost sounds as if Vienna has arrived in a new era of gastronomy.
Photo credit close up: Gerhard Wasserbauer