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Sitting in the kitchen, watching all the comings and goings, smelling the aroma of freshly chopped herbs and perhaps even lifting the occasional pan lid: this would be unthinkable in most restaurants. But this isn’t most restaurants. Mario Döring, head chef of the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol, invites guests to the heart of the action by dining at his Chef’s Table.
At 1300 metres above sea level, the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol stands sentinel amid the majestic mountain ranges. In the Seefeld area, Tyrol's high plateau, the Austrian Seefeld has witnessed the flickering of the Olympic flame on multiple occasions, most recently at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Those who spend their winter holidays here can enjoy beautifully maintained cross-country ski trails, hit the slopes of the nearby skiing resort, try their hand at tobogganing or even book a dog sled ride. In the summer months, many visitors soak up the scenery or explore the lake landscape by hiking or mountain biking. Chef Mario Döring himself finds relaxation in roaming the natural surroundings too. In fact, that’s when some of his best ideas come to him: ‘I’m always asking myself: what can we eat? What can we make even better? Living here in the mountains is inspirational for my cooking’, says the 39-year-old.
The dishes served at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol are predominantly made using regional and sustainable produce: freshly caught fish from the neighbouring Leutasch Valley, dairy products and vegetables from local farms, herbs such as rosemary and chocolate mint from the hotel’s own garden. But Mario Döring’s commitment to regionality is coupled with an international outlook. He and his team draw culinary inspiration from around the world. They travel extensively, explore what Asian or South American cuisine has to offer, capture dishes through photography, and return with new recipes.
There are probably 456 different things you can do just with a pumpkin – raw, fermented, marinated, cooked. We try everything until we get it just right.
It’s no coincidence that the chef is famed for artfully marrying together regional and international cuisine, and for developing new creation after new creation. ‘Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it takes time. Even when we think a dish is fantastic, after a week or two, it’s often back to square one,’ says Mario Döring. The main thing is that the menu is constantly evolving. Because this creates brilliant variety, which guests really appreciate, especially as their room rate includes half board.
The Chef’s Table was first introduced to the restaurant by Mario Döring’s predecessor. But in 2015, Döring felt inspired to breathe new life into the format. He wanted it to be slightly different from before, but the underlying concept has remained unchanged: guests are given the opportunity to watch their meals being cooked. In the place where the kitchen crew spends the day preparing meals for around 600 people, calm is restored in the evening. Between two and 16 guests perch on bar stools around two long tables. The lights are dimmed, the table is decorated with flowers, background music creates a relaxing atmosphere. To kick things off, Mario Döring gives his guests a tour of the kitchen. Then he and his team prepare an eight-course tasting menu for the guests as they watch on.
The chef makes a point of ensuring that no ingredient is repeated. The menu is accompanied by carefully selected wines, predominantly from Austria. Alternatively, guests can sample the premium fruit juices – such as apricot or redcurrant – chosen to complement each dish. The thing Mario Döring most loves about the Chef’s Table format is: ‘We get instant feedback. This is interesting not only for the guests, but for us too.’ Of course, there might be the occasional dish that’s not quite to everyone’s taste. But we’ve had no complaints so far. Quite the opposite, in fact: the concept has already been awarded several accolades, including four toques in the 2023 Gault&Millau Austria guide.
When I go for a meal outside of work, I don’t analyse or critique the food, I’m simply there to eat. I want to enjoy a pleasant evening, best of all with my family.
Of course, the head chef won’t allow the praise go to his head – far from it. Staying true to his roots, he wants to serve food to evoke guests’ childhood memories. ‘We try to incorporate things that perhaps their grandma or mother used to make for them. And then, we take that sense of nostalgia to another level’, explains Mario Döring. This turns a simple egg salad into a miniature work of art, comprising poached egg yolk, salted egg white and freshly picked flowers from the mountain garden. And which dish has the greatest impact on the chef himself? As a boy, growing up in the German city of Chemnitz, he adored the Viennese-style pastries in the bakeries – so, where better to pursue his culinary career than in Austria? When it comes to cooking for his own kids, Mario Döring loves to make them pasta, or barbecues in the summer.
His colleagues value his down-to-earth nature and his sense of humour, describing him as the ‘perfect mixture of chef, family man and knowledgeable manager’. They say he makes ‘everything’ possible. That may be down to the fact that Mario Döring attaches so much importance to teamwork. After all, a grand total of 64 people work in the kitchen of the Interalpen-Hotel, including between eight and ten trainees. The chef is in no doubt: ‘None of it would be possible without my team, I consider harmony in the kitchen to be a vital factor.’
When there’s a really good atmosphere between colleagues, this has a positive impact on the guests. And so, an idea first hit upon by company founder Hans Liebherr has developed into a project that extends far into the future: he was so enchanted by the area around Seefeld that he built his dream hotel here in the early 1980s. Since then, the Interalpen-Hotel has been renovated and redeveloped time and time again. With its expansive spa facilities, the hotel now ranks among Austria's leading wellness hotels. But the most important thing has never changed – and that is ensuring that the guests feel comfortable. So, whether they are relaxing by the pool or sitting in the heart of the kitchen – overlooking Mario Döring’s pots and pans – their enjoyment is everything. The chef and the entire team wish you bon appétit!
It all started in Killarney, Ireland. It was there that company founder Hans Liebherr opened a production site in 1958. Though these days the town is geared up for the many visiting tourists, back then there was barely any accommodation to speak of. That’s why Hans Liebherr had a guesthouse built there, and subsequently established his first hotel there. These were soon followed by other luxury accommodation offerings, also in Ireland. Later on, he added to this with hotels in Austria and Germany. Today, the Group has a grand total of six hotels to its name, all of which are characterised by a high level of sophistication.
For the gnocchi
For the sauce
Boil the potatoes until tender, peel and leave to cool, then press the potato through a ricer or a sieve. Mix with the remaining gnocchi ingredients and knead well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Roll the dough into short lengths, then divide these into small balls. Roll a fork over the balls to shape the gnocchi. Cook in boiling water (until they float to the surface) and place in the fridge.
Sauté the white onion in a pan, then add the mushrooms. Deglaze with white wine, let the sauce reduce and add cream. Simmer briefly.
Toss the gnocchi, tomatoes and spring onion through the sauce. Add salt, pepper and crème fraîche to taste.
The chef and the entire team wish you bon appétit!