Shiny tables in a dark wood look, anthracite-coloured parquet flooring and indirect lighting that emphasises the structure of the slabs of slate decorated with moss on the walls. In the centre of the seating area, there is a shallow pool featuring spirit bottles arranged on etageres. Lush green ferns are growing out of ceramic pots. The room serves as a stage for dining at its finest: ‘Oyster grilled in its shell and coated with a sake kasu mousse, served with puffed wild rice, seasoned with rice vinegar, on the side a cauliflower mousse, seared cauliflower florets served with Asian chives – and sweet-and-sour braised cucumber with a dash of apple mousse.’ Head chef Philipp Lange’s description sounds simply superb.
A job that fulfills
Agata Reul has gathered a team around her that shares her passion for special dining and has created a place in which people can enjoy with all the senses – Agata’s in Düsseldorf. ‘We love what we do,’ she says. It was this passion that prompted a 27-year-old Reul to train as a chef rather than continue to pursue a career as a lawyer. Even though her parents had drummed into her to ‘never go into the food service industry, it’s so tough’. But her parents’ restaurant in Poland, her favourite sausage at her grandfather’s local butcher’s and the table fellowship you enjoy over a good meal had made their mark on her.
‘Based on the work hours alone, it’s a demanding profession. But it’s a fulfilling one – we are part of so many wonderful moments in our guests’ lives.’ Reul set up her own business in 2012 with 2 chefs from her apprenticeship days, Jörg Wissmann and Philipp Lange. Just a year later, Agata’s had already been awarded its first Michelin star. ‘Up to then, we worked day and night,’ says Reul. ‘And we actually have since too,’ adds Lange, laughing. Initially the sous-chef, he followed on from Jörg Wissmann as head chef.
With the joy of experimentation to the star
‘There are many ways in which to create the flavour you imagined. This is something Jörg impressed upon me,’ explains Lange. He considers French cuisine to be an ‘excellent basic recipe book’, the rules of which you can ‘throw overboard if you have something new in mind’. This eagerness to experiment draws on a wealth of ingredients, techniques and flavours from other food cultures. In Lange’s case, it is Hawaiian cuisine, which has been shaped by the Polynesians and Japanese immigrants.
We are even more delighted when our guests enjoy their meal – whether or not they know we have a Michelin starAgata Reul, Owner of Agata´s
Lange was 9 years old when he emigrated to Hawaii with his parents – a real boost for his culinary curiosity. How do you open a coconut? How can a young boy from the Baltic Sea coast bring himself to eat raw fish? The taste of Spam musubi – grilled tinned meat in a sushi roll – after a day at the beach is a lasting memory too and serves as the template for a dish at Agata’s. ‘Eel musubi with smoked eel, teriyaki and Wagyu beef lard, ginger, apple and onion. None of it has anything to do with the musubi from back then, but it definitely served as my inspiration.’
The search for inspiration is something which the kitchen and the guests have in common. ‘A gourmet tries new things, really thinks about food, poses questions and listens attentively,’ describes Reul. Their common passion forges an even stronger bond. ‘Good food is always prepared with feeling, with your heart,’ says Lange. ‘Like how a grandma cooks for her grandchildren. It is delicious right away.’ A Michelin star therefore doesn’t make a restaurant gourmet, it merely recognises it. ‘We are delighted to have the star,’ says Reul. ‘But we are even more delighted when our guests enjoy their meal – whether or not they know we have a Michelin star.’