'Sometimes you just have to do things that recharge the soul'

From soul food to soul music: star chef Nelson Müller talks with MPULSE about home cooking, passion – and his perennial favourite song.

Inside the restaurant - Nelson Mueller

📍 Schote Gourmetrestaurant, Rüttenscheider Straße 62, 45130 Essen
📍 Müllers auf der Rü, Rüttenscheider Straße 62, 45130 Essen
📍 Müllers auf der Burg, Rosengasse 32, 65366 Geisenheim
📍 Müllers auf Norderney, Am Weststrand 3-4, 26548 Norderney

Playing the guitarre - Nelson Mueller

What´s it all about?

Star chef Nelson Müller talks with MPULSE about home cooking, passion – and his perennial favourite song.
Prepairing a dish - Nelson Mueller in the kitchen

MPULSE: Nelson, you don’t just cook – you also sing about soul food. What’s your own personal food for the soul?

Nelson Müller: Definitely home cooking – in a broad sense. By home, I don’t mean a physical place so much as experiences with family and friends. It can be a smell or a taste – like bouillabaisse from Marseille or dim sum from Singapore. But more than anything, for me, home cooking means traditional German cooking.

Your cooking and live music show is also called ‘Soul Food’. How did that come about?

Music has always been a passion of mine. We take that up in ‘Blue Monday at Müllers’ , for example, where we set a three-course menu to an accompaniment of soul music. The ‘Soul Food’ tour  is a really nice way for me to be able to do my thing. I think it’s important that it’s not always only about making money. Sometimes you just have to do things that recharge your soul.

In an interview once, you were given the choice of ‘music or cooking’, and you chose cooking. Would you give the same answer now?

Cooking is my profession, of course. It’s what I live from. But music is an essential part of my life and absolutely has an important place. And the best thing is, in life you don’t constantly have to answer ‘either-or’ questions. (laughs)

You have a strong media presence. You can be seen in a variety of TV formats, and even on tour. Does being a successful chef mean you have to market yourself like that?

You really don’t have to do anything! Everyone has their own style. Some do their marketing on location, working in their restaurant every day, which I think is a very, very important aspect of it. Others go out into other settings more. I don’t want to judge that either way. The main thing is to be able to pay your employees and for them to be able to feed their families. To establish a business, and a brand, that stays on the market over the long term. And where people feel comfortable. As to how you do that – there are plenty of roads that lead to Rome.

Without good management personnel working for me, it would be impossible to roll out the Müllers concept at other locations.

Nelson Müller

Despite all your public appearances, you maintain a presence in your restaurant.

Definitely. When I’m away for a stretch of time, I always try to get back to my home kitchen as soon as I can. And a lot of appearances are scheduled during the day, which lets me be at the restaurant in the evening. On the other hand, it’s important that the restaurants can function autonomously and my head chefs and managers can run them independently. A restaurant’s identity is often closely tied to the individual entrepreneur – and for that very reason, the autonomy of the teams is important to me. Without good management personnel working for me, it would be impossible to roll out the Müllers concept at other locations.

When you’re on location, what role do you most like to play?

Whatever is needed. I’m the caretaker, chef, event planner … a bit of everything. (chuckles)

In other words, an all-rounder.

It never hurts to have a number of different skill sets, does it?

About that other skill set again: give us an idea of your cooking and music show.

You come to my concert, so to speak, where I also cook. And by the way, that’s where you’ll find what I mean by home cooking – that is, what ‘Soul Food’ is all about. Because I believe that eating is more than simply filling our bellies. Along with the stories that are intertwined with it, food gives rise to emotions.

Speaking of emotion: we’ve talked about the food, so what’s your music for the soul?

I’m kind of a musical omnivore. A lot of R & B, hip-hop, soul, old-school, new-school, but also a lot of German stuff. Songs from Flo Mega always brighten my mood. They’re funny, soulful, and the lyrics are great. I’ve also got a lot of friends in the scene. I made the song ‘Soul Food’ with Eko Fresh. And then there are German-speaking soul musicians like ManuMatei, Mic Donet, Laith Al-Deen  , Stefan Gwildis ...

In closing, then, how about a song tip: what’s a perennial favourite of yours?

(thinking) That’s tough. But if I have to choose just one: ‘1ste Liebe’ by Max Herre and Joy Denalane.

Certainly a song for the soul. Nelson Müller, thank you for speaking with us!

About ...  Nelson Müller

Chef Nelson Müller can be seen on a number of TV shows, from ‘Küchenschlacht’ on the ZDF network to ‘The Taste’ on the broadcaster Sat.1 He was born in 1979 to Ghanaian parents and grew up in Stuttgart. After honing his skills in various locations including the island of Sylt, he opened his gourmet restaurant Schote in Essen in 2009, for which he was awarded a star by the Michelin Guide. He runs further restaurants in Essen, in Geisenheim in the state of Hesse and on the island of Norderney. Nelson Müller is a customer of METRO and the METRO subsidiary R Express. And he is an avid musician: on his ‘Soul Food’ tour, he and his band combine a cooking show with soul classics performed live.

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