How did you become a chef? "My family has nothing to do with cooking - they are terrible at it. I grew up in the poorest part of Berlin, the only German hanging out with minorities. We were hooligans, selling drugs, stuff like that. It was not my fault; my father hit me, he was violent. That's why I'm involved in programmes against violence against children. But the violence was good for me, because you need aggression in the kitchen.
"When I was 16 years old, I left school. I took those tests that [help you] figure out your profession and mine said I should be a gardener, [house] painter or chef. Being a gardener is weather dependent and a painter is not creative. I thought being a chef could be interesting. When I went to my first job I walked into the middle of the kitchen during lunch service - there was screaming, shouting and fist fights - and in five minutes I was plating [dishes] with the head chef. I had a talent for that. I was so happy to have that opportunity."
What cuisines inspire you? "I take the [visual] approach of Japanese cuisine - simplicity on the plate, focus on the product; but the weakness of Japanese is that the flavour is boring; no acidity, no spices. That's why I like Thai; it's easy, cheap, you can cook the dish in five minutes and the flavours are bold - citrus, sweetness, spicy. Cantonese is a cuisine that's thousands of years old and it's about the body avoiding what it doesn't need."
What attracts you to Asian food? "When I was global culinary adviser for Swissotel and Raffles, they sent me to places in Asia where their restaurants weren't making much profit and [asked me] to turn them around. I went to Vietnamese, Thai, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean places. One day I stood in front of the mirror and thought, 'What do you think you are?' I was sure I was not [meant to be cooking at] stuffy French places. I have nothing in common with Germany, either, the food or the taste. I have roots there but since I've been in Asia, I feel totally Asian on the inside, with the taste buds."
What ingredients are you working with? "White asparagus, strawberries and fish maw - it's a new thing for Germans. I like the texture; if you cook it long enough in stock it has a special consistency. I don't think Germans will like [fish maw]. But only half my guests are German. I tried serving tendon and it was a disaster. To be open-minded in every way with your life is so important. We have grown up globalised. The generation that is 50 years old and over is very different; sometimes it's really hard to get them to catch up."
Where do you find inspiration? "I go to Kowloon and walk along Shanghai Street, or Lei Garden, in IFC Mall, Tim's Kitchen [in Sheung Wan], Lung King Heen [in Central]. I also try to travel and see interesting concepts, like Eleven Madison Park, in New York, and Restaurant Andre, in Singapore. These are places that are absolutely different from the rest; there is a unique experience in the ambience and food."
What do you do when you're not cooking? "Drink wine, [go to my] house in Sicily, play with my Jack Russell, Shirley. I love to shop for made-to-measure items, especially shoes, fabric and interior design. I try to eat better and drink on my off days, but I really love to be in the kitchen. With four restaurants [in addition to his eponymous restaurant, Raue runs Berlin eateries Uma, Shochu Bar, and La Soupe Populaire] I don't get bored."
If you weren't a chef, what would you do? "It was my dream to be an interior designer. After high school, I didn't have good enough grades to go to university. But, when I was 14, I was interested in architecture and started studying it. I did the interior design in all my restaurants - but I won't do it for anyone as a client, because I don't want someone to tell me what they want. I do what I want and, if others like it, I'm happy."