Few will admit to having been a thug but German chef Tim Raue goes further and credits his gangster past with helping him prepare for the relentless grind of a top kitchen.
At the age of nine, Tim waved goodbye to a normal childhood when he went to live with his abusive father in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany, leaving his mother behind in Berlin. There, he fell in with football hooligans and learned to fight (his speciality was the low kick, “which left few people standing”). Later, having returned to Berlin, he joined a violent street gang.
On finishing his schooling, Raue took a job in a restaurant, where he soon realised “the kitchen was my second home [...] There were few places where my experiences as a street fighter could have been more useful than in my new job. On the one hand, the behavior and swear words used among the chefs were hardcore. Even the Frankfurt hooligans seemed like innocent lambs compared to the fierce, politically incorrect expressions uttered by chefs who were at the end of their tether [...]”
“Nerves were always frayed, people would be shouting, swearing, and making threats, and everyone would be on a knife-edge at their station – yet, for the most part, it was like water off a duck’s back for me. My idea of stress was a physical threat; my body would release adrenaline whenever I approached a pack of opponents. I did not consider a frenzied chef or the nervous blubbering of a headwaiter as reasons to lose my cool. My radar was used to going off for existential threats, not for things like how five chicken drumsticks were going to be ready to serve in the next two minutes.”
From that unlikely beginning, Raue quickly climbed the culinary ladder. His eponymous restaurant in Berlin has two Michelin stars and is No 48 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. He was featured in an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix and was interviewed by this magazine in 2015.
As you would expect from a chef of such calibre, the recipes in My Way (2017) are not the easiest. Many of the dishes call for multiple elements, and specific brands of what should be basic ingredients (“2 tbsp [30ml] Kamebishi soy sauce, matured in a wooden barrel for five years”). While they take some effort, many recipes are attainable, including Brussels sprouts with dashi and yuzu; pork with yuzu mayonnaise; Japanese tuna pizza; king crab and miso soup; and drunken shrimp with cognac gel.