“Sometimes it can be a good thing to sprinkle a little glitter over life!”
Finding a window for an interview with Meta Hiltebrand is no easy task. The livewire, Zurich-born chef has cooked her way to success on German television and into the hearts of diners at her restaurant in Zurich’s district 4. Since last autumn, she has also been wielding her ladle on behalf of IKEA, treating IKEA Restaurant customers to seasonal delicacies.
Hej Meta, what does “home” mean to you?
I live in the Altstetten area of Zurich. Everyone knows each other in my neighbourhood, and we stop to say hello and sometimes have a chat.
How do you live?
In an unbelievably warm and cosy apartment with a balcony, located in an old building. Whereas everything in the restaurant is orderly and structured, I like home to be colourful and chaotic. I collect unicorns, because sometimes it can be a good thing to sprinkle a little glitter over life! And whenever I have an experience that shapes me in some way, I like to rearrange the apartment.
What dish will you be conjuring up for diners at the IKEA Restaurant from mid-April?
Asparagus ravioli with a mushroom and saffron sauce, served with a herb and bean sprout salad and crushed wasabi peanuts.
And how do you go about creating a dish like that?
For me, IKEA is a place where you come together with lots of different people. But cooking something that will appeal to everyone is hard. That is why I opted for down-to-earth ingredients that everyone is familiar with. The challenge is to find a new way to combine them and create an element of surprise.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
New ideas often come to me in my sleep.
You mean that you dream of asparagus ravioli?
I don’t dream of the finished dish itself. But I have, for example, dreamed that I was unable to find my way out of a misty wood. Dried, crumbled pumpernickel bread was then redolent of the earth, while the salad leaves hidden in it symbolised the forest, and the sauce descended over it like a fog – that was how the dream translated to the plate.
You even work in your sleep. Do you ever take a holiday?
Yes, but I prefer to visit a city like Copenhagen than to hang out on a beach somewhere. I find cities inspiring and invigorating, while the countryside slows me down. For me, there’s only one reason to get out into nature, and that’s to cook over an open fire! I even whittle myself some pretty decent tools out of sticks for grilling bratwurst and cervelat.
That doesn’t exactly sound like delicate cooking with tweezers.
What I use to cook with are my hands. They are my most important gadget!
And how about your favourite gadget from IKEA?
I like the generously sized wooden chopping board, the ladles and plates and the practical zip-lock bags. I don’t have one single favourite IKEA product; there are loads!
Do you have any plans for the future?
Hundreds! I have lots of dreams and new ideas every day.