Interview of Chef Alain Krumm - Dans le Noir ? Strasbourg Restaurant
The Alsacian Chef, Alain Krumm is currently in charge of the Hilton Hotel’s restaurant in Strasbourg since the beginning of 2020. With its 35 years of experience in prestigious and numerous establishments in Asia, he is now delighting the taste buds of guests at the new restaurant Dans le Noir ? Strasbourg, the famous dining in the dark experience, located within the Hilton Hotel! We will talk more about his career and the new challenge of Alain Krumm and his brigade to amaze you in total darkness.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND ?
I started my career at the Restaurant "Au Romain" in 1983 as a pre-apprentice and I finished my apprenticeship in 1986. After that, I did my military service and in 1988 I went to Switzerland. I stayed there until 2002 and worked in different venues and luxury hotels (Grand hotel victoria Jungfrau Interlaken, Le mirador at Mont Pèlerin), private clinic (Clinique Biotonus/ Hotel Excelsior). I had the chance to go to the Caesar Ritz Hospitality Management School for almost 4 years to teach students.
WE HEARD ABOUT YOUR INTERNATIONAL CAREER, CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT IT?
I first went to Ireland in Dublin where I worked for The Shelbourne, one of the oldest hotels in Dublin. A year later, I went on vacation to Shanghai where I met a Swiss General Manager who invited me to come and work in China. So in 2005, I started a new page of my career in China, first at the Novotel Xinhua in Wuhan, then I consecutively worked for 4 newly opened hotels, Radisson in Shanghai, two Hilton (Guangzhou and Shenzhen) and the Marriott Shunde. In 2014, I moved to the Shangri-la in Fuzhou in Fujian province and in 2017 to the Marco Polo in Changzhou. After 12 years in China, I wanted to diversify my horizons and went to Indonesia in 2018 and finally back to Alsace in early 2020.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? DO YOUR TRAVELS INSPIRE YOU?
Of course, because of my background I have asian inspirations in my cooking; Thai, Singaporean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indian, these are part of my way of cooking now. There are different flavors that I like to work with. There are things I like in all regions. In Alsace, there are a lot of simmered dishes that are heavy, whereas in Asia, there is a shock of tastes, smells and textures. This is what drives me the most now in my cooking, even if I don't deny my traditional side, because my training was basically in a bistro. I like the fresh, instantaneous side of things!
IN 2021 THE RESTAURANT DANS LE NOIR ? STRASBOURG SETS UP IN THE HILTON AND YOU WILL BE THE CHEF OF THIS PARTICULAR CONCEPT, HOW DO YOU SEE THIS NEW CHALLENGE?
I see it as something very exciting to do. As a Chef, you always have the challenge but Dans le Noir ? is a great one because you ask people to put their trust in you, despite the fears or anxieties for some clients of eating in total darkness without knowing what they will eat. What I like to do is to try to make guests understand that food is not only there to fill the stomach, but you can find nuances, tastes, flavors. You shouldn't be afraid to try something new!
ARE YOU USED TO CREATE SPECIAL AND ORIGINAL MENUS?
Being a chef is just that, creating menus, dishes by putting your desires, your experience. In Asia, for example, I had installed a pool in the hotel, then I had put tables and alive sturgeon, and the aperitif was in the middle of the pool. People had to take off their shoes, pull up their pants and walk through the sturgeon to enjoy their cocktail, it was amazing. There are always crazy ideas to do and I like that, the constant creativity, because if you do the minimum, you get bored quickly.
HOW WILL YOU ADAPT TO THE ALLERGIES/INTOLERANCES OF YOUR GUESTS?
We are used to deal with food allergies and intolerances. We have tried to remove the most common allergies to create this surprise menu and gain serenity. We cook with ingredients in a more creative way, both on taste and texture. Clients will love it!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISH?
I like a lot of dishes, but if we talk about comfort food, a simple dish when I don't know what to eat, it's nothing extraordinary ... but the first one is pasta with olive oil and parmesan and the second one is alsacian charcuterie and cheese board with bread.
WHO ARE THE CHEFS WHO INSPIRE YOU THE MOST?
There is one who has been a reference for me, It’s Bernard Loiseau, but more for its way of being, of living, his attitude. He was someone who was very open, who didn't lock himself away, who was strict, regular and concentrated in what he did. The second chef who inspired me the most was a Chinese chef I had when I was in Asia, Chef Jacky. He specialised in Shanghainese cuisine. He was the only one who liked to share his passion, he took the time to explain his cooking to me. In Chinese cuisine, the most important thing is the balance of the dishes. There is no real recipe, it's all about feeling. He was the only one to explain to me the construction of Shanghai cuisine, he was younger than me, but I learned more with him than with any other chef.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INGREDIENT?
I would say fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, because it's seasonal and it allows you to make thousands of things. In Alsace, vegetables are less present, but when you go to the markets in Thailand, Malaysia or even China, there were vegetables, herbs and spices that I had never seen in my life. I was on my translator the whole time trying to figure out what they were and how I could incorporate them into my cooking. Yet, when I was a kid, it was hell to eat them.
WHAT IS YOUR LAST BEST CULINARY MEMORY?
There are many but the last one I can think of was during Ramadan in Jakarta. With my team we went to eat in a really local restaurant. It was a festival of Indonesian cuisine, Ayam goreng, Bakso, Satay, Sop Buntut and so on...hours of fun and laughter over a meal with people who welcome you as one of their own.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN STRASBOURG ?
Since the lockdown it's a little harder to try restaurants around here. “Le pied de veau” is a very local and simple bistro and they make a great chocolate mousse, light and not too sweet.
TO FINISH, WHAT DOES DANS LE NOIR ? REPRESENT FOR YOU?
For me, it's more than an experience, it's about sharing, which allows people to live something they might not experience twice in their life and then it's also a way to take control of their senses, to face their preconceived ideas and to let their senses take over. You will be transported by what you smell, what you taste, you will hear if it’s crispy. It requires a certain amount of trust in the people who do the service. It's really bringing together two worlds that usually don't mix. It’s often said that food brings people together. For me, it's a very exciting adventure!