Swiss celebrity chef reaches for the stars

Ivo Adam is the rising star among Swiss chefs

Ivo Adam, one of the brightest stars on the Swiss culinary scene, tells swissinfo that hard work and talent are the ingredients for success.

This content was published on August 5, 2007 - 10:24

Adam is not yet 30 but he has already established himself in Switzerland and has just opened a restaurant in Ascona, in Italian-speaking Ticino.

He has won several international competitions, including gold medals at the world cooking championships.

Like Britain's Jamie Oliver, Adam has also tried to get the healthy-eating message across to young people. But the Swiss chef's methods are somewhat different: he raps his recipes.

swissinfo: What attracted you to the chef profession?

Ivo Adam: Cooking has characteristics which I have always liked: it's creative and open to experimentation, composition and combination. It also has playful aspects, like Lego games. I could extend this comparison to say that becoming a chef was a childhood dream.

swissinfo: How did you reach the top?

I.A.: Before you even think about being part of the elite, you have to do your training. I have done many types of training: as a chef, pastry chef and chocolatier. I also graduated from the hotel school in Thun.

If you combine passion for your chosen profession with pride and a determination to succeed, success is not far away. Or at least the opportunities for success are certainly greater.

swissinfo: How would you assess the level of gastronomy in Switzerland?

I.A.: The level is very good. I see this during the international competitions. In Switzerland people have a very good knowledge of how to combine the necessary ingredients of quality, seriousness, imagination, organisation, refinement and simplicity. People also care a lot about presentation.

swissinfo: Senses are also important in cooking. How do you go about stimulating them with your recipes?

I.A.: In cooking, seduction has to be pure and involve all the senses. It starts with the eyes – a well-presented dish is always a good start. You then continue with the mouth, which should be able to detect all the flavours in a harmonious way. Of course, the sense of smell also plays an important role in being able to capture scents. The chef therefore has to know how to balance the various parameters: salty, spicy, bitter, sweet, hot and cold.

swissinfo: Senses, flavours and scents, but also rhythm, as you're a rapping chef...

I.A.: Yes, I'm also known for that. At hotel school I had to give a presentation on diet for my diploma. I was trying to find a way to reach out to young people and get the healthy-eating message across. So I thought I'd get through to them using new ways of communication. And as rap was very in, and young people liked it, I went for that.

I therefore created recipes as a rap. Young people can listen to the CD which tells you how to prepare a nice pasta dish, a delicious Birchermuesli and so on. As it's a CD, they can decide for themselves what rhythm they will work to.

swissinfo: What does cooking mean to you: joy, creativity, rigour, improvisation?

I.A.: All these qualities are needed for cooking. In the kitchen you also need discipline, concentration, organisation, perfect preparation and hygiene. You must also have good nerves because there are always lots of problems.

Cooking also connects you to other people; it creates ties. This is something which is being increasingly neglected in families because of a lack of time. In the kitchen you can also often find a moment to discuss and even resolve problems which don't have anything to do with food.

swissinfo: Is it still possible to be innovative?

I.A.: Yes – as in every profession. It's like fashion: you have to be alert and know how to adapt. For example, there are old ideas which are then rediscovered and relaunched in a modern style.

I'm thinking of molecular cooking, where you have to prepare food using laboratory instruments – this also has an appeal and can open up new perspectives.

swissinfo: What made you come to Ascona? Is it somewhere you feel inspired?

I.A.: Above all, this region offers excellent produce. Added to this, people also have a very good relationship with food – they love gastronomy and are open to new things.

swissinfo: What does a top chef cook for friends?

I.A.: Simplicity and fresh products are essential. I love cooking pasta with a fresh, homemade sauce, using a good olive oil, excellent parmesan and a pinch of chilli. I always tend to keep it simple rather than add too much.

swissinfo, based on an Italian interview by Françoise Gehring in Ascona


Ivo Adam was born in Biel on November 4, 1977. He started his training at the hotel school in Thun in 1994 and received his diploma in 2004.
Between 1996 and 2004 he won 15 awards.
He has won three world championships, twice with the Swiss team in Singapore and Chicago, and once in the individual competition in Singapore.
Ivo Adam is the author of recipe books and has been awarded 15 points in the Gault Millau guide.

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International competitions

There are numerous international cooking competitions. An international reference point is the World Association of Chefs' Societies (WACS).
Switzerland is among the 70 countries to belong to the association. Being recognized by WACS allows access to the world championships and other international competitions in member countries.

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