Did you know that Switzerland, as a culinary hotspot, boasts the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita in the world, and its food is enriched by creative influences from neighboring countries and beyond? Did you know that besides the classic dishes of cheese fondue, rösti, and raclette, there is a number of innovative delicacies in its national cuisine? Were you aware that each of the country’s 26 cantons has its regional specialties, which the locals are very proud of?
Now, it is time for the Chinese palates to discover the secrets of Swiss cuisine! Thanks to a series of Swiss Gastronomic Weeks initiated by the Embassy of Switzerland in China, connoisseurs, curious foodies and critics will have the opportunities to discover the exquisiteness of Swiss cuisine and the innovative creations brought by the most talented and passionate chefs from Switzerland.
The Hilton Beijing Hotel will host the first stop from 24th to 29th April, courtesy of an exclusive partnership with the Kulm Hotel in the Alpine village of St. Moritz, which was awarded “Hotel of the Year 2018” by the prestigious Gault & Millau restaurant guide. The second week is scheduled in June at the TRB Forbidden City, with the third one coming in September at Hotel Éclat Beijing at Parkview Green.
These weeks will be celebrating the diversity of Swiss gastronomy, its creativity and sustainability by using essentially organic and local products. The visiting chefs, from acclaimed Gault & Millau hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, will be presenting a dedicated menu at the collaborating restaurants in Beijing, highlighting upscale gourmet, local specialties as well as international haute cuisine.
“In China, ‘food is heaven’ and there are so many varieties even within one province. It is difficult to say which dish is a typical Chinese dish. It is the same case with Swiss cuisine. In my country, there is no ‘typical Swiss food’, as Swiss food originally comes from many regional specialties across the country. In Switzerland, wherever you go, you will find Swiss food with French, German and Italian influences. Of course, the bases of the dishes are Swiss - Swiss cheeses, potatoes and traditional ingredients – as well as a unique savoir-faire. To discover more about Swiss food, I invite all our Chinese friends to the Swiss Gastronomic Weeks and let the imaginative creations of Swiss chefs delight you! ” said Swiss Ambassador to China Jean-Jacques de Dardel.
Things you might not know about Swiss cuisine
Swiss cuisine, in the national sense of the word, does not exist as there are so many regional dishes across the country and they vary greatly from one region to another, as noted by Dominik Flammer, Swiss food researcher and specialist in the history of local products. Therefore, Swiss cuisine is as multicultural as its inhabitants. Some of the better-known Swiss dishes such as cheese fondue or rösti were regional food at the beginning, and they became known and offered nationwide or internationally at a later stage. If one is looking for some food that is more common all over the country, it might be some bread, such as ‘Zopf’ (a type of bread in the shape of braids). It could be found on the tables of almost all Swiss families on Sunday mornings. In short, Swiss cuisine is a perfect blend of various influences, unified by a unique attention to details and a twist of creativity!
Each of the 26 cantons in Switzerland has its own specialties, with some of them being offered in restaurants across the country. To name a few, the popular dishes from the German-speaking region include the Berner Platte from capital Bern, a lavish dish containing a variety of meat and sausages; Zürcher Geschnetzelte, a Zurich-style veal dish served with a mushroom and cream sauce and rösti. In the French-speaking region, saucissons, raw pork sausages to cook at home, are popular. The vegetable tart called cholera is more easily to be found in the Canton of Valais. In the Italian-speaking Ticino, polenta, a maize puree mixed with cheese, is often served as a main dish or accompaniment. During the winter months, marroni (sweet chestnuts) are available throughout Switzerland.
Haute cuisine in Switzerland
The gourmet scene in Switzerland ranges from Michelin-starred restaurants, fancy establishments with panoramic views of the Alps, to exquisite cafés tucked away in city corners. According to the 2018 Michelin Guide for Switzerland, there are 118 starred restaurants in Switzerland, making it the country boasting more starred restaurant per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world. Three restaurants have been awarded three stars – Cheval Blanc (Basel), Schloss–Schauenstein (Fürstenau, Graubünden) and Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville (Crissier, Lausanne), which is also awarded 19 Gault & Millau points out of 20.
Outstanding Swiss chefs are celebrated both at home and abroad. The Executive Chef Franck Giovannini with Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville has been named “best male chef of the year” 2018 by the Swiss edition of the Gault & Millau guide, while chef Virginie Basselot from the Loti restaurant in La Réserve hotel in Geneva is the best female chef.
Beyond its own boarder, Switzerland also boasts tremendous credit on the global stage. One of the world's most critically acclaimed chefs, Daniel Humm at New York's Eleven Madison Park, is Swiss! Originally from Aargau, Humm earned his first Michelin star at 24 years old.
Organic food in Switzerland
In general, the quality of the food in Switzerland is very high. On top of that, the Swiss eat more and more organic food. Today, the Swiss are among the biggest consumers of organic food in Europe. Consumption of organic products is out of both health and environmental concerns. Nowadays, organic foods are no longer restricted to specialty shops and farmer’s markets. They are being sold increasingly in major supermarkets.
The Swiss government has long supported organic farming and it has been growing steadily in recent years. By the end of 2017, according to Presence Switzerland, more than 12.2% of all Swiss farms are organic. Organic products account for 7.7% of the entire Swiss food market.
Swiss wine culture
Wine is also an important part of the Swiss culinary heritage, and for more than 2000 years, Switzerland’s viticulture has contributed greatly to the shaping of its landscapes and the identity of the country, as said of Jean-Marc Amez-Droz, director of the Swiss Wine Promotion, an organization responsible for promoting the image of Swiss wine at home and abroad. At present, about 250 varieties of grapevine are cultivated in Switzerland, of which 40 are unique to the country. The Canton of Valais is the largest winemaking region with over 50 different grape varieties being grown there. The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces in the Canton of Vaud, which can be traced back to the 11th century and stretch for about 30 km along the northern shores of Lake Geneva, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007.
Though Swiss wine enjoys great reputation in the country and rising fame in Europe, due to its limited production – 15,000 hectares of wines with 1% percent of wine being exported, foreign wine lovers do not often have the opportunity to taste Swiss wines.