At The Bank Brasserie & Bar you can pre-order your oven-ready goose and turkey for the Christmas holidays. On the Sundays in Advent, Stefan Resch and his team will treat you to an extended Advent Holiday Brunch with venison ragout and beef tartar, topped off with warm punch and live music. On Christmas Eve, you can choose between three- and four-course set menus. And on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, The Bank will once again be serving a Holiday Brunch with goose liver cream, roast goose and stollen. But what does the toque-winning chef Resch actually eat when he is at home for Christmas?
Do traditional, annual Christmas meals – passed on from one generation to the next and always prepared in the same way – still exist?
I definitely think that there are still lovely traditions that are continued from generation to generation. Though the traditions differ from region to region. Even in Austria there’s a wide range of traditions.
In Carinthia, for example, people eat Selchwürstel (smoked sausage) with sauerkraut and dark rye bread at Christmas. What did you grow up eating at Christmastime in Styria?
I remember that I used to eat pickled herring salad at Christmas as a small boy. Now, my mother makes her great Schinkenrolle (rolled ham) for the whole family.
Is it possible to identify new trends, too, in the meals on and around Christmas Eve?
Definitely. Lots of people now eat a goose or duck on Christmas Eve, or a great game dish like boar or venison.
What’s the younger generation doing differently?
They pay more attention to what’s healthy. They aim for festive yet low-calorie meals that are quick to prepare – because no one wants to spend hours in the kitchen preparing everything on or before Christmas Day. Time with family has become ever more important in this fast-paced age, and lots of people no longer want to waste so much time in the kitchen. Besides, technology is much more mature than it used to be. Kitchen gadgets and indeed entire kitchens can now be managed easily via smartphones, which means that you can turn on the oven while you’re on the go to get the roast started.
Turkey isn’t really a traditional Christmas dish in Austria. Nevertheless, it has found its way into lots of homes. Is that exclusively down to the influence of Thanksgiving in the US, or are there other reasons?
The American influence is easily recognizable (and not just in terms of Christmas traditions). However, you also have to bear in mind that turkey is a wonderful, light dish. Low-calorie, low-fat – and in spite of that it’s a festive meal, so it’s perfect for the health-conscious superfood generation.
Which culinary experiences or impressions from your childhood have influenced you as a chef?
My mum’s Styrian cuisine has left a huge impression on me. My mum has a vegetable garden behind her house which we always helped ourselves to. And as I keep noticing, vegetables from your own garden simply taste much, much better than anything that you can buy. Which is why I’ve set up my very own mini vegetable garden on my balcony. My children love it and are always really sad when it comes time to harvest, because then there’s nothing left to look at and the vegetables “die”. (laughs)
Which are your favourite Christmas biscuits to make?
Oh, there are loads. My mum always makes a wide selection of different biscuits. I love falsche Butterbrote (“fake sandwiches”), mini “slices of bread” lovingly buttered and sprinkled with pistachio “chives”. I love Sarah Bernhardt biscuits, a Danish speciality, named after the famous French actor who lived from 1844 to 1923. They’re almond crowns with marzipan, cream, rum and a dark chocolate couverture. Simply delicious!