The year of 2020 has certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all business to a varying extent. One industry that’s been affected most severely across the world is the hospitality business. In Germany, restaurants were locked down for weeks and countless projects and events were either cancelled or put on hold over the course of the year. A major cancellation was the Michelin Gala in Hamburg in March, which lead to the announcement of the 2020 Michelin stars being done via an online event on March 3rd.
“Restaurants were locked down for weeks and countless projects and events were either cancelled or put on hold”
One restaurant that received its first star that day was “mural” in Munich, a huge achievement for a restaurant just shy of 15 months open. What the team from mural didn’t know, however, was that they also were supposed to win another award that night.
“What the team from Mural didn’t know, however, was that they also were supposed to win another award that night.”
While the Michelin Galas mostly are known for awarding the legendary stars to restaurants (ranging from 1 to 3, where 3 will grant a given restaurant immortal status), there are today also other awards and one of the most important ones is the ‘Michelin Young Chef Award’, an accolade for chefs under 32 in their respective market who have shown unusual potential during the course of the last year. The Young Chef Award Germany 2020, granted in partnership with performance car manufacturer Mercedes-AMG, was originally scheduled to be handed over as a surprise during the Michelin gala and I was brought onboard to cover this specific price. It quickly became clear to us (meaning AMG, Michelin and myself) that including the award in the digital ceremony wasn’t going to be an option – the value of the award would drown in the online noise of the Michelin stars. We had to come up with a Plan B. After a quick deliberation, it became clear that we had to take this award to the winners and surprise them. Which, in this case, meant going to Munich to see the team of mural.
All the lockdowns and further, pandemic-inflicted complications meant that it would take us until September to execute our grand plan but then, finally, on a Tuesday night, we found ourselves waiting in the courtyard of the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA) in central Munich, when a spectacular looking Mercedes-AMG rolled in. Out of the car emerged two characters, namely Michael Knöller, Global Head of Marketing and Sales from AMG and Philipp Ostbomk, Sales Director B2B DACH from Michelin, and from the trunk they retrieved the trophies and the custom chef jackets for the winners. Minutes later we had extracted mural Head Chef duo Joshua Leise and Johannes Maria Kneip from their kitchen and presented them with the good news. If they were surprised? You bet they were.
mural opened end of 2018 in the building of the Museum of Urban & Contemporary Art, an old power station in the heart of central Munich. “What makes mural special is the contrast between the gritty and highly industrial venue and the elegant fine dining food we serve. Every day we try to create unique things in our kitchen that do the location justice.” Joshua told me after he had put on his Young Chef Award jacket. Him and Johannes met working in the two Michelin star kitchen at Söl’ring Hof on Sylt under iconic chef Johannes King, and during this time they formed a rock solid friendship that eventually led them to take over mural in a shared Head Chef role. An unusual setup that came very naturally to them. Johannes explained their cooking style “We learned to cook very purely and very produce focused under Johannes King and this is certainly still something you can see in the food at mural. I wouldn’t call our cooking style modern Bavarian, but we try to use as much local produce as possible and have developed very strong ties with our producers.” When it comes to receiving the Young Chef Award 2020, they were both slightly overwhelmed with the surprise. ”It’s crazy. We really didn’t expect this!” Joshua pointed out, still with a slightly shocked look in his eyes “Especially not after we already received our first Michelin star this year. That was already a big deal.”
“This is a very important award for us as it honours the highly innovative and important work of the next generation of chefs” Michael Knöller from Mercedes-AMG would later explain to me. “We have been working with Michelin and fine dining restaurants for over half a decade now. Our own work at AMG shares a lot of common values with high end gastronomy: Quality, passion and creativity. Those are as imperative in cooking fine dining food as they are in building high performance cars.” Philipp Ostbomk from Michelin would later add to that: “Everybody knows about Michelin tires and stars, but with the Young Chef Award, we’re really aiming to promote topics that are close to our hearts: Creativity, innovation and young talents. People like the mural team are the leaders of tomorrow and we have been lucky to find a partner in AMG who shares these values with us.” Ostbomk also explained how the winners of the Young Chef Award are chosen by the local Michelin inspectors: “The inspectors that visited mural unanimously recognised that the performance of the chefs, especially considering their humble age of 25 years, was exceptional in every way and that they therefore were perfect recipients of the Young Chef Award Germany 2020.”
After surprising the chefs with the award we were lucky enough to eat the newest menu at mural and make our own opinion of the cooking style we now had heard so much about. The dynamic of the chefs and the space became apparent on every plate. It was remarkable to what extent the kitchen team at mural already had managed to create a unique signature with loads of playful and slightly quirky elements. You could see the setting of the art space in the cooking, many dishes came out the kitchen looking like modern art masterpieces on the facade, while at the same time also packing serious flavour on all spectrums. From the perfect rib bites with pickled cucumber to a corn flan with salad coated in puffed millet that bathed in a vin jaune sauce or an eye-popping red and yellow sturgeon tartar in a goulash sauce. Neo-German with a high cool factor, all served by a very lovely front of house team armed with one of Munich’s most progressive wine lists.
“It was remarkable to what extent the kitchen team at Mural already had managed to create a unique signature.”
A very memorable evening at a restaurant that’s only at the beginning of its journey. A true delight to see such a level of innovation in German kitchens and also that key players like Michelin are rewarding these efforts. The spotlight is certainly on Joshua and Johannes now and only one thing is certain at this point: This is not the last we’ve heard about these chefs.