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Already as a child, I was just as happy to cook as I was to play football. I grew up in the Steiermark and most of the products we cooked came from our own farm. Hence, I learned very early on to have great respect for food and even today, the quality of the products and greatest care during preparation are the guiding principles for my cuisine – as well as natural individual creativity.After training in Graz, I decided to go to Germany.First to Berlin, then to Hamburg to Josef Viehauser at Le Canard. Co-operation with Dieter and Jörg Müller and then with Eckart Witzigmann in the years thereafter made a great impression on me. After a stopover with Gaston Lenotre in Paris, an introduction to the wonderful world of patisserie, I applied for my first job as executive chef – with Silvia Buchholz-Lafer whom I later married.For 11 years I worked as executive chef and later owner together with my wife of the Restaurant Le Val d´Or in Guldental. When the Stromburg came up for sale in the neighbouring Stromberg, we didn’t hesitate very long. After comprehensive conversion work – a challenging task – we opened Johann Lafers Stromburg at the end of 1994 with our restaurant Le Val d’Or and the Bistro d’Or.Even today, the shining eyes of our guests are my biggest motivation.
I like foods of superior quality produced using sustainable methods, and Styrian balsamic apple vinegar is a good example. It’s a full-bodied cider pressed from Styrian apples and then transformed into a fine vinegar. After it matures, it’s refined with pure apple juice and aged for nearly 20 years in oak barrels out in the open air. I use it to flavor various kinds of salads or to accent chutneys, jellies, soups and delicate sauces. I also marinate different varieties of beetroot in it, and add it to broths and concentrates. I use it in our millefeuille of red beets with slow-cooked arctic char, and to heighten the flavor of our local crayfish, from the Rhine and Nahe rivers.