United by their pursuit of perfection and passion for sustainability, Holger Bodendorf, host and chef at Landhaus Stricker Hotel, and Blancpain Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie are committed to protecting Sylt island, a unique site of conservation. Nature, after all, is our greatest treasure.
Just south of the Danish border on Germany's North Sea coast, at the top end of the small trail of the islands that comprise the North Frisian archipelago, is the island of Sylt. While below the radar for most international tourists, it’s one of Germany’s most sought-after domestic destinations, popular for its pristine beaches, extraordinary flora and fauna, and restorative sea air. Sylt’s spa hotels, exclusive boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants have drawn the wealthy and famous here for decades, making the name Sylt synonymous with elegance and earning the island the nickname of the ‘German Hamptons’.
Sylt’s west coast is fringed by almost 25 miles/40km of wide, white sandy shores dotted with traditional blue-striped wicker beach chairs and lined with grassy dunes. Its east coast borders the Wadden Sea, the world’s largest unbroken system of mud and sand flats, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and a unique habitat that’s home to innumerable plant and animal species. Between them is a gentle natural landscape, most of which is designated a conservation area, made up of marshland, meadows filled with grazing cows and wildflowers, quaint historic buildings with thatched roofs, and, during summer months, an abundance of bright pink roses.
In the very heart of the island is the newly refurbished Landhaus Stricker, a refined, contemporary retreat in a typically Frisian brick building. The five-star hotel was taken over some 20 years ago by Holger Bodendorf, who is also head chef at the two restaurants located in the 18th-century thatched building next door.
Hailing from a small town on Germany’s Baltic Coast, Chef Bodendorf moved to Sylt 32 years ago. “Sylt is very, very eco conscious,” he says, which, on this beautiful but fragile island with its rich but endangered ecosystem, is crucial. Through an annual ‘friends of the island’ campaign, Landhaus Stricker provides support to Küstenschutz Sylt (Sylt Coastal Protection), funding measures such as sand nourishment that help combat the permanent threat of coastal erosion.
Equally committed to protecting Sylt and its biodiversity is Swiss watchmaker Blancpain, with whom Chef Bodendorf has been friends for several years. Having created the world’s first true diving watch in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms, the Manufacture has a rich marine-related heritage, and through its Blancpain Ocean Commitment initiatives supports ocean exploration and preservation through scientific research projects worldwide. In cooperation with non-profit organisation Aquatil and regional association Jordsand, they are jointly working to protect Sylt’s Rantum Basin, a conservation area that provides breeding and resting sites for millions of migratory birds that pass through it annually. In addition to a three-year financial contribution, a portion of each sale of Blancpain's Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Sylt Edition will be donated to the project.
Passion for good craftsmanship and precision is another strong connection between Blancpain and Holger Bodendorf. Bringing to life the chef's unwavering devotion is his fine dining restaurant, BODENDORF’S, Michelin-starred for 20 years. Its creative international tasting menus comprise six or nine meticulously composed dishes such as a blush pink galantine of quail with cherries and a truffle disc, which Holger and his team devised by “focusing on one core product and building on it”. Driven by his desire to surprise and delight his guests, Chef Bodendorf has always worked like this, inspired by high quality ingredients: “We don’t let ourselves get distracted by anyone else.”
At his second restaurant, SIEBZEHN84, the chef has committed to using 60 per cent regional products, from Helgoland lobsters to oysters from the Austern Compagnie, Germany’s only oyster farmer, harvested in the Wadden Sea. Sustainability is an underlying theme throughout his work, whether supporting Ghanaian tree-planting initiatives with donations from one of his restaurant dishes or renovating the hotel with sustainably-sourced or recycled furniture and mattresses filled with repurposed fishing nets.
With their drive for excellence and commitment to supporting conservation projects on Sylt, Chef Bodendorf and Blancpain are a real force for good in efforts to protect Germany's northernmost island.