Project: Luisenhöhe, Black Forest, Germany

The culinary experience at recently opened wellness resort Luisenhöhe in Germany’s Black Forest prioritizes local produce and sustainable principles. Elly Earls hears from consultant Helge Pahlke FCSI and chef Niels Möller how they came up with a design that epitomizes the property’s commitment to transparency and authenticity

When it first opened in 1896, Luisenhöhe Freiburg was a chalet-style spa hotel. Perched atop a plateau in the Schauinsland mountain range, its panoramic view of the Black Forest biosphere reserve offered the ultimate retreat from urban life. The property has since been a hotel, a retirement home, and a military command, before going full circle and reopening in 2023 as a wellness sanctuary built around the ‘new luxuries’ of time, space and authenticity.

In Luisenhöhe’s latest incarnation, connection with nature and sustainability are paramount, a commitment that is demonstrated through its culinary experience, created by chef Niels Möller. The menu is designed around bounties sourced from the region, primarily plant-based, which are preserved using cooking techniques such as pickling and fermentation.

“The surrounding area provides a rich tapestry of fruits, herbs, vegetables, mushrooms, and wild berries, even spruce shoots, from which we can draw abundantly,” explains Möller. “When we do incorporate animal products, we do so selectively, ensuring that the rearing and quality align with our elevated standards, utilizing every part conscientiously.”

The restaurant’s kitchen is built around a striking open grill, which was sourced by the foodservice design team at KDREI, the company tasked with realizing Möller’s vision. Led by managing director Helge Pahlke FCSI, they selected a 2.8 ton Metal Pedrouzo. Due to limited space, the remaining kitchen equipment is arranged around the grill, with some permanently mounted on the walls to maximize flexibility. “It enables tables and equipment to be situated precisely where needed, tailored to specific requirements,” says Pahlke. The ventilated ceiling with three exhaust rings from Halton ensures effective ventilation, while back-of-house storage ranges from cold storage and deep-freeze rooms to expansive beer and wine stores.

Beyond expectations

Conceived by Pahlke with interior designer Klemens Hüls, the restaurant also includes a custom communal table with integrated cold and hot modules, allowing for flexible hosting of group events for eight to ten guests.

Möller believes the success of the collaboration was largely down to the fact that his counterpart at KDREI was a trained chef, too. “When I joined the team, there was already a highly detailed design that needed adjustments to align with my requirements. Helge Pahlke’s understanding as a fellow chef enabled him to swiftly comprehend and actualize my requests,” he says. The grill in particular has surpassed his expectations. “We attain distinctive roasting aromas and flavor complexity that will leave anyone not craving meat anymore,” he says.

For Pahlke, working with Möller and his team furnished him with insights into how young chefs operate today, which he will take forward into future projects. “They no longer adhere strictly to the traditional array of kitchen equipment; rather, they emphasize key elements like stoves, steamers, and grills as well as prioritizing ample space for preserving and pickling supplies,” he notes. Transparency is increasingly at the heart of the contemporary dining experience. “The open kitchen concept conveys to the guests ‘Make yourself at home’ and emphasizes that, there are no secrets, only valuable insights to be gained,” says Möller.

Elly Earls