High up in Binntal, a talented chef is pushing cuisine to new heights: Mario Inderschmitten has returned to his roots.
It’s a remarkable piece of earth, this Binntal. The valley high above Fiesch, at an altitude of 1,500 metres, is noted for qualities that would be considered shortcomings elsewhere. There are no spectacular ski lifts up here, no upmarket wellness temples or luxury accommodation, no action, no nightlife and no celebrities, parties or hotspots. You won’t find any of the usual tourist attractions in Binntal – and that is precisely what makes it so appealing. Keen hikers and birdwatchers have long since been flocking to the area, alongside prospectors on the hunt for hidden treasure. But a hidden gem of a different kind has recently been discovered by another group of visitors – those who enjoy fine dining in the countryside. The object of their attention: the Restaurant Albrun in Binn, where Mario Inderschmitten has been cooking up a storm for three years now. Gault&Millau awarded him no less than 14 points this summer. Young talents usually gain their first entry in the renowned gourmet restaurant guide with 12 points.
While naturally delighted, Mario Inderschmitten sees no reason to take on delusions of grandeur. When we visit the Albrun, we find an introverted chef, a man who is not given to saying much, preferring to let his creations speak for themselves. In other words, a true native of Binntal: calm, commonsensical and with his feet planted firmly on the ground – the very antithesis of the young “rock star chefs” celebrated by urban foodies. The only hip thing about him is his goatee. You won’t find Mario Inderschmitten on any social media platforms. Instead of tweeting or chatting, he likes to spend his rare moments of leisure with his family. We like. He doesn’t talk about his achievements, so we have to turn to his website to find out just how super this Mario actually is. As an apprentice, he was crowned best young cook in the canton and proved equally outstanding when he went on to train as a patissier and confectioner. His pastries received the highest accolades at world championships and the Culinary Olympics, and he was named “Youngster of the Year 2012”, an honour bestowed by top chef Ivo Adam and Marmite magazine. And now comes his latest triumph – the 14 Gault&Millau points awarded this summer. That’s a lot of praise for someone who has just turned 30. But instead of letting all this recognition go to his head, Inderschmitten feels spurred on to constantly improve himself. “And the only way I can do that is by working hard and being creative – day after day,” says the quiet craftsman of the kitchen.
When his young daughter Marilou was born, he even hung up his beloved electric guitar. “And it’ll stay there gathering dust,” states his wife Laetizia, a specialist in hotel housekeeping from Alsace and soon about to become a mother for the second time. The couple first met through work and it was only when they thought of starting a family that Mario Inderschmitten decided to return to his native valley after many years away. “When we first discussed our plans for a family, Mario just said he would like our children to grow up in Binntal,” Laetizia tells us. So the couple took over the Albrun in Binn, where Mario’s parents had already been providing guests with food and lodging for decades. Inderschmitten’s cuisine is deeply rooted in his upbringing: this rising star makes full use of the region’s produce, selecting the best of what Valais has to offer. Medallions of Blacknose sheep, fillets of perch from Raron, lamb’s liver from Goms, beef from grey cattle raised on his neighbour’s farm, cheese from Alpine dairies in the Aletsch area, pears, ceps, vegetables and fir buds from Binntal, game caught locally and rare saffron from Mund, all accompanied by Valais wines and rounded off with Valais eaux-de-vies. Only one essential product comes from outside the canton: chocolate. Reflecting his passion for sweet dishes, Mario Inderschmitten defies expectations by incorporating this typical dessert ingredient into main courses, such as his Black Forest Sirloin in which he combines prime fillet of Angus beef with all the elements of a Black Forest gateau – cocoa and cream in the form of panna cotta, and sweet and sour cherries in the form of gel, sorbet and compote – to create a complex interplay of aromas, temperatures and textures. “I want to surprise my guests and offer them something fresh and new. They can easily find raclette or toasted cheese elsewhere,” he explains.
Interview: Anita Lehmeier / Photos : Sedrik Nemeth