Barbara Eselböck & Alain Weissgerber – co-owners of the Taubenkobel Restaurant, took over the property that was opened 37 years ago by Barbara’s parents, Walter & Eveline. They have created a world-renowned culinary retreat, founded upon a finely tuned interdepended model where seasonal produce is a king and every detail of the place is genially considered.
The Best Chef: Can you tell us something more about the story of this place? How the restaurant was founded?
Barbara Eselböck: Taubenkobel is a family business that has been around for 40 years. My parents opened it 40 years ago. They started with the idea of creating something for friends and acquaintances in a small town. During these 40 years, the business grew, becoming bigger, better and more beautiful. This is the story of this place. Currently, there are a lot of small activities/ventures around it. We have a beautiful vineyard that belongs to my sister and my brother-in-law. Next door, we have the Geslerei bei Taubenkobel bistro. We provide accommodation, we have a hotel with a beautiful garden. We also have a small hotel in Rost for biking tourists. We are trying to offer people a “refuge” all year round.
We are 30-45 minutes away from Vienna. When people come here, everything from the outside is quite inconspicuous. It is not some kind of a huge castle. In fact, when they arrive, they say: Well, what is this place? But when you go inside, you discover everything “at a second glance”. Our approach to catering is exactly the same. Our approach to eating and drinking. It is actually about our whole life. It is not only about the best food, the best food on the plate, if nothing else harmonizes well. With my food I wish to drink the best biodynamic wine, I want to have a hand-made plate, beautiful and sophisticated cutlery, I wish to listen to good music, I wish…Everything around must be in harmony. We try to make our guests curious in many ways. And the heart of everything – we can say – has always been “Taubenkobel”.
This was the beginning created by my parents. We took over the restaurant 10 years ago. I have to honestly say that when we took over, it was at the world-class level and we are still trying to maintain this level and meet the requirements it imposes on us. With us, it is not like in the case of other generations that the “younger ones” come and change everything for new, for better. We are very happy that we can maintain the level of our business.
The Best Chef: Alain, what is your story? How did you ended up being in Austria in Taubenkobel?
Alain Weissgerber: In fact, there’s only one reason I’m here. It is my wife, my love. I’ve been in Austria for about 30 years. We had one restaurant before, not far from here. As we have already mentioned, we have been in Taubenkobel for 10 years and we run it together. So, the main reason is love, but Austria has actually become my homeland.
Barbara Eselböck: And the delicious Austrian food, culture, landscapes.
Alain Weissgerber: A lot has happened in Austria in recent years. We are happy and proud that we can continue to run this restaurant in our own way. Our style is not completely different. This style has been here, and we continue it. We practice and shape the cuisine. I would say that it is a very minimalist style. It is mainly about the taste. The plate is also important, but there are only a few ingredients on it. This is the motto of Taubenkobel. We have been developing a lot. 5-6 years ago, we built a wood-burning stove. We also have flame grill outside. More or less we go back to the beginnings. We always have 1-2 dishes on the menu that are cooked using charcoal. We have our own menu in which many types of meat are prepared in the wood-fired oven. It is very well perceived by our customers. In terms of taste only the product counts.
The Best Chef: Have you always known that you want to become a chef?
Alain Weissgerber: My grandmother was a chef and at one point, I decided to learn this profession as well. First, I wanted to become a pastry chef, but then I decided to become a chef. I have been working in the kitchen for 30 years now. This is my job, my passion.
I have never regretted becoming a chef. It is a wonderful profession. It is hard work as any other. You have to work when others have time off. But for me, it is the most beautiful profession and I can recommend it to young people. You can travel, you sightsee a lot. There are a lot of events, such as this one. This is an incredible venture. We are very happy that we can participate in it. We are happy about a lot of things that happen in relation to it. Meeting interesting people. If you run a restaurant, you have a huge variety of guests. We are visited by a lot of artists, musicians, actors. This is wonderful for us.
The Best Chef: We all know that food is the heart of every restaurant. However, is there anything more? The atmosphere and appearance of the restaurant, are they equally important?
Alain Weissgerber: There are many chefs for whom food is so important that they believe that it is only about food, about what is on the plate. But I realized a long time ago that it is not just that. Naturally, food is very important. It is important to present a philosophy. We need a philosophy. We want what is eaten in Taubenkobel to be associated with Taubenkobel. We don’t want food that you can get in Copenhagen or Italy, Rome or anywhere else. It is important that each place has its own story to tell. About its food, wine list and the place itself. This is the most important thing for me. When people come to us, when they sit here, and then they leave and tell others that it was a nice evening or a nice day. This is actually the most important thing. This is how you receive guests.
Food – after a few weeks, you don’t remember what you had. But you remember that you had a nice evening.
Barbara Eselböck: Exactly. You remember thoughts, feelings you had. So, the cuisine – it is possible that you remember what you ate three years ago. But as humans, we remember more how we felt there, how it was. I was happy there, I was sad, I was nervous or very happy there. We actually combine places with feelings. And of course, eating is one of those feelings. Sometimes we eat a bite of a dish and feel very happy, like in heaven. But for such happiness, something more is needed.
Alain Weissgerber: I don’t like the expression “fine dining”. We offer everything together. You can eat something from the menu, you can eat a la carte, you can eat something from the wood-fired oven. There is no need to ask for the menu and sit for 3 hours, the same for everyone. We were done with it a long time ago. I think that it is very important now, in times of the pandemic. Not to force the guests to sit and eat for 3 hours. Then bye, bye, and new guests. This time is over. This is how it will be, one day you eat 1 or 2 dishes and drink 2 bottles of wine, and today you eat what is on the menu. For us, personally, it is not always a great pleasure to go somewhere and order from a big menu. I think it is important that the guests choose what they do, how much they eat. A lot? A little? I think it will be important in the future.
The Best Chef: Is the era of ”fine dining” over?
Alain Weissgerber: I am not saying that the time of “fine dining” and sitting in a restaurant for 4-5 hours is over. I think it is important to offer something more than that. Here, in the countryside, we do not experience it much or at all, and therefore we have to observe, keep pace with the times and rediscover oneself. This is a whole process.
Barbara Eselböck: I find it very interesting. For instance, 4 years ago we had another menu. The waiters knew, we had one menu, one wine pairing, one non-alcoholic pairing. We worked on it until the menu was perfect. We had the menu, wine was perfect, the aperitif was perfect. Everything was excellent. But it is not a challenge. This is no challenge. Every day is the same. Now we have friends, families with children, young people, older people. A whole range of guests. One guest wants an 8-course menu, another guest fancies veal from the wood-fired oven, and another only a salad. Others/children order ice-cream only. This is a challenge and we enjoy it. It is fun. Because gastronomy is fun. It should be beautiful, it should be a family experience. If I go out with 10 people, or I order from a menu, it does not mean I wish to eat something of worse quality. I have a choice. That is how we have adjusted fine dining to us.
The Best Chef: What did you have to change in your work during the pandemic? How the pandemic affected your daily work?
Barbara Eselböck: We transformed our bistro into a store with food products. Before it was a bistro with simple cuisine, and now it is a food store. We offer freshly baked bread, cheese, butter. We expanded our bakery and we sell baked goods there. We purchase products from local farmers, when the weather allows for it, we place them outside. We have a market outside so that our guests do not have to go inside. We offer takeaway coffee, takeaway wine and very week we offer different takeaway dishes. People walking by the Neusiedl Lake can purchase something to strengthen themselves.
On the other hand, we offer boxes at the restaurant. We prepare them every weekend, always a variety. It is always a menu for two, including an aperitif created by us, a bottle of wine, and a 4-course menu. You can order online. Every week it is different. We also deliver the boxes ourselves, in the area of Vienna, too. This is interesting and we enjoy it. It is important for us because we can meet our team. Our team is kept busy. Everyone is here. Everyone has time to show their creativity. To work on many new dishes.
We enjoy it a lot. We enjoy thinking how we will pack the food – for us in the service – how the food will be packed, in what boxes. What will be the colour of the paper, etc. This is very enjoyable and that is why we do it.