It’s no surprise we’d feature an icon whose culinary fame can also be attributed to his love of art. Kurt Gutenbrunner – chef and restaurateur behind KG-NY Group, which includes Wallsé, Café Kristall, Blaue Gans, The Upholstery Store and of course Café Sabarsky – has always had an eye for aesthetic. It’s one of the many reasons Ronald Lauder – founder of the renowned Neue Galerie in New York – plucked him out of the woodwork to design Café Sabarsky, the Viennese cafe housed inside the gallery (and it’s perfect accompaniment). It is also the reason why, when The New Potato attended the Café Kristall summer Cabaret party, Gutenbrunner instantly insisted on taking us down to see the artwork in the restaurant’s private room. One can only imagine the aesthetic possibilities when it comes to a restaurant located in the Swarovski house, and the same breadth of imagination occurs in Gutenbrunner’s food as well. His beloved Wallsé remains a timeless choice when in comes to Austrian cuisine; Blaue Gans is a bistro version of a bierhaus; Café Sabarsky is a seamless interpretation of the classic Viennese cafe. Altogether, Gutenbrunner is king when it comes to ‘neue’ [the German word for new] cuisine. And the recipes in Gutenbrunner’s book, Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna, have proved to be a perfect mix of elegance, eclecticism and accessibility, much like the chef himself.
What would be your ideal food day?
I grew up in a little town in Austria on the Danube where food was very important. What we had was simple, and all that was available to us was what we grew or caught ourselves. I have a lot of warm memories from those early days that linger with me. This nostalgia makes it so I always associate good food and good memories. Here in New York City, I have a coffee and chocolate chip cookie at Kaffe1668 with my daughter Lou before she goes to school. So this is the start to my ideal food day. I especially love summer days when I can visit my friends at the greenmarket and taste the fresh local produce. For lunch, I enjoy pasta and seafood dishes, and in the afternoon, I am always open to a piece of cake when I stop by Café Sabarsky and visit customers. I am very lucky that my children appreciate food as much as I do, so the perfect end to my ideal food day is for me to cook dinner for my daughters – and then share lots of ice cream afterwards for dessert!
At The New Potato, we believe there is a blurred line between food, art and style. You are notable for always blurring that line between food and art. Why are you passionate about that combination?
Food, wine, architecture, art; all together these things make a happy house. Then, if you have happy people visiting your house, I believe you have a wonderful and successful restaurant. I enjoy all these elements in my own home and I view my restaurants in the same way. I am passionate about hospitality and I want my customers to feel as comfortable and happy in my restaurants as they would in my own home.
What is your background in the art world? Where does that passion come from?
During my education, I was always very interested in art and architecture. Coming from Austria, of course you learn a lot about the masterminds from the turn of last century, and of course there are a lot of wonderful young artists nowadays that I greatly admire. It makes me happy to be around other creative people, cook for them, and make them happy. I think they go hand in hand. Over the years my love of food and art has helped me to build many friendships, which has furthered my passion for the art world.
What was the first thing you thought when Ronald Lauder approached you about Café Sabarsky? Did you have any hesitations?
Of course I felt very proud that I was asked to be part of Ronald Lauders wonderful museum, the Neue Galerie! If anyone could make an authentic Viennese café in New York City, it would be him. He has such a passion and love of Viennese culture, food and art that I didn’t hesitate a moment. I knew that he would do it right.