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Top chef: Klaus Reiher

Twice a month, we shine a spotlight on our favourite chefs in Berlin. This month: Klaus Reiher of Mitte bistro L'Ami Fritz explains his love of French-German cooking and wonders why nobody eats piglet kidneys anymore.

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Photo by Karolina Spolniewski

Twice a month, we shine a spotlight on our favourite chefs in the city. This time around, it’s French aficionado and German home cooking expert Klaus Reiher of Mitte’s L’Ami Fritz.

At his small bistro, Klaus Reiher surprises patrons with homemade southern German dishes they may not have had in years – and, because the former opera singer has a thing for France, you’ll find everything served up with French flair. Grab traditional fare like Käsespätzle and Maultaschen with a French-style salad or a bottle of sparkling Badoit mineral water from Saint-Galmier. Reiher explains the ties between French and German cooking and describes his most divisive dish.

What kind of food do you make?

The cuisine here is German with a touch of French. In some places in Germany, the food is not good – with some exceptions, of course. But in the south of Germany and in France, the food is much better. I wanted to take the idea of what is homemade, the things housewives cook, and give people dishes you won’t find in restaurants typically.

Why the interest in France?

I was always interested in cooking – I started when I was 12 or 13, and you have to eventually deal with French cuisine. I have friends who are half-German, half-French, and so I spent time with them in northern France sometimes. For me, French cuisine the best. It’s not that different from Southern Germany – some dishes exist in both countries and only the preparation is slightly different. For example, in Germany, black pudding is mashed and cooked with onions and apples. In France, they keep it as a sausage and fry it with pan-fried apples.

And what’s behind the name?

Before I was a chef, I was an opera singer. There’s an opera by Italian composer Pietro Mascagni called L’amico Fritz. It takes place in the Alsace region, and so I thought, “That sounds quite good – it’s French and German, and it describes the food.”

Will we find you singing at your restaurant?

Just at home. I have a piano and I’ll sing at friends’ weddings. Sometimes I sing in the morning when I’m cooking, but not too loud.

If you had to make the same thing every day, what would it be?

Something with cabbage; you can do a lot with it. But if it was only one dish, it would be maybe Schichtkohl, white cabbage with minced meat. The minced meat is pan-fried and then rolled with garlic and onions and mixed together. It’s quite a good dish.

Your most popular dishes?

In winter time Käsespätzle is very popular. Right now, since it’s warmer, people ask for the Maultaschen.

And what about pork kidneys, do people like them?

They’re not very popular anymore, but when I was a young kid, they were. Nowadays, you can’t even buy them in supermarkets – you have to go to the butcher and reserve them in advance. I have a house on the countryside where I go every weekend, and there is a very old butcher there who slaughters suckling piglets in the summertime. So I use those and make the kidneys and they’re an absolute delicacy. But it divides people in half: Some people make a face, but others absolutely love it and say, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t tried this in 20 years!”

L’Ami Fritz, Max-Beer-Str. 29, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz