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Top Chef: Schwarze Heidi

Twice a month, we shine a spotlight on our favourite chefs in the city. This time round it's the Swiss chef and actress Jennifer Mulinde-Schmid aka Schwarze Heidi.

Image for Top Chef: Schwarze Heidi
Photos by Andreas Riedel

In September, Kenyan-born, Ugandan-Swiss Jennifer Mulinde-Schmid bestowed a new name upon her restaurant and bar, known as Helvetia since 2012: “Schwarze Heidi”, after her actress’ stage name. The walls may have been touched up, but the Kreuzberg 36 corner house still offer the same warm, cosy atrmosphere and hearty range of traditional Alpine dishes, like crispy potato rösti, velvety fondues and meaty gulasch – perfect to soothe that winter cold!

What kind of food do you cook?

Swiss and Alpine cuisine with fresh ingredients delivered daily.

What is your most popular item?

At the moment it’s fondue. It’s a really good dish to share when it’s cold outside and you want something hearty and warm. For most of the year it’s Rösti, a Swiss speciality made with grated potatoes, without egg, fried to a golden brown colour in the pan, or Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, which is veal in a creamy mushroom sauce, a speciality from Zürich.

What’s the food trend you hate the most?

I’m not a fan of burger chains, and not just the fast food ones. I’ve noticed them popping up all over the place. I consider myself a lady, and I just don’t like burgers! It’s impossible to eat them elegantly.

A cooking tip…

Always cook with love! That’s the most important thing. Take your time – in our restaurant we take our time and make sure that all our ingredients are fresh and I do the same when I’m cooking at home. I’d also advise anyone to improvise. You can create so many meals with just a few ingredients that taste delicious despite your half empty cupboard! Just use your imagination.

The ingredients themselves are also important. At home and in my restaurant, I always make sure I buy organic because it just tastes so much better.

A dining tip (other than your own restaurant)?

I’m not eating out much at the moment but I really like Trois Minutes Sur Mer on Torstraße. I just love French cuisine and seafood, and there they have les fruits de mer… mussels, snails and everything… and I just love that! The wines there are really good and they make good use of space so that you can see into the kitchen. I also like the lighting there, it’s a really nice place to sit and spend time enjoying food.

What’s the best thing about owning a restaurant in Berlin?

Obviously because we’re in the capital, it’s cool to be able to get to know so many different people, regulars and other restaurateurs.

There is an element of performance to running a restaurant that appeals to the actor in me, it’s a creative career. I did a lot of waitressing while I was at drama school to keep myself afloat, and it is a little like standing on a stage: you always greet your guests in a certain way, if you’re in a bad mood you still have to be cheerful and friendly for customers. Cooking is creative too, and sporty. It’s very physical work and it can be a lot of pressure on a busy evening when lots of people are waiting for you to prepare their meals!

And the worst?

The stress and the lack of money. The Finanzamt is always waiting right behind you, taking as much money as they can get. I work clean, above board, which is good, but it’s so hard to money just to make ends meet!