Unforgettable views, creativity and traditional craftsmanship, no-nonsense professionalism and five-star service. This unpretentious liaison is yours to taste at the award-winning SKYKITCHEN hosted by chef de cuisine Alexander Koppe. Here you’ll share a table with famous Berlin landmarks like the Alexanderplatz TV Tower, Red City Hall and Frankfurter Tor, just 3 km as the crow flies. But SKYKITCHEN is more than just a unique location – it’s THE hottest Michelin-starred restaurant in the east of Berlin.
Alex, the restaurant scene in Berlin is booming with a total of 26 Michelin stars in the city. How do you wear your Michelin star? Aloof, with reverence or is the star a burden?
Actually I’m just a cook and the most important thing for me is a satisfied guest who is excited and curious about our greetings from the kitchen. Bottom line: it’s got to taste good. Naturally, if the 12 Michelin testers award your effort with a star, you know you’ve done everything right. I wear my star with reverence. A chef always wants to stay on top and I want to continue to surprise my guests with the fact that one leaves the things the taste, which is their own while still creating something new. So it was very important for me to keep my star in 2015 and 2016 – not only for myself but also for SKYKITCHEN and the entire team.
You earned your star in November 2014 in the restaurant a.choice, before SKYKITCHEN opened. Coincidence or fate?
To be honest: pure coincidence. SKYKITCHEN’s move from the 1st to the 12th floor of the hotel had already been decided by the owners along with our general manager, Ralph Alsdorf. The restaurant already had a design, a philosophy and a new name. Then, at one of the many meetings, I dropped the bomb. I said something like: “Guys, we got a star.” Everyone was blown away. Ecstatic. Harmonising the uncomplicated SKYKITCHEN concept with an award-winning cuisine was quite a challenge – but one we gladly accepted. We succeeded and were overjoyed, proud to have shook up all of Berlin here in Lichtenberg. That the new stage was 65 metres up was just the icing on the cake. In a word: awesome!
Where do you get your inspiration for your recipes and new creations? What exactly is important to you?
Regarding the cooking, I definitely was inspired by my grandma. I often spent my summer holidays with her. I learned quite early on the relationship of the origin of the food. That is why today in the SKYKITCHEN I also look to combine and reinterpret regional products from Berlin / Brandenburg. Short delivery routes, fresh products and the taste of their own – all these are good ingredients which are a substantial basis for a ground-flavourful and delicious dish.
What exactly does SKYKITCHEN mean to you?
SKYKITCHEN is all about the team, and I can count on them 150%. The heart and soul of the restaurant is Barbara Merll. Barbara isn’t just the restaurant manager; she’s Berlin’s Best Host of 2015. I also highly appreciate my sous chef and good friend Richard Schneider. We all know each other from our time together at Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin. I’m proud to be able to work with them in the same kitchen and in such a fantastic restaurant with views over all of Berlin. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. But above all, I’m a Berlin native and my workplace is like a little piece of home for me.
Speaking of “home”. You’re a genuine Berliner. In what other restaurants have you been able to prove your cooking prowess?
Before joining andel’s by Vienna House Berlin in 2012, I was sous chef at Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin. Other stints include Hilton Berlin and Savoy Hotel Berlin. I also have experience in award-winning venues like Grand Spa Resort A-ROSA in Travemünde, Hotel Altes Gymnasium in Husum and Hotel Madison in Berlin. As you can see, the German coast is as far as I ever got from Berlin. But to be honest: Why go somewhere else to cook when I can do it here?
The press has compared SKYKITCHEN to the television series Mad Men. Are you a Mad Man?
(laughs) No, certainly not. I neither like the limelight nor am I the secretive type. I’m down-to-earth and a family man. The journalists probably mean the restaurant’s furnishings and décor by DREIMETA, who also designed the 25hours Hotels in Vienna and Hamburg. No, in my free time you won’t find me at any fancy-schmancy big city event but rather at Vogelsdorf Lake fishing with my daughter and my dog Bolle. That’s where I find quiet and a change of pace. Every minute that I’m not in the kitchen belongs to my family. They come first in my life.
So that’s how you spend your free time. They say that fishing and cooking is in your blood. Did you inherit that?
Hmmm… inherit? Can you inherit that? I simply grew up that way. I was standing at the stove already as a boy on my grandma’s farm near Boltenhagen on the Baltic Sea. There I grew up with a lot of animals, some of which would end up on our plates. My mum is from Mecklenburg and she’s sat fishing from the shore with me. She still makes me my favourite dish now and again: Königsberger Klopse, meatballs in a white sauce with capers.
And your mother doesn’t work too far away either, does she? She’s the host of the Sunday lunch special at SKYKITCHEN. How did that happen?
That’s just 24/7 Koppe. While I cook it up every evening from Tuesday through Saturday, my mother Edeltraud keeps up the family tradition on Sundays. Then I can go home and spend some quiet time with my family. My mother serves up an authentic lunch experience with regional fare that includes Grandpa’s fish platter as well as meat and sausages from the local farmer Rahlf. An exciting contrast to my cuisine, but one that stays true to the family philosophy. I’m glad that I can count on General Manager Ralph Alsdorf, who supports this concept with all his heart. That’s certainly not something you could say of any general manager.
Cutting to the chase: What kind of a boss are you? How does your team see you?
Loud, eccentric and impatient. Just kidding! I’ve never yelled in the kitchen. In fact, I believe that real strength lies in keeping calm. I expect performance and precision from my people, but things really get cooking when we just let our true Berlin nature shine through in the kitchen.
Said like a true Berliner! Alex, thanks a lot for the interview!