Inside Erwin Gegenbauer’s Kitchen

23rd February 2017

Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Dan Dennison

Vienna’s “vinegar pope” on two revelatory types of wheat, a brilliant alternative to olive oil and his favourite Austrian wine


Gut Oggau Emmeram gewürztraminer » 
Erwin is very hard to please when it comes to wine, and he’s quite dismissive of most Austrian winemakers, but one he approves of is Gut Oggau (who by chance we had visited the previous day). “They’re using natural yeasts and working with new ideas – which are old ideas of course. Their gewürztraminer is incredible – this one, I can subscribe to.”

Brunnerling apples
Erwin’s cider is one of the best we’ve ever tried. He makes it with this very old and mostly forgotten apple variety. Bring it back, we say.

Raspberry seed oil »
We love the story of Erwin’s raspberry seed oil almost as much as the product itself. “I love to eat raspberries, but when I get seeds caught between my teeth I’m becoming angry. One day I was looking at one on my fingertip and I said: ‘You’re the seed of the raspberry. And in each seed has to be some fat, the energy for the new plant. Is there any fat in you?’ For the next eight years I worked to produce pure raspberry-seed oil. The product doesn’t cost us anything because it’s made with waste from the vinegar production. Smell it, then lick the straw. Maybe the first moment it’s more hay, grass, nutty, and then the raspberries come in. This is a big fascination for me.”


Emmer and einkorn
“I have a fascination with very old types of wheat,” Erwin tells us. “Do you know emmer? My wife, one day she made a kind of risotto using roasted emmer instead of rice. It was delicious and you only needed such a small portion compared to rice.” Now Erwin is using emmer and einkorn, another ancient wheat variety, in his beer. “I’m not interested in the American hops which give flavour, I’m interested in the flavour of the wheat.”

Camelina oil »
“When I was reading about emmer and einkorn in very old books, I read that the planted camelina blossoms between the wheat plants to act as a natural insecticide and pesticide. I told my farmer, ‘Okay let’s grow camelina with the wheat.’ I saw the blossoms and found the wonderful flavour of green peas, asparagus, carrot, celery, marjoram. Then we pressed the camelina seeds and now we are cooking with it, flavouring with it, for me there’s no better oil. Olive oil is very good, but the quality goes down after the pressing due to oxidation. If the olive harvest is let’s say October to January, and I’ve got olive oil in September, this is old olive oil. But with camelina I can store the seeds for months and nothing’s happening, and if I need the oil I’m pressing it fresh. So with these seeds, I can work all the year.” – Erwin


As we didn’t get to see inside Erwin’s private kitchen, we cannot report on the objects therein. Nor did we get very far on the subject of cookbooks. “I cannot cook with recipes,” Erwin told us. “I feel like I’m in prison.”

Posted 23rd February 2017

In Things


Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Dan Dennison

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