Nearly 10 years after closing his celebrated Atlanta eatery, Seeger’s, award-winning chef Günter Seeger recently opened his new restaurant, Günter Seeger New York, in Manhattan’s West Village. In this new venture, he has two main focuses: to change the way people dine, and build a temple of German wines in New York City.
Are you excited to be cooking again?
I always wanted to come back to the restaurant. This is what I do.
In your Atlanta restaurant, people said your cooking was ahead of its time. Are you again ahead of the curve in New York?
I am still in love with my profession. I feel responsible to keep its integrity and respect its history and traditions. But we don’t need to go into these crazy, totally over-the-top styles that people then call contemporary. I know the trends and have seen cuisine change dramatically since the early 1970s. What you see today is an over-technologized, over-designed cuisine, and I have no interest in that. I will go back to a very natural cuisine where I have a product and do as little to it as possible. I work on helping the farmers out there. I want to recognize what’s on my plate.
How does your Black Forest childhood influence this?
That’s fundamental. When you grow up where I did, it leaves you with a huge amount of knowledge and love. We live in a marketing-driven, surreal world where “farm to table” is a trend—but isn’t that normal? My heritage, of course, is part of that.
You’re not cooking German food, so why do you champion German wine?
From a food perspective, and especially the very clean way I cook, there’s nothing like German Riesling, and people forget that we have other wines, too. These modern German wines are perfect. Our work with these flavors is going to blow your mind. It’s a commitment. Today, we have a generation of winemakers who probably make the cleanest wines ever—totally dry, with fantastic acidity and incredible flavor profiles. It just makes sense for me. I am German, let me show you what we have. Look at Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau, I want to show much more than just Riesling.
How are you going to present this?
My list is totally different. Big wine lists no longer make sense today. They are impractical, enormous, difficult and time-consuming. I’m turning this whole thing around. I will have one page of wine, which is the carte du jour—this doesn’t mean we don’t have any wines. We will select and change it every day. It’s just going to be one page! Can you imagine how easy this is for a guest to look at?
You say German winemakers have opened their cellars for you. Will you have mature vintages?
Yes! Young wine is always great to start a meal with, but Grosse Gewächse, Germany’s grands crus, have to mature. Some wines will be older, and it’s fantastic that German winemakers have made this possible. I am overwhelmed that this happened for us.
Will this be a game-changer for German wine in New York?
It is for me. I will put the focus on German wines and see how it works. I think it will. I want to make a real statement. New York has become a wine-crazy town. You can find fantastic wine from any region here. But I am committed to my plan.
What do you want people to walk away with?
To me, it’s very important how good I feel after eating and drinking. German wines with depth, integrity and acidity are still at a level where they are beautiful to drink. People are more interested than ever to find different flavor profiles in food and wine. I provide an experience, and German wines are going to be a big part of that.