Mountain life isn’t always easy, but the simplicity and honesty required to thrive in such a challenging environment is what inspired Hotel Rosa Alpina’s chef, Norbert Niederkofler, to embark on a culinary challenge of sorts. Niederkofler, a South Tyrol native, returned to his Dolomite roots at Rosa Alpina in 1994 with the charge of creating a dining program that would complement the atmosphere of sophistication at the newly renovated Rosa Alpina. Using culinary traditions and recipes from the region as his inspiration, and coordinating with area producers, Niederkofler set out to transform the hotel’s mountain lodge style cooking into veritable fine dining. This was the beginning of his new culinary concept: cook the mountain.
Sustainable menus were already on the rise when Niederklofer began focusing on ethical cooking at Rosa Alpina employing traditional techniques to prepare elegant dishes made completely from locally-sourced ingredients, but his culinary endeavors were about more than just being eco-friendly. This was a new mindset; a highly refined approach to cooking that promoted adapting to the rigors of Mother Nature at 5,000 feet, incorporating tried-and-true techniques like foraging, sand storage for root vegetables in winter, hearty traditional recipes, and using seasonal produce to highlight the flavors of South Tyrol.
Helmed by a team of international chefs, St. Hubertus has devoted itself entirely to ethical cooking practices but does not hold back from creating dynamic, international dishes.
The idea of "cooking the mountain" started a gastronomic revolution that Norbert and third-generation hotel owner, Hugo Pizzinini, promoted across the mountain range, resulting in what Pizzinini calls “a gift back to the region.” Local chefs and cooks in the area's rifiugi (mountainside huts), taverns, and chalets were quick to take up cook the mountain techniques in their own kitchens.
But it was Nortbert's restaurant St. Hubertus, named for the patron saint of the hunt, at Hotel Rosa Alpina that was the South Tyrol region’s pioneer. Helmed by a team of international chefs, the restaurant has devoted itself entirely to ethical cooking practices, but does not hold back from creating dynamic, international dishes, reinterpreted through the use of the mountain’s regional bounty.
Though Norbert and St. Hubertus have been awarded three Michelin stars, among their many accolades, the chef’s feet remain firmly on the ground. The annual Care's festival, a week-long winter event, brings chefs and sommeliers from around the world to South Tyrol to promote an ethical and sustainable approach to cooking, focusing on the environment, local communities, and the rhythm of nature, with the ultimate goal of transforming kitchens everywhere.