Name: Antonio Buntenkötter & Torsten Hülsmann
Age: 38 and 37
Place of birth: Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf-born and bred, Antonio Buntenkötter and Torsten Hülsmann sought a new challenge in their culinary careers. After spending more than a decade in traditional restaurants, the two self-proclaimed food nerds worked together on a cookbook project in 2014 and decided to take their cooking skills to the streets. Serving Asian Streetfood like Laksa Curries, Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings and Chili Jam to hungry foodies, the two chefs, whose motto is “May the spice be with you” have found their calling. Next up: Strassenküche’s event series “Supper Club”. Stay tuned.
In your street kitchen you offer “taste experiences with- out a lot of fuss”— why do you follow this philosophy?
Antonio: We share the same philosophy as all the street kitchens of this world. It is about focusing on the essential- like Witzigmann already said: “The product is the star in the kitchen”. Good food does not need carrots cut into flower shapes, they don’t add anything extra to the taste. Therefore: Less is more.
Torsten: The taste, quality of the produce and craftsmanship are key. It’s also about the origin and story of the individual dishes. This is definitely Antonio’s part, I don’t know anybody who researches as meticulously as him.
Which of your recipes that you brought home from your trips to Asia are you particularly proud of?
Antonio: Well, the Laksa recipe from my mentor Jimmy was a real challenge. It’s not like he supplied it voluntarily. There were three different versions and in each version one or two ingredients or the one or other step of the cooking process was missing, only when I took hold of all three versions the puzzle could be assembled. I think Jimmy would say: Not so bad for a German.
Torsten: The Laksa recipe from Jimmy that Antonio brought back from his trip to Sidney. Apart from our first street food festival in 2014 at the Boui Boui Bilk, the start of the “SK-Strassenküche” for me will always be the day when I made my first curry past with pestle and mortar.
Which ingredients you cannot be without?
Phew, difficult question. Each ethnic cuisine is characterised by different ingredients, not to talk about cooking techniques, cooking utensils and energy sources. Since South East Asia is a geographically very diverse area, our list will be rather long: fish sauce, shrimp paste, coriander, galangal, chilies, ginger, garlic, thick, thin and sweet soy sauce, fermented chili bean paste, cinnamon …the recipes you can also find online on our website.
A dish that you hated as a child and you cannot be without now?
Antonio: Leek cooked in cream, it’s still not my favourite though. But I don’t hate it anymore.
Torsten: There are very few things that I don’t eat but as a child I hated my grandmother’s barley soup. I wouldn’t turn that down today anymore.
What would your last meal consist of?
Antonio: The gnocchi from my grandmother with ragu bolognese (with a little bit of chicken liver) and some old pecorino on top. Oh wait, maybe also a bowl of Jimmy’s Laksa with prawns and some Sambal aubergines? Well, how many courses could the last meal have?
Torsten: I don’t want to decide that yet! A lot more important are the people I want to share it with and those I have decided on, of course. Let’s see what happens until then.
With which personality would you like have an Altbier in Düsseldorf?
Antonio: Alfred Walterspiel
Torsten: I would to go for a drink with my mother who passed away far too soon, I never had a chance to do so.
What would you talk about?
Antonio: About cooking, chefs, kitchens and how it felt to cook hundred years ago.
Torsten: About the past 22 years.
What does the future hold in store? Will you continue your life in the streets or will you get a few plastic chairs (and a permanent location)?
Antonio: The future will bring more Spice and Supper Club series in 2017. There we will have some plastic chairs, Eames chairs, benches or handmade wooden stools but definitely no tableclothes.
Where do you go for a delicious, healthy and fresh lunch in Düsseldorf….
Torsten: Delicious and fresh is a prerequisite. I like to go to Naniwa at the Klosterstrasse. But you better be on time, then it should be fast as well. The lunch menu at Yabase is also highly recommended.
Three places in Düsseldorf that you have to show your visitors:
Antonio: Immermannstraße and the surrounding area, checking out the skyline from the Rheinknie-bridge. The Uerige.
Your absolute insider tip/favourite spot that you would like to share with everyone?
Antonio: The battered fish at the weekly market in Alt-Eller is worth the journey.
Torsten: Visiting the crew of the ‘Big Hug Barbecue’ at the street food festival is highly recommended. I don’t know anybody nearby who does a better, more honest BBQ. Here it’s all about the quality of the products and great craftsmanship.