The Gommerstuba in Niederernen – Landmark of fine French cuisine

Lars Dederscheck, chef at the Gommerstuba in Niederernen, took time off to talk about the fine establishment where his classic French cooking is king.

You took over here only one year ago. What was it like to follow in your well-known predecessor’s footsteps?
It was daunting. Rolf Gruber had been here for 30 years when I took over. Sure, I’d already worked here for 16 years by then, but from last December, it was different to be the man at the helm. Fortunately, Rolf had been an excellent teacher. I knew the venue inside out, and lots of the clientele. That made the transition easier, as did −  and does − my wife Yvonne, who helps with operative management and does the bookkeeping so I can devote the greater part of my time to actually cooking.

What do you cook most frequently?
International cuisine, based primarily on classic French cooking. We offer the finest quality meats and in summer, prepare fish, which I like very much to cook. We get our small lake perch (Egli) from a fish hatchery in Raron, a place worth a visit in itself. We also prepare salt-water fish, and even high-end delicacies such as Canadian lobster. I try to incorporate local regional produce as much as possible… but lobster, for example, must be imported, and we have a definite client demand for it. Where can you get it otherwise?

Are there certain specialties we should try?
I change the menu seasonally, four times a year. The favorite now is the lake perch, and guests frequently order it à la carte, but we also have a 7-course menu, along with the option of ordering only 3 or 4 of them. Our wine cellar carries wines produced exclusively in the Valais, where our Cornalin, incidentally, is a superb local grape, and Humagne Rouge is also very good. Whatever the specialty, I like going around among our guests after they’ve finished their meals to get their impressions and feedback. I really depend on that, − especially if I’ve experimented with something new, − as acknowledging their satisfaction or suggestions is vital for our maintaining top results.

What’s the most difficult thing about being a chef?
Keeping calm. When lots is happening, and it gets stressful, or when there are fewer guests, in the dead of winter, say, you still have responsibilities vis-à-vis the staff. Earlier, I could count on my regular monthly salary; now, I’m the one paying the salaries and bills, so see the business from an entirely different angle. And there are concerns, of course, such as whether I can depend on all hands to keep their hours. That’s important, since we’re a team of only five; if one person’s missing, then everybody’s under a lot of pressure. I hope to be seen as a constant, though, strongly committed to drawing rather than pulling the very best out of us all. And I hope that continues to work as well as it has up to now.

Your German sounds native. How’s that?
I’m 39 years old now, and still a German citizen, although with our young son, who was born and is going to school here, we consider applying for Swiss citizenship. In any case, I did my training on the German-Dutch border, and in a hotel whose kitchen was large and very well-equipped, making it a great place to learn. My chef there, too, was a powerhouse: great at teaching us the basics, but covering a vast number of topics that in any way revolve around food and its preparation, too. At school there, it was always said that to make a career as a chef, one had to work at some point in Switzerland. So I was pleased to get that experience at the Gommerstuba, where I thought I would stay about a year. The Fates, I guess, thought otherwise. In any case, over the next 15 years, I took great benefit from working alongside Rolf Gruber. He gave terrific personality to this place, and even now, we keep in touch with one another regularly.

What three adjectives would you like to hear clients use to describe your cuisine?
Oh, that’s a tough one, but I think I’d say, delicious, sophisticated and completely satisfying to both the eye and palette. My aim, of course, is that every plate comes out as perfectly as possible; it has to look really appetizing, but has to taste very good, too.

Here in Niederernen, you’re in a largely rural area. Yet you stay here rather than go down into the valley. Why’s that?
Largely because the restaurant has a name, and we have regular clients. Compared to Brig or the valley, where the concentration of eateries is very dense, we have a unique position. The whole package of fine cuisine in this beautiful setting makes it an ideal location. What’s more, response to our website and Trip Advisor reviews have shown us that our clientele is very much behind us. That alone makes me makes me very proud.

Interview by Sarah Batschelet, Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Gommerstuba is open from Tuesday through Monday from 10.00 – 23.00. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Exceptionally, during the Musikdorf Ernen’s concert season (10 July −14 August), Monday only is closed. For reservations, call 027 971 29 71 or send an e-mail. For more information click here.