A Poker of culinary aces for a unique gourmet spectacle powered by Gault & Millau Croatia


Alhambra Boutique Hotel – Island of Lošinj, Croatia


Chefs Michael Gollenz and Christian Kuchler (left) together with chefs Stefan Heilemann and Sebastian Zier (right)

Mid Summer Epicurean Extravaganza – a name fully justified by the exclusive celebration of high gastronomy at the Alhambra boutique hotel in Mali Lošinj, on August 7. Everything in the evening was extravagant. Starting from the fairytale sunset on the beach in the bay in front of the hotel, where about eighty guests gathered for a gala dinner, to the arrival of three top chefs from Swiss restaurants rewarded with 18 points and 4 toques by Gault & Millau and with 2 Michelin stars each. Caviar, Billecart Rose` Magnum champagne and oysters, prepared in four ways, were just the introduction to a sumptuous dinner consisting of as many as 21 delicacies with seafood, various types of meat and vegetables, and 3 desserts. All served with the Italian Frescobaldi and the Croatian Benvenuti extraordinary wines.

The Mid Summer Epicurean Extravaganza at the Alhambra Boutique Hotel started with the music on the beach

Champagne and Gin Tonic, together with oysters and caviar

Despite the extremely demanding menu, the four chefs – the host, chef Michael Gollenz, and the three guests – seemed very relaxed in the kitchen of the Alfred Keller restaurant. It was not the first time for them to prepare a gala dinner together, they have known each other for years, and they often hang out privately. Stefan Heilemann of Wiider restaurant in Zurich is the godfather of the child of Christian Kuchler, chef of the Tavern zum Schäfli in Wigoltingen. When at the beginning of March Peter Schoch, CEO and member of the Management Board of Lošinj's Jadranka turizam d.o.o. was looking for an executive chef for the Alfred Keller restaurant at the Alhambra Boutique Hotel, Kuchler recommended Michael Gollenz (26).

Peter Schoch - CEO and Member of the Management Board, with the chefs Christian Kuchler, Sebastian Zier, Stefan Heilemann and Michael Gollenz

He knew the potential, the work habits and the character of the young Austrian, because Gollenz worked with Heilemann for six years. For Gollenz it was the right time for a new challenge, which would allow him to reach the culinary maturity and the independence necessary for fine dining.

The fourth member of this quartet, Sebastian Zier, a chef with a rich experience and an excellent reputation, is the creative force of the Einstein Gourmet restaurant in St. Gallen, and like his renowned colleagues, he can be proud because his guests - delighted with his creations - follow him around the world.

We saw it on the terrace of the Alfred Keller restaurant. After the last course was served, the four chefs headed to greet the guests at the tables. By the way the chefs talked to most of them it was obvious that they have their own followers. The international group of food lovers , most of whom arrived on Lošinj for the weekend primarily because of the gourmet spectacle, rewarded them with applause and cheers of appreciation.

The Four Aces Poker in the kitchen of Alfred Keller Restaurant

The dishes prepared by chef Gollenz

Too much space would be needed to describe all the dishes, the techniques of their preparation, and the fullness of the flavours, so we will only list the basic information. The dinner started with four “bites” by chef Gollenz: scallop with pineapple and hazelnut, vitello tonnato, duck chip with soy and cabbage, and goose liver with smoked eel, paired with two wines from the 2013 vintage: Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo and Benvenuti Teran Anno Domini.

Maria Chiara Severi - Export Area Manager in Frescobaldi and the winemaker Nikola Benvenuti

This was followed by the culinary creations of Stefan Heilemann’s who was recently awarded by Gault&Millau Switzerland as the Chef of the Year 2021. His five bites were extremely refined: bao bun, ceviche with passion fruit and sweet potatoes, cannelloni with black angus beef, shrimp and Chinese pak choy and tom yum soup, and scallop with fennel and kulen on top - as a combination of two Croatian climates, the sea and Slavonia. A Frescobaldi Montesodi and a Benvenuti Teran Anno Domini, both from the 2011 vintage, were served together with Heilemann’s dishes.

Black Angus Cannelloni, and Bao Bun, by Chef Stefan Heilemann

Selection of Frescobaldi’s Castelgiocondo and Benvenuti’s Teran Anno Domini

Chef Zier presented himself with six delicacies in which he combined foods and flavours from around the world. The carabinero shrimp was prepared with tomato sauce, strawberry and quinoa, the cous cous was made with saffron and ratatouille vegetable compote, and the hamachi with basil, cucumber and sorrel. He flavoured the veal with truffles, celery and parsley, combined the octopus with chorizo ​​sausage, corn and olives, and tuna with beans, peppers and lemon. Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo and Benvenuti Teran Anno Domini 2011 rounded off the tasting experience.

Octopus with chorizo, corn and olive, and Veal porridge with truffle, celery and parsley, by chef Sebastian Zier

Chef Kuchler created as well six meat and fish dishes. Ravioli stuffed with oxtail tail paired with duck liver, turbot with green vegetables and herbs, rouget with tomato bathed in bouillabaisse, and braised beef seasoned with horseradish. Beef fillet with caramelized onions and Cres lamb with gremolata and parmesan completed this truly extravagantly sumptuous menu.

Cres Lamb with gremolata and parmigiano, and Turbot with green vegetables and herb, by Christian Kuchler

Three desserts were prepared by chef Gollenz: banana with sesame and chocolate, cassis with cream and white chocolate, and especially the refreshing strawberries with cottage cheese and basil, a combination inspired by local products. They delighted him last spring when he became the executive chef at Alfred Keller restaurant. The wines of CastelGiocondo and Teran Anno Domini 2008 completed the main part of this evening of pure hedonism. To end it in an appropriate way the guests were invited to an exclusive After-party in the privacy of the nearby the Villa Captain Rouge, built in 1908.

Maria Chiara Severi, Ingrid Badurina Danielsson, Francesco Pantalone, Melissa Mettler and Dubravka Tomekovic Aralica

Strawberries, cottage cheese and basil - the desert by chef Michael Gollenz

Champagne Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rose` 2020, gin Mare Capri with tonic 1724, a relaxing musical background and the marvellous scents of centuries-old pines and herbs, the evening ended with unforgettable flavours and atmospheres. Francesco Pantalone - General Manager and Peter Schoch - CEO of Jadranka turizam group payed attention to every single detail and stayed till the end to greet each guest. Their main mission is to raise to a higher level the gastronomy in the Group luxury hotels on the island of Lošinj in order to present them as a desirable luxury destination on the world’s top tourism map. The Mid Summer Epicurean Extravaganza, they say, is just the beginning of that challenge. Attractive hotels, authentic natural environment, fresh and high quality local ingredients with top chefs who turn them into the best delicacies - are the ideal combination for a unique experience.

Château dEsclans Whispering Angel Rose` 2020 Champagne

After party at Villa Captain Rouge

Photo by Sandro Tariba and Gault&Millau Crotia