Kristin Bothor

Managing Editor at Kitchen Stories

What do you love the most about the holiday season? The smell of gingerbread and freshly baked Christmas cookies? The first sip of mulled wine or eggnog for the season? There are a thousand reasons to love Christmastime, but I think we can all agree on one thing: spending the holidays with our loved ones. It’s a time when all the rush and worries of the bygone year can pushed to the side, and instead, there’s finally…time.

But don’t think I’m forgetting the real glue here—Christmas dinner. Of course, for festive reunions with relatives and friends, you want to offer only the best.

So, if you’re looking for Christmas feasting inspiration, you’ve come to the right place! We visited three talented young chefs and were inspired by their great ideas and festive recipes for this year's Christmas menu.

Inventive Christmas recipes by the S.Pellegrino Young Chefs

Already last year, three young talents impressed us with their creations for the Christmas menu. The participants came from the German-Austrian semi-finals for the young talent competition "S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award" and impressed us with their innovative ideas and creative preparation methods.

We were more than pleased to be invited back into the restaurant kitchen by three more exceptional talents and to lift the lid on this year's festive menu.

THE STARTER: Winter garden

Young chef Francesco Olivieri opened this year's Christmas menu with his starter "Winter garden"—a variation of steamed vegetables served with a light sunchoke sauce.

Steamed vegetables with sunchoke sauce

Steamed vegetables with sunchoke sauce

→ Go to recipe

The highlight of his dish: The combination of colorful, fresh ingredients is artfully arranged on top the sauce and to symbolize said winter garden. "My starter is perfect for the occasion, because it's not too heavy, but is delicious and impressive," Francesco tells us.

Francesco Olivieri, Chef de Partie at Ristorante Essenza (Berlin)

Francesco, originally from Italy, is currently working as Chef de Partie at Ristorante Essenza, where he delights guests every day with his inventive creations.

The restaurant in the heart of the city Berlin offers an extensive wine list as well as an alternating selection of Italian specialties. Francesco himself describes his cooking style as traditionally Italian with international influences and reliant on fresh, seasonal ingredients to have the best natural flavors.

Francesco also shares a tip for this starter: "I advise everyone to carefully select the vegetables they use and always choose what’s fresh. If you can’t find sunchokes, for example, use potatoes instead for the sauce."

THE MAIN COURSE: From forest to plate

For the main course, Matteo Sini conjures up tender stakes of venison onto plate, which he combines with various, freshly harvested ingredients.

Venison saddle with crème de cassis and caramelized chestnuts

Venison saddle with crème de cassis and caramelized chestnuts

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"My dish is perfect for the occasion, since deer is so symbolic of Christmas," the young cook explains. Matteo works with equally simple and creative preparation methods to refine his dish and to give seasonal ingredients such as chestnuts a special flavor. Another plus: With just a little planning, you can prepare this impressive main course in just one hour.

Matteo Sini, Chef de Partie at Ristorante Essenza, Berlin

Born in Sardinia, Matteo has worked at Ristorante Essenza for a number of years now. He too describes his cooking style as classic Italian with international quirks to it, inspired by his stations in London and Berlin.

The young chef attaches great importance to cooking seasonally and consciously, noting, "It is very important to me to know the origin of each ingredient."

Matteo also shares a tip for his main course: "I always encourage people to respect every single ingredient used, so that you end up with dish that’s both simple and delicious.”

THE DESSERT: A glamorous treat

The jewel in the crown of this year’s Christmas menu is the orange-caramel tart with hazelnuts by Tobias Schmitt. This impressive dessert makes for a classy end to the feast with its crispy tart crust, creamy toffee caramel, aromatic orange, and the incomparable flavor of Piedmont hazelnuts.

"This tart is the perfect dessert for the Christmas menu, as it combines different flavors of Christmas such as orange, cardamom, and cloves with high-quality ingredients such as Piedmontese hazelnuts and premium chocolate", raves Tobias.

A great thing about this tart is that you can easily prepare it the day before your Christmas menu takes place, and let it cool until serving, so you’re not in a hurry over the Christmas holidays.

Tobias Schmitt, Sous Chef at Lafleur Restaurant, Frankfurt

The ‘Young Chef’ already can tick off quite a few stops from his list: from Hamburg over to Melbourne to back to Amsterdam. Since 2013, he lives in Frankfurt and currently works as sous chef in the Michelin-starred restaurant Lafleur.

For Tobias, it’s important to cook as seasonally, regionally, and therefore sustainably, as possible, as in his eyes, this is crucial for the final taste. As he prepared his dessert, the talented ‘Young Chef’ proved to us that selecting the right ingredients makes all the difference.

Orange-caramel tart with Piedmontese hazelnuts

Orange-caramel tart with Piedmontese hazelnuts

→ Go to recipe

Tobias also shares a tip for this dessert: "I really recommend using high-quality products, like premium chocolate and Piedmont hazelnuts, as these will really make the tart shine—. If you decide to use ordinary hazelnuts, you may save some money, but you won’t get to experience their amazing taste in the tart. If you can’t find the Piedmont hazelnuts, you can easily order them online.”

Which of these delicious dishes are you going to prepare for the holidays? Have these S.Pellegrino Young Chefs managed to win you over with their creations? Let us know in the comments below!

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