Anyone who assumes that Mlinarevic always wanted to be a chef and was already watching his mother in the kitchen when he was a kid is barking up the wrong tree. “That’s not my story,” he laughs. As a teenager, he still didn’t know what he wanted to do for a living. Because his father worked as a driver for the Dolderbahn, a trial apprenticeship could be arranged in the kitchen of the Dolder Grand hotel.
Mlinarevic was immediately galvanized – his passion was ignited. This in turn fuelled a culinary creativity that has never ceased to deliver surprises – for instance, when his cuisine garnered two Michelin stars at the Park Hotel Vitznau. There, too, he pushed himself to the limit, by choosing to use only local products. Pepper, for example, was banned from the kitchen – pepper is not grown in Switzerland, but it could be replaced with homegrown chilli pepper. Mlinarevic also did without olive oil. “There is excellent rapeseed oil in Switzerland,” he says. The young entrepreneur delivers his own definition of luxury anyhow, say, by using rosehip oil. Rosehip seeds are tough and difficult to press, and only two to three litres of the exclusive oil are produced in Switzerland each year – but the taste is unparalleled.
Mlinarevic needs a challenge, as he says, and he loves going on the offence. He likes to win and be the best. But once he has reached a goal, he is in danger of getting bored – and that’s how it was with the Michelin stars.
In Vitznau, diner numbers had exploded, gastro journalists paid homage and gourmets sat down reverently at the table. But the prospect of staying on the same track indefinitely alarmed the chef. So he moved on. Soon people could experience Mlinarevic’s culinary spirit at the “Bauernschänke” or the “Neue Taverne” in Zurich – not necessarily because he was in the kitchen, but because he was the creator of ideas.