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Ricky Saward, Europe's first starred vegan chef, is not about renunciation, but about purism. And about the full load of taste. And his restaurant "Seven Swans" is by no means the only culinary highlight in Hesse. At the end of the article, you'll find more tips for a gourmet trip through the state.

Who after a six-course meal at Ricky Saward at Seven Swans When you step out onto the Mainkai at nighttime, you don't hold your stomach with a groan. He feels light, exhilarated and filled with unexpected confidence. He had radish and verbena on his plate, celery and lupine, red cabbage and beet, potato and wild garlic, apple and meadowsweet. He enjoyed the fruits of the Hessian earth not only roasted or stewed, but roasted, matured and smoked, fermented and pickled. Anyone who has visited Ricky Saward's vegan restaurant in Frankfurt am Main suddenly finds his own culinary past life based on meat, sausage and cheese rather banal. And almost unbearably boring.

Vegan umami bombs

Those who do not know them often expect bland raw food from vegan cuisine, soaked in renunciation and guaranteed pleasure-free. How, presumably, could it be otherwise when there is no meat available and not even the hint of a cream sauce? Ricky Saward, the 34-year-old chef and co-owner of Seven Swans, has to laugh at that. "I know," he says, "people think vegan can't taste good. But with me, there's no raw food and no Healthy Bowls. I have real umami bombs. I'm the tasty vegan." Otherwise, the Seven Swans in Hesse's metropolis would hardly have received its Michelin star in 2020 - as the first vegan restaurant in the world.

Radically sustainable, regional and seasonal

That there was no way around vegan cuisine, if he wanted to be radically sustainable, regional and seasonal, Ricky Saward was convinced of that when he took over the restaurant, then still a vegetarian address, in 2018. "The change was not difficult because 80 percent of all ingredients already came from plants we grew ourselves or collected in nature. We only had to do without bought-in dairy products. Soon we even want to become completely self-sufficient, so we don't have to buy anything in." Because that, too, makes the "Seven Swans" a special address: What is processed in the kitchen comes from the in-house vegetable garden in Bad Homburg, where vegetables, fruits and herbs are grown in permaculture on five hectares of land. "We had 340 varieties before the pandemic," Ricky reports, "because what we cook comes almost all from here. So we don't use spices, which are all exotic. We only season with salt."

Here Ricky Saward explains the secret of his kitchen

To new shores of taste

Each January, Ricky plans the planting of the garden; after that, a team of three gardeners takes over. Ricky disappears into the kitchen, where he looks at every single vegetable. And ponders what could be made from each component, root, peel, green. "I'm not about substituting meat. I want to be a vegetable chef. There are so many different ways to express the flavors of vegetables. By pickling sweet and sour, by letting them ripen, by fermenting them, we bring depth of flavor to the produce. For example, a potato can be baked in the ground, its roasted skin can be made into an extremely boiled down, caramelized broth. To that end, whip up an aioli of seven-fermented, creamy garlic and wild garlic oil."

Each dish, Ricky says, tells a story - through color, taste, consistency, mouthfeel and other factors. The guest just has to go with it, he said. "With us, there are no menu cards. You have to trust us! And that goes over well with guests." Sitting in the two rooms of Seven Swans is what Ricky calls the "new German food generation." People between the ages of 25 and 35 who spend a lot of money on good food. "When two students who have saved up the money for a long time eat at my place," the star chef is pleased to say, "that's the greatest compliment for me."

Even more delicious Hesse

In addition to the first vegan star chef, there are other culinary artists in Hesse who want to enchant you with their cooking skills. Here come a few more tips for foodies.

Uwe & Uli, Taunus - Hessian with a creative touch

Maultaschen with pumpkin and beech mushrooms and for dessert crème brulée of tonka beans with mandarin sorbet: At Uwe & Uli in Usingen in the Taunus Mountains, regional products are combined with flavors from all over the world to create the highest level of enjoyment. Uwe cooks, Uli takes care of the wine selection, and the 300-year-old half-timbered house contributes a fine pinch of history and ambience to the overall experience.

Café Siefert, Odenwald - At the world champion

Never tried Odenwald honey truffle with fennel honey? Then nothing like off into the Michelstadt Café by confectionery world champion Bernd Siefert. Sweet tooths will also find the finest cakes, jams and pastries. To go with it, there's the fragrant espresso from a local coffee roastery.

Zenzakan, Frankfurt - Asia in the heart and on the plate

Dumplings with Wagyu beef or lobster soup with Thai curry: In his "Pan Asian Supperclub"Itsunori Saito transforms the finest Far Eastern products into creative reinterpretations of typical dishes from Japan, China, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition, fine wines and - for afterwards - fancy cocktails at the bar.

Franziska, Frankfurt - Dinner with a view

Mainhattan skyline glistens in the evening sun outside the windows of the Restaurants Franziska. It goes well with a glass of fine red wine and the veal fillet "Mainhattan Style". Or would you prefer the fried potatoes from Aunt Franziska? For dessert, definitely "Milk & Honey", the milkmaid honey ice cream. And in between, always enjoy the view. After all, the eye eats with you.

Carte Blanche, Frankfurt - Have a taste!

Pondering indecisively over the menu? Not with Sebastian Ziese. In his restaurant gives
there is no menu. Instead, Ziese conjures up surprise menus from fresh daily purchases. And he takes his guests on real journeys of discovery. What will he create from figs, kohlrabi and Büsum shrimps?

Cover photo: The Green Vegetable Cold Bowl is one of Ricky Saward's inventive recipes © Simon Bolz/Seven Swans.

In collaboration with Hesse tourism

Hiking through quiet low mountain ranges, old beech forests or orchards, paddling on the Lahn, looking at the most beautiful medieval half-timbered houses and soaking up the atmosphere of historic spas - Hessen makes romantic souls happy all around. But gourmets also get their money's worth on wine hikes, in Hessian butcher shops and with "Handkäs mit Musik", a pickled cheese. Reasons for a Vacation in Hesse there are enough!

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