“The perfect dinner”, day 1 in Rostock: With the cordial hostess Bärbel, the group feels “as if cooked by mum”. But the self-proclaimed “herb witch” has all sorts of mysterious things up her sleeve in her colorful cauldron.

Monday, May 16: What to do if a menu card only comes up with color combinations? That’s right: “Respect yourself and be open” – that is at least the life motto of hostess Bärbel on day 1 of “The Perfect Dinner” in Rostock. The retired history teacher has sold her home and is enjoying retirement with her husband, RV trips to the Mediterranean and an apartment with an unobstructed view of the Warnemünde marina. There, the 67-year-old surprises her guests with a more than mysterious menu:

Motto: “My color menu”

At least when it comes to “green”, Bärbel, who has a wide range of interests, gives an idea of ​​the ingredients: she loves everything that grows on the ground in this color. Herbs are everything to her. In order to find out more about how they are used and how they work, she attended a “herbal master school” and is toying with the idea of ​​taking a more advanced online course. “Nature grounds us so much,” she explains her fascination. And so none of her courses get along with a dash of greens – from the Prosecco aperitif to the inside of her baked char and edible blossoms on the salad.

But so that it doesn’t get too down-to-earth, the starter is pike soup, for which Bärbel says he is known throughout the Baltic Sea. After all, the group gathers in a city right by the sea. “In Rostock I feel like a celebrity in California,” said Dao (38), who was born in Vietnam, in praise of her adopted country. “Here, nothing can distract me from studying like in Berlin, for example,” is the verdict of Syrian dentistry student Mouaz (27), somewhat more pragmatic. “An exciting neighborhood,” says Bärbel again, looking out of her window.

In view of the menu, he expects “an alternative woman with a penchant for creativity,” suspects Paul (29) and is right. Not only does each guest receive a self-sewn bracelet and a handwritten menu with explanations of herbs (“rosemary promotes self-love”). Bärbel dyes the puff pastry for the starter green with spinach juice, wraps it around a wooden skewer like a snail and sweetens a few pieces for the dessert.

Such sophistication doesn’t fail to have an effect: “I’m in love with the fish,” says Paul, letting the char melt in his mouth. Bianca (48), on the other hand, is more fond of the orange side dish: “I’ve never tasted carrots so delicious.” The reason: dill, carrot greens, cumin and many other stalks.

On day 1 in Rostock it tastes very good: It is not for nothing that Bianca has already won 2nd place in a competition by star chef Johann Lafer. In Warnemünde, she combines this with loving attention. For Bianca it is “like coming home to mom”. Warm-hearted, but unfortunately not perfect: “I have to make compromises when it comes to serving temperature and consistency.” Nevertheless, Bärbel sets the bar quite high with a total of 34 points: fresh herbs and in all possible colors.

Friday, May 13: Leander’s (63) tablet with a timer gallery is in the sparkling clean kitchen in Wetzlar. The preparation times are meticulously planned. “The biggest enemy is time”, because the automotive industry manager has big plans:

Gabi (62) and Vivi (27) are speechless when looking at the menu: “There’s a lot.” Julian (33) and Reinhold (69) can’t help it: “Oh dear!” Even the pronunciation causes problems. Julian searches for Txogitxu on his cell phone and finds “the best steak in the world”. He sees his chances of winning dwindling: “Unfortunately, that has quite a lot of potential to win.” Julian also considers Leander to be a low-key: “I think he’s incredibly talented and that today could be a taste explosion.”

Despite the tight schedule, Leander remains calm and keeps to his schedule. He serves his tuna tartare on time on an apple and avocado bed with wasabi cream and sprout salad. Julian is increasingly afraid of winning: “For me, the appetizer was an incredibly good start.” That’s why he asks the host: “I’d like it if you did something wrong right away.”

Leander doesn’t do him the favor. Because the main course is a treat in itself: “Txogitxu beef, that’s an old cow. It sounds weird, but it has really, really great meat.” Served with pepper sauce, potatoes and vegetables. “When the meat comes out of the sous vide, it’s caramelized again briefly on the beefer.”

When Leander cuts the meat, the shock: “Shit. too through. Fucked up.” His guests see it completely differently: “Perfect in terms of doneness!” Leander assures himself: “Do you like my old cow?” Julian shows thumbs up. Even the geometrically cut root vegetables blows his mind: “This yellow carrot is so badass. I’ve never eaten anything like that before.” Gabi enthuses: “It couldn’t be surpassed in terms of smoothness. You had a taste experience in your mouth.”

The lemon tartlet on pistachio crackers with rosemary jam is perfect. Gabi already has her rating in mind: “Is there also 11?” Reinhold loves the homemade pistachio ice cream: “I don’t like eating ice cream, but you can give me something else.” Vivi is completely happy: “Hammergeil.”

“Today was the perfect dinner for me,” beams Julian. Why he still gives only 9 points remains his secret. With 37 points each, he shares first place with Leander and 3,000 euros.

Thursday, May 12: Julian (33) has already made an impression on Vivi (27): “He’s throwing around terms, it’s crazy.” You can of course also put it on the plate afterwards.” Julian tries to do this on day 4 of “The Perfect Dinner” in the Lahn-Dill district with the following menu:

The technical trainer was already very interested in cooking as a teenager. At the age of 17 he did an internship with a star chef, “then after three weeks it was already clear that I would do my Abitur”. What he noticed: A structured mise en place makes cooking easier. “I really like the word mise en place because it sounds very, very pompous.” Translated for down-to-earth people: he routinely chops up his ingredients.

Gabi’s first impression when Julian lists a whole cocktail bar of aperitifs as a welcome: “He almost burst with nervousness.” Vivi noticed that too: “He also wanted to deliver.”

The host prepares the starter with tweezers: beef tartare cake on potato rösti with lamb’s lettuce and tomato shot. The guests enjoy. It hasn’t been that quiet at the table all week. “Well, Julian, that inspires me,” Reinhold (69) breaks the silence with praise. “That was a very, very good start.” Vivi can confirm: “You have met all expectations – so far.”

Julian serves an elaborately cooked demi-glace with the beef fillet: “It’s poured with red wine five times.” Silence at the table again. Again, Reinhold is the first to find the right words: “Whoa, strong.” By that he means the risotto with tomatoes and mozzarella. “Whoa, that’s good. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten such a delicious risotto.” He also imaginatively takes off his hat to the perfectly cooked meat: “Wonderful.” The gourmet floats in the seventh heaven of indulgence: “I’m not a person who gives a lot of praise. But that’s really good. I’m blown away.” Leander (63) thinks so too: “I would order it exactly the same way in every restaurant.”

When Julian hands the dessert, the tension eases: “I’m completely relaxed now. I hope that I’ll stop sweating at some point.” Gabi and Vivi give him full marks for his performance: “Julian put a lot of effort into all three courses. As expected, he served us well.” With a total of 37 points, Julian takes the lead. Applause for the host: “Great food!”

Wednesday, May 11th: Gabi opens the door to her perfectly decorated house in Braunfels. The trained bank employee has not been able to sleep peacefully for weeks. She is all the more pleased that today was her big day at the “Perfect Dinner” (VOX) in the Lahn-Dill district. Their motto is “Three Personal Duos”:

Gabi starts preparing the dessert. The “nemesis” is the mango. “There are one or two dishes that I don’t shake out of my head. That’s the mango mousse, for example.” It’s because she’s never made the dessert before. Nevertheless, everything is going according to plan – for the time being. Quickly fill the mousse into the glasses and into the fridge.

“I’ll get the salmon,” Gabi disappears briefly into the pantry. Then it jingles. “No!!! The enemy has taken his revenge!” A glass of mango mousse fell on the floor. “I can not believe it. Now I only have four left.” Because Gabi only bought one mango, making it new isn’t an option.

“Don’t ask me how I’m doing,” she greets the guests in the evening. At the aperitif, she admits the mousse accident: “Don’t be surprised if there are only four glasses here. Unfortunately there isn’t a fifth one, it’s in the bin.”

The hostess takes her time to prepare the starter. There is herb panna cotta, herb quark, tuna tartare, salmon tartare and homemade bread. “I think salmon tartare is really tasty,” Reinhold (69) enjoys the fish. Julian (33) has another highlight: “For me, the bread was a 10 out of 10.” Reinhold agrees: “I liked it better than my bread last night.”

It follows: the next breakdown. When searing the pork fillet, all the smoke alarms go on. The guests cover their ears. Leander (63) finds the action very convenient during the long wait for the main course: “That loosened up the moment.” Reinhold climbs onto the stool and silences the beeping.

Gabi only puts the meat in the oven at 9.37 p.m., then the dumpling dough comes on. Julian looks at his watch: “I was a bit amazed when Gabi started forming dumplings at half past nine.” At least the smoke is clearing.

At 10:11 p.m. the main course is finally on the table: stuffed pork loin wrapped in bacon with bread dumplings and potato dumplings. At least the wait was worth it. Leander: “Very tender meat.” Reinhold: “I have nothing to complain about.” Vivi (27): “The sauce blew my mind.”

Then Gabi serves the dessert and is annoyed about the delay: “11:10 p.m., I’m really sorry.” Julian hits the chocolate cake: “It’s very, very good.” Vivi also raves: “The cake – highlight.” Food great, points are deducted for the long waiting times. With 33 points, Gabi moves up to second place for the time being.

Tuesday, May 10: In Waldsolms Brandoberndorf, the retired entrepreneur is already in the kitchen early in the morning. “Yes, it’s a lot,” Reinhold (69) plagues, despite 48 years of cooking experience, with the fear of not being able to do everything. “Everything can go wrong.” With his “The perfect dinner” motto “Heimat – Being a guest between Dill, Lahn, USA and Wetter Brandoberndorf” he defines the culinary boundaries of the Lahn-Dill district:

“My wife and I try not to use any ready-made products,” which is why Reinhold does everything himself. The retiree processes the regional ingredients and the self-smoked fish in a structured manner. His biggest concern: “That tonight a guest screams: Ouch! Fish bones!” An hour before the guests arrive, he has got the preparations over the stage smoothly.

Let’s start with the starter, a fish plate with char tartare, salmon trout and smoked fish mousse based on a recipe by Johann Lafer. The many components put Reinhold under pressure: “I’m glad that I have it here on the table now.” Vivi (27) enjoys: “Mmmm. The mousse is super delicious. I’ve never eaten anything like that.” Leander (63) feasts: “The mousse was great. And the salmon too, you didn’t need teeth for that.”

The main course is veal cheeks in a red wine sauce with a variety of purées made from paprika, peas and potatoes. “Cooking sauces is my passion,” says Reinhold with dedication to the veal stock. “Some chef once said: The real chef is the sauce chef.” Leander cuts his cheeks: “Oh, they are tender as butter.” After the first bite, he praises: “The sauce, too, delicious.”

The highlight of the menu is ready in the fridge: Mirror Glaze cherries with Amarena cherry pits. “It’s a process that takes two or three days,” which is why Reinhold prepared the dessert days ago. He also serves butter crumble and a ragout made from sour cherries from his own garden.

The dessert presentation provides the hoped-for wow effect. Leander is amazed: “Great cinema!” Gabi (62) has never seen anything like it: “At first I thought that what was on the plate wasn’t real.” Vivi dared to try the cherry: “Mmmmm! Super delicious.” Julian (33) appreciates the effort: “I wish I had this finesse and craftsmanship with desserts.”

“The dessert was awesome,” enthuses Leander. “For me it was the perfect dinner.” For the others it was at least very close. The guests rewarded the successful evening with applause and 35 points: “Great performance!”

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You can read more about “The Perfect Dinner” on the following pages.