by Regine Schneider
For over 20 years, Thomas Bühner has been at the top of the league of German chefs. Born 1962 in Riesenbeck as the son of a housewife and a commercial clerk, he was first exposed to catering at his grandparents’ establishment. Here, guests were always greeted with a slice of fresh pain gris with butter and Westphalian ham, and the clattering in the kitchen and the hubbub from the pub acted as a backdrop at bedtime, late in the evening. But all the same, young Thomas Bühner had no clear idea for a long time which career to choose once he left school. Whilst his twin brother turned to carpentry, an aptitude test at the job centre came up with concrete ideas: he was facing a choice of becoming a chef, a baker or a farmer. Bühner decided to become a chef, and even back then, he announced to his parents: “So if I’m going to be a chef, then at least I want to be a good one” – and he has kept his word to this day.
Bühner trained at Schweizer Haus in Paderborn. This was followed by stints with Günter Scherrer at the Hilton in Düsseldorf, Landhaus Scherrer in Hamburg, Restaurant Grand Cru in Lippstadt and Restaurant Jörg Müller in Westerland on Sylt. In 1989, Bühner became Harald Wohlfahrt‘s chef de partie at the Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn. This was one of the most important stages of his career, after all, he was fascinated by Wohlfahrt’s discipline and consistency – indispensable assets in his vocation – and, above all, the down-to-earthness and benevolence the patron showed his employees day in, day out.
The ideal prerequisites for taking on the position of Head Chef at the restaurant La Table in Dortmund in 1991. Five years later, he was awarded his first Michelin star, followed by a second one in 1998. Gault Millau voted Bühner “Newcomer of the Year” in 2001 and “Chef of the Year” just five years later.
From April 2006 since July 2018, Thomas Bühner has been running restaurant la vie in Osnabrück. In 2009, Thomas Bühner became a “Grand Chef” with Relais & Chateaux. In addition, la vie has been a member of “Les Grandes Tables du Monde” since early 2010. The restaurant has been awarded 19 Gault Millau points and three Michelin stars, as well as top grades in all other German restaurant guides. It was closed in July 2018.
Since its closure, Thomas Bühner has been active as a guest chef, keynote speaker and consultant for gastronomic concepts and food producers worldwide. In Valencia, for example, he spoke at the Gastrónoma Valencia about some of his Signature Dishes and the experiences of the past months. In Amsterdam, he presented his ideas for the reduction of sugar in food to European journalists and scientists in collaboration with Givaudan. In China, he was active as a guest chef for The Ritz-Carlton and in Güterslohhe developed a concept for a new restaurant with down-to-earth Westphalian cuisine. In the end it is this diversity that excites the top chef so much. Whether it’s a gourmet restaurant or pub, a food producer or hotel business – there are no restrictions for Thomas Bühner. Important to him is the dialogue at eye level and an exciting project.