Food brings people together. It’s important for physical and mental health.
16. Apr 2020.
Interview with Eyck Zimmer, Chef de Cuisine at Squre Nine Hotel in Belgrade.

1. Coronavirus caught you in Belgrade where you work as a Chef de Cuisine at Squre Nine Hotel, Belgrade. You decided not to go to Berlin, why?

Yes, it came fast and furious like in most countries. I predicted some restrictions and changes, but never of the actual scale. I have my life here now in Belgrade, my dogs, my apartment, my friends so it didn’t even cross my mind…and as it is a global pandemic, it makes not much of a difference where you are in the world. I am happy here and quite confident that we are dealing well with the Corona situation. It’s going to be another 4 weeks of restrictions and then I think we will have some form of normality back in our lives.

2. Since we are all in a quarantine, how are you coping with (self) isolation and what do your days look like?

Coping is the right word…Yes, I am coping and as I have 3 dogs, there is never a dull moment in my home. I am trying to stick to my routine as much as possible. I wake up every day at around 8 am and take the ‘Zoo’ – a Sausage dog, a Shiba Inu and a Border Collie Mix for their morning walk. Then they get their food and I sit on the sofa with my first cup of coffee and watch the latest news. Every day I am going to work, to cook lunch for a staff that look after the safety of the hotel and carrying out necessary maintenance work. Then I go home, walk the dogs again and listen to some music. Afterwards, I cook dinner and if I feel like it, I make a little story of that recipe for my Instagram profile ‘Born To Cook No Plan B’ to share it with my friends and followers – that’s my way of socializing and staying in touch during these crazy times.

3. Many of us are not natural born cooks and now we are in the situation to cook? Could you share some tips and tricks for cook beginners?

Well, first things first: If cooking is not one of your strengths…Now is certainly a good time to start with basic cooking and experimenting. Lots of recipes and methods are available these days to everybody on the internet and it’s like with everything else in life, start with things that you are comfortable (to cook) with, that bring back memories of your childhood or other nice times and once you mastered them, push yourself and experiment a little if you dare. Food is everything – Love, Life, Nourishment, Goodness, Happiness, Comfort. It brings people together and it’s important for physical and mental health.

4. Since we are all at home, with a limited possibility for being active, what would you recommend us to eat to stay healthy and fit (if it is possible)?

Well, that’s tricky, that’s why I think some sort of daily routine is important. I, personally cut my meals from 5 to 3 per day so my caloric intake is automatically reduced, now that the weather is nice most days – I try to sit outside on a balcony or roof top in the sun. It’s important for our well-being. I walk the dogs 4 times a day and I listen to music which I think is very important for my mental well-being. Keep the food light – salads and vegetables and eat meat once a day– either for lunch or dinner. Try and cut empty carbohydrates like sugar or flour, because eating them you will put unwanted weight on! Sit ups and push-ups you can do almost anywhere, so there is no excuse for not trying to fight boredom and limited mobility. Every little counts!

5. Everybody is talking about self-discipline, self –hygiene, but what about food hygiene? Could you share some tips for food hygiene during coronavirus disease outbreak? How do you maintain the food safety?

Well, just take extra care in personal hygiene before cooking: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap for 30 seconds and then use a hand sanitizer before handling food. Wash chopping boards or any utensils used and that’s about it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Eyck Zimmer

6. Could you recommend us 3 days menu with instructions how to prepare it?

1 Day
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Carrot Cake with Dates & Walnuts

Wild Mushroom Risotto
600g Risotto Rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
100g Chopped White Onions
50ml Olive Oil
2 No Bay Leaves
5 No Juniper Berries
chopped Thyme
50g Dried Mushrooms
100g Fresh Chestnut Mushrooms or Champignons
200ml White Wine Optional
2 Liter Chicken Stock or Strong Vegetable Stock ( stock cubes)
50g Butter
50g Grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper

- sweat of the chopped onions in olive oil without changing of color until soft and translucent
- add the rice and sweat for another minute
- add the bay leaves, chopped thyme and the slightly crushed juniper berries
- deglaze with white wine and reduce
- add the dried ( soaked mushrooms) and add the hot chicken stock stirring constantly and cook gently for about 12-15 minutes
- at the end, add the parmesan and cold butter and serve

Carrot Cake with Dates & Walnuts
200g Self Raising Flour
2g Salt
10g Baking Soda
20g Baking Powder
175g Dark Brown Sugar ( Muscovado)
5g Mixed Spice (Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove Nutmeg)
2 No large Eggs
150ml Sunflower Oil
1 No Orange Zest grated
200g Carrots grated
50g Sultana chopped
50g Dates chopped
50g Coconut desiccated
80g Pecan Nuts or Walnuts toasted in the oven for 5 minutes
300ml Orange Juice
30ml Lemon Juice
220g Brown Sugar

- Whisk the sugar and eggs until the sugar is dissolved
- Add all the other ingredients
- Bake at 170 C for 25-30 minutes depending of size of the tin
- Once the cake is cooled down, prick many times with a toothpick and soak with the orange glaze

2 Day
Leek & Potato Soup
Swiss chard and Brussels Sprouts Frittata

Leek & Potato Soup
Ingredients 10 Portions

100ml Vegetable Oil
200g White Onions thinly sliced
300g Leek white part only
400g Potato peeled and cut into pieces
2 No Garlic Cloves crushed
1 No Bay Leaf
200ml White Wine
3 liter Vegetable Stock
50 g Butter
200g Cream
Pinch of Nutmeg grated
Squeezer Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

- In a pot with the oil sweat of the vegetables without changing of color! and until soft for about 5 minutes
- Now deglaze with the white wine and reduce
- Add the bay leaf and the vegetable stock and the potatoes simmer gently for about 20 minutes
- Add the cream and bring to the boil again for 1 minute
- Puree in a thermo mix and pass through a fine sieve (chinoise)
- Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar as well as a squeeze of lemon juice

3 Day
Carrot & Coconut Soup with Lime & Ginger
English Bread & Butter Pudding (for Dessert)

Carrot & Coconut Soup with Lime & Ginger
Ingredients for 10 Portions
100ml Vegetable Oil
100g Onions red
2 No Garlic Cloves
1kg Carrots
80g Ginger
300ml Apple Juice Tetra pack
200ml Orange Juice tetra pack
2 liter Chicken Stock
300ml Coconut Milk tin
1 No Star Anise
10 No Coriander Seeds
1 No Bay Leaf
Maybe so corn flour to thicken slightly
100g Greek Yoghurt
20 Leaves Coriander finely chopped
1 No Lime finely grated
Roasted Shrimp

- Sweat the sliced onions and carrots, ginger, garlic in vegetable oil slowly for 10 minutes
- Deglaze with orange juice and apple juice add the spices and stock slowly cook for 30 minutes
- Add coconut and thicken with slightly dissolved corn flour, puree and pass through a fine sieve

7. Every dish goes with a wine, beer or some other drink. Process of preparation could be done with music in the background. What do you listen to while preparing a meal and what after during lunch/dinner?

Yes, true, it’s important to still try to enjoy the moment. We are all “slowing down“ during this corona thing so try and find happiness with simple things like cooking, listening to music arranging flowers in the apartment, playing some games and watching some ‘happy good movies’. My music taste is very broad and ranges from David Bowie and Elton John over Fleetwood Mac, Queen and Stevie Nicks to Sinatra and Sade. More current artists are Dua Lipa and The Weekend. Any music that supports my state of mind, may it be for creativity purpose or just chilling and relaxing will do the trick.

8. What is your favorite cuisine that you cook? And why?

There are many beautiful cuisines to pick from. Since I have worked in 6 and visited 75 countries so far, it’s hard to narrow it down. I grew up on simple classic German food so my childhood memories will always touch my soul when I eat that food. I lived for many years ( 16 in total) in England so again some of the classis traditional dishes like Lancashire Hot Pot or a good Bread & Butter Pudding will always make me smile. I also like the lightness and simplicity of Asian food and cooking esp. Vietnamese full of aroma and with the influence and elegance of the former French colonial empire. I also respect the Japanese cuisine as it only does to the food what is necessary – I love that uncomplicated approach. They all have their rules as they all evolved from tradition of that particular country. We just need to look into that culture and understand.