Without a doubt, Ronny Schreiber is also one of the country's most creative restaurateurs, along with his two business partners Alexander Wulf and Marcel Kokot. Their Michelin-starred restaurant "TROYKA" (Russian for triumvirate or troika) is celebrated in the media for its newly interpreted Russian cuisine. A special highlight: the world's first Josephinenhütte Chef's Table. Here, guests of the new, purist-chic restaurant can enjoy wines out of Josephinenhütte glasses while watching the kitchen team perform precision plating for a perfectly orchestrated culinary experience!
Ronny Schreiber remembers his school days with mixed feelings. Many teachers said that he would never amount to much, words which left a deep mark. "What at first seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, I subsequently turned into my own personal maneuver to get ahead. After all, failure was out of the question for me," says the 2021 Port Culinaire Sommelier of the Year.
A secondary school student with a spelling disability, he step by step made up for the missed graduation qualifications and had wanted to continue his studies further. However, a part-time job in the restaurant business quickly ignited his passion for gastronomy and he began his restaurateur apprenticeship in the Croatian restaurant "Weidenhof." It was here that he first met his current partner, Marcel Kokot.
In the first year of his apprenticeship, Ronny Schreiber felt that he was already running the Weidenhof on his own. This puzzled him, as he wanted to learn more. Therefore, in his second year of apprenticeship, he interned at the nearby star restaurant Burgstuben Residenz, where he met his second current partner, Alexander Wulf. After completing his apprenticeship, he went to Australia, where among other things, he organized private dining events for Hollywood stars. "This is where I took off, and I earned good money. It was a formative time for me." He then wanted to go back to Europe, more specifically to Switzerland, but Alexander Wulf brought him back to the Burgstuben Residenz as a sommelier. "At that time, I didn't have a deep knowledge of wine, and decided a lot by feel. In the end, I taught myself everything. That is my great strength!"
Dream team: the triumvirate comes together
At the Burgstuben Residenz, the threesome of sommelier Ronny Schreiber and the two chefs Marcel Kokot and Alexander Wulf finally grew together as a team. There, in 2018, the three friends earned their first Michelin star, which they successfully defended in subsequent years. In the middle of the pandemic, they finally began detailed planning for their first own restaurant "TROYKA" in Erkelenz. After a near-record breaking construction period of nine months, they opened the restaurant in the fall of 2021. Together, in the Heinsberg region of the Lower Rhine, they have created a place for their culinary visions – one that offers its guests culinary, sensual and border-crossing worlds of taste.
"For us, the most beautiful day was when we stopped thinking ‘How must we be?’ At "TROYKA" we can simply be who we are," says Ronny Schreiber. "We like to work together and challenge each other. We have a creative day once a week where we think about how we can make our restaurant even better!" They actively take their team along for the ride. Unlike many other restaurants, they can't complain about a lack of young talent. This is certainly due in part to their proactive approach to new talent and their good reputation as an employer.
Smart restaurant: thinking from the employee's point of view
Schreiber is a process optimizer. "We wanted to develop a restaurant concept that runs as flawlessly as possible. We’ve all traveled the world to eat, drink and be inspired! Ten years ago, we started thinking about the concept. It was always clear to us: employees will be the big issue of the future. That's why we planned the concept with the employees as the starting point. Every walkway is perfectly thought out. For example, the pass is located directly at the Josephinenhütte Chef's Table: here, the chef himself can be in action, while the service staff takes care of the other guests in the restaurant.“
An additional creative feature are the cutlery drawers, which are placed under the edge of the table at each seat. "Setting cutlery doesn't add any value after all," Schreiber says. "No guest in the world has yet remarked, 'Wow, how cool of you to be setting the table!’ Therefore, we hid the little treasure chests. Our guests think it's great!"
"The glasses are also very well received by our guests. The respect for the JOSEPHINE is great. Many also approach me directly about it. They immediately feel the difference."
Ronny Schreiber, co-owner and sommelier of TROYKA Restaurant
What is immediately noticeable at "TROYKA" is the lack of a printed menu. Everything the guests need can be found under daily links, which they can access via QR codes on a smartly designed digital cube. Guests don't even have to take pictures of their dishes themselves: the entire menu has been shot in a perfectly staged manner and can be downloaded directly online. "We are Germany's first smart restaurant," Ronny Schreiber proudly tells us. "We make everything possible, and you will never find paper here.”
Kitchen possible: Russian childhood memories on the plate
From a purely culinary point of view, guests can look forward to "Creative Russian Cross-over Cuisine:" a mélange of Alexander Wulf's Russian childhood memories, regional produce and inspirations from around the world. Each menu starts with a variation of "Sakuska:" Russian snacks, such as the cucumber prepared three ways. Signature dishes of the house include the "Siberian Vegetable Garden," where each vegetable from the restaurant garden is pickled sweet and sour in a special pickling broth. The Wagyu boiled beef "Borschtsch Style" is also highly recommended: fans of the German TV show "Das perfekte Dinner" will know the dish from one of the programs in which Alexander Wulf prepared it. He is, in any case, a welcome guest on TV. Just recently, he clearly beat Tim Mälzer in a cooking duel on Germany’s "Kitchen Impossible."
"While Alex is more the person in the kitchen who trusts his gut feeling, Marcel acts as the modern designer of the dishes," Ronny Schreiber says. "Under cooking greats such as Hans-Christian Steinheuer, Christian Bau and Heiko Nieder, he has learned what absolute perfection and precision mean in star cuisine. The two of them complement each other wonderfully in the kitchen!"
Turn up the volume: wines as conversation starters
The "TROYKA" experience, however, is only made complete by the attentive service. In this context, the Guide Michelin praises, "You are looked after by a competent, pleasantly relaxed and charming young team led by sommelier Ronny Schreiber. As a real wine connoisseur, he surprises you with interesting and not always everyday wine recommendations."
The sommelier stores his wine collection in a self-developed, walk-in, glass climate-controlled cabinet at the entrance of the restaurant. A look into the "treasure trove" reveals a good mix of classics and exotics: young winemakers, interesting wine growing regions, exciting wines. In white wines, Ronny Schreiber's focus is on German Rieslings. In the red wine segment, he focuses primarily on France and Italy. In addition, there are some treasures from Russia, Australia, the USA, South Africa and Argentina. "I simply like to try things out and deliberately break old rules in the process," explains the sommelier. "Tomatoes with Scheurebe, a German and Austrian white wine variety, for example, are a brilliant combination. From my point of view, things must get really loud at least once in the menu. I want to shake guests awake and give them controversial points of conversation. Harmony alone is ultimately boring.”
The ultimate culinary experience: Josephinenhütte’s Chef's Table
The "TROYKA" hosts developed the Josephinenhütte Chef's Table for guests who desire a more heightened culinary experience, right up close to the kitchen. “Here guests sit in the front line and watch our chefs at work," says Ronny Schreiber. As a special highlight, only these seats feature Josephinenhütte glasses. "For me, glasses are the most important item on a restaurant table. The right glass is a crucial factor in creating a perfect experience. When I pour wines in Josephinenhütte glasses, the other guests sometimes look a bit envious and want to try them as well. In that case, they have to visit us again and book a seat at the Chef's Table."
Ronny Schreiber was among the first sommeliers to try Kurt Josef Zalto's JOSEPHINE glass collection. “The successful combination of sensory experience, design and elegance distinguishes an excellent glass from a good one,” he says. “With the JOSEPHINE glasses, I was immediately excited about the added sensory value and the aesthetics. My wine list benefits from the glasses because I can taste so much more intensively. The glasses work across the board and that's crucial for me.
“The kink is ingenious. I'd like to ask Kurt Zalto sometime how he came up with it and how he himself would describe the influence of the bend on the wine,"the sommelier continues."The glasses are also very well received by our guests. The respect for the JOSEPHINE is great. Many also approach me directly about it. They immediately feel the difference."