«Shall I get going on the grill straight away? I'm preparing a char,» Claudine Nyaguy says. Sure thing! It doesn’t happen every day that a Swiss grill master lets you taste their dish.
A few more meters by PostBus before we've finally reached our stop: Waltalingen. Colleague Ramon and I walk up to Schwandegg Castle. The view and the impressive building immediately compensate for the steep walk. Weber grill master Claudine Nyaguy is already waiting in the kitchen. She's preparing food for the grill and we can sense her energy and joy from the very first second.
The only female grill master
Right at the start I learn something about grilling fish: if it's placed directly on the grate, the skin sticks to it. If you wrap it in aluminium foil, the skin won't get crispy and toxic substances may be released from the tin foil. «The trick is indirect grilling. I take half a lime or lemon and place it under the belly of the fish over it,» Claudine explains.
I ask her if this is one of her signature dishes. «Yes, grilling is my favourite method to prepare fish. I love how delicate this way of cooking is.» This is what sets her apart from her male colleagues, who still make up the majority of grill masters. As the only female Weber grill master in Switzerland, she had to put in extra work to prove herself in training courses.» Even today, she still faces some prejudices at grilling classes she leads. «But it's become far better over the last few years. Gender stigma is disappearing more and more.»
She gives BBQ classes together with her husband Oliver in cooperation with Weber. This profession fell into her lap: «We used to run an alternative medicine practice together. At some point, we received a project offer to organise an aperitif with wine pairings in Steckborn,» she says. After this, the two concentrated more and more on the catering business. «All of a sudden, large companies asked us to provide catering for events. We prepared entire menus in a glass.» This is also where the name of her catering company comes from: «Ars in vitro», i.e. art in a glass. At some point, Weber approached the two and asked if they'd be interested in helping to set up the Weber Grill Academy. They were and they still are.
Light dishes that are full flavour
I can see her passion when Claudine's at the grill. She's preparing shrimps and cherry tomatoes in a wok with garlic and ginger. She's calm and precise in what she does. Claudine values the taste as well as the looks of a dish. «I enjoy playing with colours and decorating dishes beautifully.» The second course is whole char. I learn another trick: if you don't want to eat the skin, roll it up with the fork, just as sardines in a can. The fish tastes delicious, as expected. It's well cooked, but not dry. Personally, I missed a bit of salt. «I never season fish. I don’t want to cover any of its taste,» Claudine replies.
Natural medicine in food
To this day, the alternative medical approach is also found in the food the Nyaguys cook. «Instead of using flavour enhancers and artificial colours, we use ingredients that are good for the body,» says Claudine. Their knowledge of anatomy and chemistry, which they gained in their medical studies, also benefits the couple when they cook. «I know what the composition of meat is and how it reacts under certain circumstances.» They have acquired the remaining cooking knowledge in various classes or copied it from their children. «All three sons are professional chefs, Noé and Kim run Schwandegg Castle,» says Oliver.
Vegan by conviction
When Claudine isn't working, she doesn't eat fish or meat. «I process and taste so much meat when I'm at work that I don't eat any at home.» Other animal products are also taboo. «Veganism is becoming more and more topical in our society and I try to mention it at BBQ classes, too, but without being missionary.» She also offers a vegan grilling course, but it's currently not as popular as she'd hoped. «The situation would be different if we offered the same course in a more urban environment,» Claudine is certain. Her goal is to create tasty vegan food that appeals to meat eaters as well. "Vegans know enough about this lifestyle.»
But she's not just experimenting with vegan food: «My husband is planning a Japanese barbecue class,» Claudine says. She mentions that a BBQ is seen today as a universal cooking device, which makes it possible to cook entire menus. «The old-fashioned BBQ master who'd throw a few sausages on the grill and drink a can of beer isn't seen often anymore.» She's convinced we're experiencing a shift to a finer, more conscious grilling. By the way, Claudine's answer to one of the largest BBQ myths: «It doesn't matter if you grill on gas or charcoal.»
BBQ party for you and your friends
Fancy enjoying Claudine's barbecue skills yourself? Take part in our competition and you're in for a chance to win a BBQ party at your home for yourself and nine friends. The entry deadline is 17 May 2019.
My life in a nutshell? On a quest to broaden my horizon. I love discovering and learning new skills and I see a chance to experience something new in everything – be it travelling, reading, cooking, movies or DIY.