Portrait of the chef

Freddy Nagler

A magic formula in five letters

The man is constantly searching. When Freddy Nagler has a day off or goes on holiday he always keeps his eyes open as he passes amongst the market stalls. Even better is when the market is in a pretty town with street cafes and good restaurants. The stalls with fruit and vegetables, meat and fish all get his careful attention. He’s searching for quality. And when Freddy Nagler sees quality, he’s almost overcome by a flood of ideas: “When I see top quality ingredients in their original form my brain starts to work and I think about what I could create from them all, here in my kitchen”.

It seems that in the Hotel Savoy in Selva, Freddy Nagler has found his niche. Here the magic formula has five letters: F-R-E-S-H. “For us, the use of fresh products is an absolute must”, say hotel owner Christoph Vinatzer and his wife, Nadia.

So a cook who knows how to maximise the potential of fresh ingredients has found a great place to be in the Savoy in the Val Gardena, and can fulfil his own ambitions. He can express himself to the guests’ advantage. Every day fresh bread, fresh pasta, fresh dumplings, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and at least fifteen different fresh salads are on offer. Fresh, fresh, fresh… Freddy Nagler is Head Chef at the Savoy. “When I see the fresh produce being delivered in the morning my brain immediately starts working and developing ideas about what to make”, he says, although he admits he’s not without the occasional doubt about the huge quantity of ingredients that he uses.

During the season the menu at the Savoy is never repeated. “It’s a huge challenge”, says the Head Chef, “but I enjoy it, and it means we’re always trying something new and don’t have time to get stuck in a rut.” Freddy Nagler was born in 1969 in Brunico, near Bolzano. As a child there was nothing he enjoyed more than helping his mother in the kitchen and stirring mixtures in the saucepans. At 13 years of age his first summer job was in a restaurant. A three-year apprenticeship at the Hotel Waldhof in Merano was the next logical step. He then built his experience in establishments such as the Kastell Wernberg, between Weiden and Schwandorf in Germany, then at the “Le Relais de la Poste” in Alsace, not far from Strasbourg. A year at the “Le Pétrolles” in Fribourg in Switzerland, two seasons at the Alpenroyal in Selva, and now finally here at the Savoy.

Whether fish or meat, dumplings or risotto, Mediterranean cuisine or typical South Tyrolean dishes, to Freddy Nagler it makes no difference and he has no preference. Above all whatever goes into the pots and pans must be fresh, “only then will you get something good back out”.

And so the man cooks at the foot of the Sassolungo and Sella Massif, in one of the most beautiful valleys of the South Tyrol. “In a spectacular natural setting like this the dishes almost create themselves”, admits Nagler, who shares one of the dilemmas of all chefs. “We try every day to astonish our guests with new ideas, but we never get to see their faces as they enjoy our food. It’s not always easy to give up that moment.” With these words we are sure we see the Head Chef’s mind drift back to his last market visit, where everything was wonderfully fresh, just like in his kitchen.