Christoph Stutz has always gone through the doors that open up to him: from Switzerland, he drifted to the UK, from the restaurant industry into social work. And somehow he became a lawyer specialising in employment law with Walder Wyss. A life of three courses.
The 2020 Arneis from the Tibaldi family vineyard in Piedmont trickles into glasses. Christoph Stutz deliberately chose Restaurant Schlüssel in Seefeld to talk about himself. How he went from being a chef to a lawyer – and everything that happened in between. And what he now thinks of the restaurant scene in the secret capital of Switzerland. The last drop of Arneis surrenders to the force of gravity. Stutz begins.
How he went from being a chef to a lawyer – and everything that happened in between
“Cooking was important to me”, he says, looking calmly back on a turbulent youth. “Even though it was circumstances that brought me to it.” His sister’s boyfriend was working as a sous-chef on the outskirts of Zurich at the time. Stutz ended up as a waiter in the restaurant because he wanted to be financially independent. He trained as a chef because he liked it. He did not suspect at the time that the training he was going through was of the sort that would shape his life.
Having completed his training, Stutz set off into the world. In a luxury hotel in St. Moritz, he caught a glimpse of high society life. He followed one of the guests there to London as a private chef, where he immersed himself in the lively restaurant scene of the pulsating city. At some point, he was drawn back to Switzerland, but the restaurant scene back then did not really excite him. Through a job with Pastor Sieber, he first went into social education. “I never thought I would become a lawyer.”
The decision to go to university was an experiment: could the trained chef survive in an academic environment? One thing the 37-year-old definitely did not want was to leave that question unanswered.
The power of experimentation was not invented by Milgram. And so, a new world opened up to Stutz two decades after training as a chef. His marks were good and a job as an assistant opened up. One door opened, then the next. Christoph Stutz did what he had always done: he went through them. Via the assistant’s job, he joined the Bratschi law firm, then Walder Wyss when he was admitted to the bar.
«I never thought
I would become
The house speciality of the Schlüssel, Stutz reveals, is the meatloaf. But today he chooses Grisons Büscion di capra with pesto, hazelnuts and honey from the daily menu – and as a main course, pan fried white fish filet from Lake Zurich on a coconut foam. Stutz places the white cloth napkin on his lap, puts his hands back on the table and continues his story.
The restaurant in Seefeld also plays a part in his story. In the year in which he set foot in a huge lecture theatre for the first time, one of his former colleagues began running the charming dining establishment. The new stages in their lives which appeared to be causing them to drift apart in fact were to achieve the opposite. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Höschgasse to the Schlüssel.
Stutz will soon be celebrating ten years with Walder Wyss. “I am in the right place here”, he says. He likes the intellectual challenge of the job and supports the law firm’s open-door policy. “And yet I do not want to forget my past.” The sociable side of life has stayed with him. Between phone calls, correspondence and meetings, Stutz thinks it is important to be there for his younger colleagues in the firm. And even though the Schlüssel has changed hands now: he still likes to eat there.
Stutz likes to experiment, not only in his life decisions, but also when it comes to eating. If he goes out to dine with friends, he is often entrusted with choosing the wine despite – or perhaps because of – this. If he hears the name of a new restaurant anywhere, it ends up as a note on his smartphone. Stutz finds pop-ups particularly exciting, enthuses about restaurants in side alleys and about daringly purist creations. When he is dining out, it is all about the experience, innovation and perfection. At home, he focuses on the familiar, spaghetti alla Norma in the style of the Israeli-British TV chef Yotam Ottolenghi, for example.
The Schlüssel is now run by Alexandre Hannemann, who brings the dessert blackboard to the table himself. Written in chalk, the menu includes homemade creme caramel, white coffee mousse with marinated apples, and truffle cake with raspberry coulis. He is aware, says Stutz, that the randomness of birth predetermines the most important directions you take in life. And yet he is proud of what he has achieved. “But the certainty of being able to survive easily with less is more important to me.” He passes on dessert.
Zurich restaurant tips
from Christoph Stutz:
Rechberg 1837: “Only Swiss products that are perfectly in harmony. Instead of Prosecco, local sparkling wine is served. A little too complex for my taste at times.”
Igniv: “An offshoot of Andreas Caminada. A touch opulent, but worth a visit.”
Didi’s Frieden: “An established gourmet favourite in the city. Creative, playful cuisine.”
Wirtschaft im Franz: “Limited courses, very good quality. The product is really the focus. If you like meat, you have to say so.”
Schlüssel: “High-quality cuisine, a pleasant atmosphere, a super friendly team.”
F39: “A gem in Seefeld, run by two talented young chefs. Very personal.”
has been working at Walder Wyss since September 2013. He came to the law firm immediately after passing the bar exams. What few people know: the man from Glarus is not just a qualified lawyer, but also a trained chef with experience in the restaurant industry and in social work. Stutz took the decision to go to university at the age of 37. Today he works on the fourth floor at Höschgasse in Zurich in the most social field of the corporate law firm: employment law. He has remained true to his love of cooking in private.