Romantik Blog

Out of the crisis

If this story weren't true, you'd think a film writer had made it up. Alexandra Ziörjen, German hostess of the Romantik Hotel l'Etoile in Charmey, Switzerland, calls what she experienced as her own personal gastronomic fairy tale "sensational, an incredible story". A story that began with a low blow in the summer of 2018. And six months later it led to a success that was not thought possible. A prime example of how one can work one's way out of a crisis.

Out of the shock
When the head chef and the sous chef of her hotel's gourmet restaurant Nova quit at the same time last year, Alexandra Ziörjen lost the leadership of her kitchen team from one day to the next. A shock. But after first considering closing the restaurant, the trained chef decided to fight for her economic survival - and, after 14 years, to put herself back at the cooker. An insane challenge, considering that the restaurateur is also a single mother of two boys aged six and nine.


An ambitious goal
How did she motivate herself to do this? "The existence of the restaurant was at stake and with it twelve other employees for whom I have a responsibility. That's what drove me on. And of course, as a hotel owner and hostess, I also wanted to prove to myself that I could overcome these difficulties," Alexandra Ziörjen recalls of this stressful time.

Added to that: Unlike most other star chefs, the Frankfurt native did not learn the cooking trade in a gourmet kitchen, but at Lufthansa's LSG Sky Chefs. The training there, however, is considered one of the best in Germany. Alexandra Ziörjen has now profited from this and from her experiences in other well-known restaurant kitchens. With her very own style, which she describes as "regional, fresh, different", she established the Restaurant Nova as one of the top addresses for gourmets throughout Switzerland.

Romantik Hotel de L´Etoile

Crowned with a star

The crowning glory came in February 2019, when her kitchen was awarded a star by the Guide Michelin. "I had never aspired to that, nor would I have expected it in my life," the new star chef laughs today.

The double job as chef and hotel manager, raising two small children: Alexandra Ziörjen is often asked how she manages it all. During the crisis phase, did she never have the feeling that everything was going over her head? "Organisation is the be-all and end-all," she answers. And: "If you want to achieve something, you have to be fully committed. That is often stress. But other working women, for example nurses, have that too."

Use the time intensively

In her case, "full commitment" means a six-day week with up to 15 hours on duty, starting at half past six in the morning. Having breakfast with the boys, getting them ready for school. Then to the office, planning and doing shopping for the kitchen, menu meetings with her team, doing administrative tasks and, of course, cooking. The Michelin star is not only an award, but also an obligation.

Alexandra Ziörjen compensates for the lack of free time by trying to use it as intensively as possible. Such time off is especially important in difficult situations. The single mother draws strength above all from the time she spends with her sons (picture above). At least Sunday evenings are usually reserved for the two of them. "It's not the quantity that counts, but the quality," she says. Just like cooking.


The expert's advice

How to overcome crises
Alexandra Ziörjen has worked her way out of her professional misery. "As unpleasant as crises may be, they often have something good in the long run," explains Dr Rolf Merkle, a graduate psychologist, psychotherapist and author from Mannheim. To cope with difficult situations, he advises above all a positive basic attitude. His tip: "Remember challenges that you have overcome before." It can also help to look for role models, such as people from your circle of friends who have mastered similar situations.

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