Eva Eppard re-interprets Rheinhessen cuisine from life and gusto in the Restaurant Kupferberg in Mainz

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Eva Eppard, chef at the Restaurant Kupferberg: "We need more courage to go new ways"

Text and photos by Gisela Kirschstein

Mainz. These ages old trees have seen celebrities like Otto von Bismarck, endless parties with sparkling wine, but also the terror of war. The beautiful old garden once belonged to the Kupferberg Kellerei, the monumental brickstone building views onto the city of Mainz. Inside, rooms like "Goldzimmer" and "Chardonnay-Saal" keep the memories of a time of grandeur, when the most famous sparkling wine production of Germany was situated in these halls.

"You can feel, that humans celebrated parties in these rooms in former times, or that they endured sad episodes", says Eva Eppard, "every room tells a history." It's not like the small energetic woman to be that contemplative – most of the time, Eppard leads a busy life. The young woman is one of Germany most talented female chefs and has collected high merits at the stove. For that, Eppard and the Restaurant Kupferberg won the Great Wine Capital Award 2016.

Sandwich of the rabbit with pear-relish, filet from the trout with purée from primal carrots and basilfoam – Eppard definitely knows how to cook. For years, she was the chef of a famous gourmet hotel in Mainz; in 2012 she fulfilled the dream of her own restaurant – in the rooms of Kupferberg. In 1850, Adalbert Christian Kupferberg founded the cellars which soon served the rich and mighty. 60 cellars deep reach the vaults in the hill above Mainz, they are the deepest wine cellars of the world. The wine production is long gone, a Museum still preserves the old halls and rooms.

Warm colors in old Vaults - Eva Eppard in her Restaurant - Foto Kirschstein.

Where once the boutique sat, now 80 guests find seats in two rooms. Warm brown and golden colors fill the ancient vaulted rooms, sprinkled with fresh green cushions. Behind the bar: a long row of wine bottles, most from Rheinhessen. "We are the melting pot of good wine", says Eppard, and sings the praise of the many young wine makers who have raised Rheinhessen to one of the most dynamic wine regions of Europe. Kühling-Gillot, Gutzler, Thörle – the wines on Eppards wine list speak of the best of them.

What does the region of Rheinhessen taste like? "Salty", says Eppard, "earthy, green and fruity – just as life." Eppard knows what she's talking about: Born in Mainz, she grew up in Appenheim, a small village in the heart of Rheinhessen, surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye can see. Down to earth are the people from here, straightforward. "They also love to party", says Eppard, "people here are immensely full of joie vivre."

It must be partly due to the French heritage, rich in the region, and the French left a taste for good food. Eppard herself travelled the world, yet the reinterpretation of her cuisine from home – that's where she's brilliant. "I always wanted to be a chef", she says, giving a shrug on that: "The zeal for new combinations has always been there."

Modern cuisine in old vaults - Eva Eppard in her Restaurant - Foto Kirschstein

High-quality cuisine with first-class products, that's Eppard's style. The beef comes from a farm in Bad Kreuznach, the herbs from a local garden in Mainz. "We need to estimate products from the region more", says Eppard, and if something can breech her steely control, then it is the cheap-is-cool mentality of the Germans concerning food. "Meat didn't use to be an every-day dish", she says firmly, "we could have less lifestyle diseases and more healthy bodies." In the land of Schnitzel and Braten, that's still a radical thing to say.

Notwithstanding, Schnitzel and wild garlic sausage are an important part on Eppard's menu – especially when it comes to grill parties in the old Kupferberg garden. "We need more courage in cooking and in the region to go new ways", Eppard says – and yet remembrances of her grandma's cooking, "the optimum", as she says. Stops short, and goes on: "The best salad sauce. Ever. And I just can't make it like that." This won't be the last we heard from Eva Eppard.