A typical group of men, back in December 2010, talking about life, the universe and all that. All agreed that there was no longer any real personal contact in this world of the Internet and mobile phones, of email and Twitter. And then Thomas Kriemler, owner of a textile company in St. Moritz, suggested that a long wooden table be set up in the pedestrian zone, laid with food and wine, and then everyone could sit down together to eat and talk. Thomas Kriemler still says today that he only meant it as a joke, a throw-away remark to his friends from the village club, where he serves as vice president. But the joke grew legs and turned into “La Tavolata”, one of the culinary highlights in the St. Moritz summer.
La Tavolata is all about a whole summer weekend during which 42 prettily decorated tables made of Swiss stone pine wind their way along 400 metres of the streets of St. Moritz. It´s all about stands at which chefs from the region’s top hotels and restaurants conjure up a potpourri of delights for all tastes from their pots and pans under the open sky. It’s ll about street musicians and bands who provide the musical setting. And it’s all about the numerous helping hands who work so hard to set everything up, decorate it, then take it all down again. They work the tills and backstage before, during and after the event. All, every single one of them, help to make the event a huge success. At the first event, back in 2010, there were 5,000 people at the table; today, the figure is more like 9,000 – and, as is usually the case in St. Moritz, they come from all over. “A wonderful ambience, company and fabulous food,” reports a happy Lue Cheng from Asia, and Sophia comes every year from (not quite so distant) Zurich to attend “because it’s such a lovely idea”. For Lukas from St. Moritz, La Tavolata is an opportunity to “meet fabulous people and eat really well”.
Objective achieved, says Thomas Kriemler: “Whether locals or visitors, rich or poor, old or young, everyone sits down at the table together. What is important is that we redefine ourselves as hosts again, and that we pass this on.” It was also Thomas Kriemler who insisted on the lovely wooden tables. “I wanted to have tables made of Swiss stone pine from our forests so that people would be able to smell the region as they sat here,” says the organiser. A fragrance that then blends with the irresistible aromas that arise from the cooking stands and fill the pedestrian zone. Christian Ott, head chef at the Hotel Schweizerhof, serves the Engadin speciality “Plain in Pigna”: raw potatoes cut into slices, mixed with Salsiz (air-fried sausage) and ham, then put in the oven in dough. He shares the stand with the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, whose speciality is Ochsenfleischsemmel – pulled ox meat with mustard onions and gravy.
Then it’s on to the sweet options: the Hauser family offers fruit slices and home-made ice cream. And Confiserie Hanselmann, at the heart of the activities, makes “Berliners”, a type of German doughnut with filling. “In the first year it was a bit like an invasion – we’d completely sold out after an hour,” remembers co-owner Andreas Mutschler. But it’s an invasion that St. Moritz is only too happy to welcome. What started six years ago as a small, relaxed party for families and friends is now not only the (probably) longest table in Switzerland, but also a culinary highlight that locals and guests delight in sharing with each other. The whole village at one table – Thomas Kriemler’s joke is one that the whole world understands and loves.