I’m meeting Anne Faber during lunch at popular Paname. Among the occasional tourist couple and the many people in suits, Anne stands out with her charming retro appearance, wearing her bang-on cherry-red lipstick. There’s this vibrant can-do attitude about this young entrepreneur, and she is so enthusiastic about her projects it’s impossible not to be excited about what she does. Understandably enough, I’m thrilled to talk to this Luxembourgish multitalent about her insatiable appetite for international cuisine, her own food undertakings, her many travels to fascinating places, as well as her undeniable curiosity of things.
“Whenever I go somewhere new, I always try the local food. It’s amazing how inspiring that is”, Anne says and orders a large cup of coffee. “When I returned to Luxembourg, I was facing up to this new chapter in my life, and I realised that food was immensely important to me, especially the Luxembourgish cuisine. That’s how I came up with cooking traditional dishes from the Grand Duchy, but with a contemporary twist.”
Naturally, things have changed dramatically around here in the last few years, and so have our taste buds. “I’m not re-inventing Luxembourgish cuisine, I’m giving it my own little twist.” Anne’s recipes are deliberately simple and showcase her sheer creativity in everything the young woman does. “When I introduced Indian spices to the all-Luxembourgish Lënsenzopp, even the sceptics were blown away by the dish. It’s just a combination that works, and you’re still able to taste the original.”
The TV chef and bestselling author lived abroad for more than a decade, and she’s always been keen to delve into the place in which she grew up. “I was surprised to learn that some people felt my enthusiasm for Luxembourg was over the top, or too patriotic, even conservative”, Anne says. “Of course, if you live your life wearing blinkers, you might think Luxembourg still is a peasant village - but it’s become so wonderfully international.”
"You always learn so much about a culture through their cuisine."
After our cafe at Place de Paris, we drive to the 1535° Creative Hub in Differdange, where Anne is filming episodes for her TV show. In between requisites and camera equipment, we make our way behind the kitchen counter, where the enthusiastic young woman tells me more about her passion for travels. Successful TV programme “Anne’s Kitchen” has taken her to Berlin, Istanbul and Barcelona. “I definitely want to go to Mexico, because… food”, Anne laughs. “You always learn so much about a culture through their cuisine.” Always equipped with a camera, a tripod and her thirst for new adventures, Anne found herself in Goa, taking some pictures at a market in Margao, chatting to a marketer about local delicacies. “I’ve talked to the lovely woman for at least half an hour, and I was able to get an impression of what it takes to make a living there. But the whole time we were talking about food.”
The fervent traveller is very fond of Thailand, a magnificent country which she has visited multiple times. “I remember when I booked this food tour which would take me through Bangkok and show me the local culinary scene. I was expecting a group of maybe ten, twelve people. Then, the morning of, I’m walking to the lobby and this young woman introduced herself to me, saying like ‘Hi, I’m Chin, we’ll spend the day together’.” It turned out to be one of these decisive days in your life, those days that might bring massive changes to your existence. “I learned that Chin’s just founded her own business, and we drove around in her car and she showed me amazing stuff. It was beautiful.” Chin and Anne remained friends, and organised a road trip to northeast Thailand to visit Chin’s parents - a journey they would embark on a year later only. “We drove all the way up, almost to Laos, and I had the honour to meet Chin’s mum and dad. They’re two modest farmers, owning a small mushroom farm and some buffaloes. Actually, Chin mentioned I was very interested in cooking authentically Thai with them, so Chin’s dad - just like that - built an extra hut that had a traditional Thai kitchen in it. We picked pepper and pomelos and chilies from the garden, the fruit was still hot from riping in the sun. It was extraordinary.”
In 2008, Anne Faber quit her job with Associated Press - in the middle of the recession. “I used to have a steady job, but I was miserable. I questioned everything, and didn’t really know what to do. Somehow I was craving some Thai green curry, and I made a slight detour from my usual route to go to Marks & Spencer’s, thinking about starting in food journalism as a next step. I was waiting for the traffic lights to turn to green, and on the other side of the road I spotted the Food & Drink Editor of Time Out magazine!” So Anne jumps in front of the tall Scottish man, which must have been a priceless image right there, and ends up joining him to a new bar he was commissioned to review. “I told him everything that was going on with me, and the following day he offered me a job at Time Out. All this happened because I pursued my appetite for Thai curry!”
Thanks to her unique recipe of humour, passion and original ideas, Anne Faber has already achieved a lot in her home country. “For me, it’s all about authenticity. If it doesn’t feel right, I’m not doing it. I think it has a lot to do with being curious, and honest. Doing things in a playful way helps a lot, too.”
Watch an episode of Anne's Kitchen "Cooking With Chin":