Cooking and cycling – a match made in heaven

Author
Sarah Meraner
Date
17.08.2020

Cooking and cycling – a match made in heaven

Kurt Resch and  Gerhard “Krauti” Krautwurst tell us about the history of mountain biking in South Tyrol and how they became firm friends

Kurt Resch und Gerhard “Krauti” Krautwurst are two cooks who love cycling. Or maybe two cyclists who love cooking. Whatever the case, they couldn’t be more different. “On the bike and around the waist,” laughs Kurt. And yet, this odd couple share not only a friendship dating back many years but also many achievements, successes and visions for the future – as well as a love of food. But before we tell you too much about Kurt and Krauti, let’s start at the beginning.

Bio & biking: Kurt

Located at the end of the Bühlweg road in the village of Collepietra, there is little to indicate that the Steineggerhof is home to one of South Tyrol’s original mountain bike pioneers. Kurt Resch was born and grew up here. Together with his wife and their three children – Natalie, Lisa and Tommi – he today runs this beautiful hotel in the heart of  Val d’Ega. It will come as little surprise that the accommodation is a haven for mountain bikers, with 100% organic produce on the menu since 2019. The hotel is not only climate-neutral but actually climate-positive, meaning it produces more energy than it consumes. It was a holiday in Mexico which convinced Kurt and his wife to take this new approach. “We were shocked to see huge rubbish heaps everywhere. It brought home to us just how little is being done to look after the environment.”

Changing the future by changing mentalities

However, Kurt is quick to add that a lot has changed in recent years. The mountain biking scene and the general awareness of people when it comes to health and the environment have been on the up. “We have noticed this change in the bookings we receive – and that makes us think about how we run our hotel. You have to stay innovative to be profitable in the long run,” he adds. This is a lesson he learnt as one of the pioneers in South Tyrol’s mountain biking scene. Having trained as a chef, he spent a decade as a bike guide in the region’s spectacular mountains before returning to his original passion of cooking a few years ago. With the support of his children, Kurt has transformed the hotel into a temple of vegetarian and vegan food with a focus on environmental sustainability. Only the main courses include meat, while the smoked bacon served up at the Steineggerhof is homemade – as has been the tradition for many years. The hotel has been certified as gluten-free, and the staff are happy to take into account any other dietary preferences and requirements guests may have. That certainly does not mean, however, that the fare served up at the family-run accommodation in the heart of Val d’Ega is bland or boring. Far from it! “It’s about being creative in the way you cook,” explains Kurt with a spoon in his hand and a smile on his lips.

A man ahead of his time

Creativity is something Kurt Resch has always plenty of. Back in the early days of mountain biking he was even considered a little too creative – a man ahead of his time. “People weren’t ready for what we had to offer,“ he laughs. However, the friendly 54-year-old has never let himself be put off by the scepticism of others. E-bikes, he remembers, were laughed at by many when they first appeared in the South Tyrol – but Kurt immediately recognised their potential … and now they are booming. The same, he says, will apply to environmental sustainability – in a few years all the other hotels will be following his example. In the meantime, Kurt Resch is happy working away in his new herb garden, conjuring up new vegan dishes with his children, playing with his grandchild or tearing it up on his e-bike along some of the region’s toughest trails – both uphill and downhill. “I love technical riding. You can often find me carrying my bike up onto a ridge or a mountain just so I can ride back it down again,” he smiles, before explaining: “It’s all about the flow.”

Marketing and mountain biking: Krauti

“He is a really good, honest person you can trust. That’s why we are friends,” says Gerhard “Krauti” Krautwurst when asked about Kurt. The two go back a long way and share a common background as bike guides. As Krauti developed a successful business around mountain bike guiding, Kurt was by his side as president (for over 20 years now) of the association Bike Hotels South Tyrol. The unlikely duo have always shared a vision: “To make South Tyrol the number one destination for mountain biking,”  explains Krauti. He admits that things were tough at first, with few other people willing to buy into their dream. It was only after years of hard work that things began moving in the right direction.

Home from home in South Tyrol 

Unlike Kurt, Krauti is not a South Tyrol native. He was born and raised in the Austrian province of Upper Austria – an area known more for rolling hills than craggy mountains. He moved to South Tyrol 23 years ago – back then as the head chef at the Zirmerhof hotel. “That was when I started mountain biking,” he remembers. Shortly after arriving in Italy he met Beate, who he would later marry. Shortly after taking over the kitchen at the Hotel Erika, all of a sudden he was asked to help out as a bike guide. This new double role – head chef and bike guide – was a real challenge at first, as he recalls. 

Today, Val d’Ega is Krauti’s home from home. In the evenings, when the working day is done, there is nothing he likes more than sitting on his terrace and gazing out over the mountains. He still enjoys riding, though he admits that he doesn’t have as much time as he would like to explore the local trails on his e-bike.

The clue’s in the name

In 2004 Krauti set up his company Krauti KG. “Back then everyone thought I was just setting up a mountain bike school – but that is only a small part of what we do.” In fact, the business covered everything from bike racks for coaches to setting up the first trails in the region and training the first generation of bike guides. “Today  the bike guides have their own association with around 300 members,” says Krauti with more than a little pride. “Things have come a long way since the early days of mountain biking, when people would give you a funny look if you got into a cable car with a bike.” He agrees with Kurt that they were ahead of their time in many respects. The first few years were anything but lucrative, with Krauti making most of his very modest income from selling bikes. That, however, was just a small part of his vision. “They were tough times, but we learned a lot – and we are still learning today.”

At some point, Krauti decided to bring all the projects he was running under one roof by creating an agency that not only sells bikes and accessories (from brands including Ghost and WOOM) but also offering marketing, event organisation and consulting services for hotels and destinations keen to become more bike-friendly. “You have to be a rider yourself to really get the message across,” he says. With his Krauti on Tour videos on YouTube, which he aims to expand in future, the friendly Austrian wants to focus more on hotel marketing.
 

Riding into the future

Much progress has been made, but Krauti is keen to emphasise that South Tyrol still has work to do  in order to realise its full potential when it comes to mountain biking: “The problem is there aren’t enough official trails, so people just ride anywhere.” With the recent boom in e-biking, more and more cyclists are keen to get out and about. While there are plenty of options available for hardcore downhillers, most e-bikers prefer easy and intermediate trails – and there is a serious shortage of those throughout the region. It’s time, he says, to react to this development and start expanding the network of trails. Krauti and Kurt share a vision of themed bike trails where riders of all abilities can relax and learn about the alpine environment in a fun, interactive way.

So what’s the deal with cooking and cycling?

“You have to live what you do – that goes for not only mountain biking but also sustainable living and cooking. You also have to be patient and give people the time they need to embark on this process themselves,” explains Kurt. After all, Kurt adds, no good bike ride is complete without a hearty meal at the end of it. Cooking and cycling are a little like Kurt and Krauti – a match made in heaven.
 

Sarah Meraner

is responsible for Digital Storytelling at clicktext, the South Tyrolean agency for corporate content and blogger of “Geschichten im Kopf [Stories on my mind]”. Making use of every one of her senses to experience the world, she can tell us all about it in words, stories and images.

The Italian version of this text is the work of our translation wizard Serena Schiavolin, responsible for Italian content at clicktext, who brings a typical Italian touch to our stories!