Interview with Tom Hillenbrand, writer and enthusiastic amateur chef or how a series of crime novels and a love of Luxembourg cuisine emerged from an internship.

Who does not know him? Xavier Kieffer, the Luxembourg chef who is always involved in crimes in the gastronomic milieu and then takes the investigation into his own hands from his small restaurant in Luxembourg's lower town... We talked to Tom Hillenbrand, the author of these food thrillers, and asked him which Luxembourgish dish and in particular, local wine, is definitely "worth a sin" for him. Read all about it!

The author - a brief introduction

Tom Hillenbrand was born in Hamburg in 1972. He studied European politics and completed a traineeship at Georg von Holtzbrinck School in Düsseldorf, which is known for its business journalism courses. After his studies, he worked for various publishers and was head of department at Spiegel Online until 2010.

© Dirk Guldner

An internship in Luxembourg in 1997 afforded him the opportunity to discover and love the city, country and its people. During this time, Tom Hillenbrand was working at the European Parliament on the Kirchberg and living in a room in the rue de Neudorf. He attended a summit of Heads of State an Government with Jean-Claude Juncker, Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac. In the evenings, he spent a lot of his time in the Clausen district.

To this day, he can still recall the unusual topography of the city and the unique mixture of international and local identity. His attachment to the country and its people has endured and is particularly evident in his crime series about the Luxembourg chef Xavier Kieffer and at home, privately, as an amateur chef.

Tom Hillenbrand mainly writes thrillers, as well as historical and science fiction novels. He lives and works in Munich. In 2018 he was appointed Knight of the Order of the Oak Leaf Crown of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. When he's in Luxembourg, he can mainly be found in the capital city. 

A former star chef becomes a detective

Xavier Kieffer, a former haute cuisine chef, is the star in Tom Hillenbrand's crime novels in and around Luxembourg.

The chef, who turned his back on gourmet cuisine, runs a small restaurant in Luxembourg's lower town. Instead of highly sophisticated star menus, he serves his guests delicious local specialties. Against his will, Xavier Kieffer is repeatedly implicated in a wide variety of crimes relating to the food market, restaurant critics or the gourmet scene, and then takes over the investigation himself.

Xavier Kieffer has solved six mysterious, unusual and exciting cases to date. The book titles Teufelsfrucht (Devil's fruit), Rotes Gold (Red Gold), Letzte Ernte (Final Harvest), Tödliche Oliven (Deadly Olives), Gefährliche Empfehlungen (Precarious Recommendations) and Bittere Schokolade (Bitter Chocolate) are well published by Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag publishing house and available in bookshops and online in several languages.

Tom Hillenbrand is currently working on the seventh part of the culinary crime series with the cook-detective. The publication is scheduled for the end of 2021, so stay tuned.

Short and spicy: Tom Hillenbrand on Huesenziwwi (rabbit stew) and Luxembourg wine.

During his EU internship, Tom Hillenbrand mainly enjoyed international canteen food. He first sampled a Luxembourg dish at a market stall: there were Gromperekichelcher (potato pancakes).

Which Luxembourg dish was a real discovery for you?

Huesenziwwi, or rabbit stew. I'd never tried it before.

Did you drink any Luxembourg wine with it?

Maybe. I'm afraid that at 25, you drink almost everything you're served. Later I tried everything systematically and then realised what a variety of wines are available in Luxembourg.

What do you associate most with Luxembourg wine?

Many fond memories of evenings in a restaurant.

What is your favourite local wine and/or Crémant?

I've always been particularly fond of the Auxerrois, also because you don't really find that variety in Germany.

Do you sometimes cook 'Luxembourgish'?

I'd like to more often, but my children would have to go along with me. But I don't have to offer them Huesenziwwi, and they also tend to be suspicious of Judd mat Gaardebounen (cured pork neck with broad beans and potatoes).

What do you spontaneously think when you hear the  following:

  • 'Miseler Wéngchen' (small Moselle wine) - Preferably daily!
  • 'Frell am Riesling' (trout in Riesling sauce) – Time to cook it again.
  • 'Fierderwäissen' (freshly made wine) – Onion tart.
  • 'Miseler Friture' (small baked Moselle fish) – The best finger food!
  • 'Kippchen' (glass of Crémant) – No party without it.
  • 'Drauwelies' (grape harves) – Hopefully the harvest was good.
  • 'Fierkelsjelli' (piglet in jelly) – Not my cup of tea.
© Domaines Vinsmoselle / Mike Zenari
© David Marcus