Oxalis chef wants each plate to ‘tell a story’

Andi Preuss draws on a childhood in Germany to create an ‘intimate kitchen'

4 min read
Man in a green shirt and beige apron stands in a kitchen smiling.
caption Andi Preuss stands in the kitchen at Oxalis Restaurant in Dartmouth.
Raeesa Alibhai

As a child, Andi Preuss spent his summers foraging mushrooms in his grandfather’s garden — together they harvested cucumbers and he helped his grandmother prepare potatoes. Every night ended in the same way: with a warm meal.

By the time Preuss interned at a steakhouse in Berlin at age 14, he realized “this was meant to be.”

Preuss is the executive chef at Oxalis Restaurant in Dartmouth. Oxalis was named Halifax’s best restaurant in HRM at the 2024 Nova Scotia Restaurant Awards Gala.

Today, Preuss’s love for cooking is as strong as it was when he started his apprenticeship in Saxony, Germany.

“I think I was peeling potatoes for 12 hours straight. My hands started bleeding and everything,” he said. “But in the end, I never lost the passion of cooking.”

Later, he worked in the restaurant of a hotel in Austria whose executive chef’s vision he describes as “Gordon Ramsay style.”

“He was standing in front of the kitchen and shouting … kind of military style,” he said. Preuss said the work felt robotic.

Instead, he wanted to work in fine dining —  in an “intimate kitchen” — a phrase he uses to describe Oxalis today. The space is small but reminds him of his memories dining as a child.

“I want the guests to come to us and dine with us not as guests, I want them to be like friends and family,” he said, adding the restaurant aims to be  “like a little living room.”

Before Oxalis, Preuss worked at the highly regarded Trout Point Lodge. Like his job today, he appreciated the intimacy of their kitchen and the fact that he could often speak with guests.

Cassidy MacNeil, who dined at Oxalis with her uncle, said she enjoyed the restaurant not only for the food but the ambience.

“It was not too loud, not too rowdy,” she said. “You can see people in the kitchen which was really cool.”

Success and sacrifice

Preuss says he loved soccer and volleyball as a child. However, with his current restaurant duties, he has had to give up playing time. Still, he tries to bring that ethos to his kitchen.

“I love team sports,” he said. ”Working in teams in a kitchen is very important for me,” adding that when he hires staff, he looks for passion.

“We want to be one of the best restaurants in the province,” he said.

Preuss said a key ingredient in accomplishing that goal is having a team with the same values of hard work and ambition.

Ariana Rodriguez, the sous-chef at Oxalis, said Preuss has a collaborative work style that is uncommon at other restaurants.

She said he wants the entire staff to feel they contribute to the direction of the kitchen. “He wants everybody to be involved.”

Food as narrative

Preuss says he aims to “tell a story” with the restaurant’s dishes. “If something is beautiful, but it tastes not good, then it’s not worth it,” he said.

He gave the example of a dessert on the menu – a chocolate ganache with trees made of sugar wrapped around the centre. “You’re basically eating little forests.” For a seafood dish, he uses seaweed or micro-greens to create the feeling of eating next to an ocean.

Man in a green shirt prepares a chocolate ganache dessert.
caption Andi Preuss prepares a chocolate ganache dessert.
Raeesa Alibhai

Rodriguez says Preuss “has big expectations” for his dishes.”

It’s a goal Preuss achieves, MacNeil says, calling the presentation “phenomenal.”

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About the author

Raeesa Alibhai

Originally from Toronto, Raeesa Alibhai is in her fourth-year of the Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) Program at King's. She is fond of all forms...

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