Sunday, April 30, 2006

Where I Cooked

I started out cooking after high school in with sort of an internship for about six months in "Der Rosenhof" in Ahrensburg, near Hamburg in Germany.

Then, in August 1982, I started my formal 3-year apprenticeship as chef also in "Der Rosenhof", but in a different location: Grosshansdorf. Grosshansdorf is where I lived since birth. It is about 45 minutes form Hamburg with the subway line U1.

After finishing my apprenticeship with just barely good enough grades, I got a job as "commis de cuisine" with the 5-star Hotel Palace in the Europa Center in Berlin. I stayed with them for a total of two years. In my first year I was working for the Cafe-Restaurant "Tiffanys". For the second year I was lucky enough to work with a fantastic crew under Chef Uwe Bressem in their fine dining restaurant "La Reserve" - now re-located and re-named to "First Floor.

After that I bounced around Berlin a bit in smaller places not all of which I can even recall. This was largely to kill time (and yes, make money) until I got a job abroad.

In February 1988 I got a job with the 5-star Hotel International in Basel (now part if the Radisson SAS chain of hotels), Switzerland. During my time it was privately owned and most expertly managed by Rolf and Ines Gasteyger. I cooked under Chef Othmar Mueller and learned in my one year there probably more than anywhere else.

It is also here in Basel at the Hotel International where I first met my now wife Esther.

At the end of my contract there I had a job lined up with the Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. However, due to personal circumstances I had to stay in Germany for some time still. Threfore I got a job with the 4-star Hotel Mondial in Berlin for six months.

The people at the Stonehedge Inn were nice and understanding enough to hold my job and the work permit that went along with it and in November 1989 I finally moved to Tyngsboro in Massachusetts. Actually I lived in Nashua, New Hampshire, but close enough.

Esther joined me at the Stonehedge Inn in 1990, and in January 1991 we moved back to Switzerland.

I found a great job with the historic 5-star Hotel "Grand Hotel National" in Lucerne. In the late 1800's Caesar Ritz was the general manager of the hotel and Auguste Escoffier the head chef. Now that is some pretty Ritzy history (sorry! I could not resist...).

Back then the easiest work permit for a foreign chef in Switzerland to obtain was a "seasonal" permit. It was good for a maximum of nine months and at the end of it I left the National.

I did return to Lucerne three months later to work at the hotel almost next door to the National: the almost equally history 5-star Hotel Palace.

Again, nine months later my permit was up and I left Lucerne for good. While in Lucerne I applied with the Canadian Government for a permanent resident visa. Not that I had planned to live in Canada forever, it just seemed the most practical permit to get since I really did not know where in Canada I wanted to go and for how long I wanted to stay.

Now before you go seething and thinking that I just can't seem to be able to hold down a job very long, it is quite expected for a young chef to move around a lot to learn different ways.

April 1, 1993 I arrived in Vancouver, BC and officially became Landed Immigrant in Canada. Before I arrived I had a job with the Four Seasons Hotel here in Vancouver. I stayed with them for about a year before opening The Black Dog Billiard Cafe in New Westminster with my friend Peter Sturm. Peter is a fellow chef whom I have met at the Four Seasons.

The Black Dog adventure lasted 5 years and with the conclusion of it, so concluded my professional cooking career.

In case you were wondering... Esther and I obviously stayed together during these "wandering years" and we eventually got married on July 1, 2004.