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What's new in Germany?


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The Brits, Spanish and French dominate any news we get about what's happening in Europe. But surely there must be interesting things going on in the continent's biggest country.

What's making news? Are there any particular German trends? Is there a celebrity chef culture? What's going on?

Malcolm Jolley

Gremolata.com

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What's making news? Are there any particular German trends? Is there a celebrity chef culture? What's going on?

Two things I've picked up on recently (whilst sitting in the UK dreaming of my next visit to Cologne or Nuremberg or Munich or Berlin or....):

Concerns in Germany regarding the amount of cooking going on "in the home" (or more precisely the lack thereof), particularly as articulated by Johann Lafer (someone who definitely fits into the category of celebrity chef!). He seemed particularly depressed by shows of hands he has done with audiences after filming which indicate how few people prepare fresh food regularly, and surveys seem to back him up.

A fascinating article in the online English edition of Spiegel (5/4/2006) which was moaning about poor customer service in Germany.

Both of these interested me as I thought these were issues which we suffered from in the UK but I hadn't seen any signs of in Germany. In particular I couldn't reconcile the article about poor service with any of the experiences I've had in Germany (and I've been visiting for about 25 years now). I don't think I'm more tolerant in a foreign country but would be interested to know if those based in Germany think this is a problem.

As far as celebrity chefs go, other than Johann Lafer I would suggest Tim Mälzer is the other "main" one (he's a friend of the UK Celeb chef Jamie Oliver). Most of the other chefs seem to appear mostly on TV in their particular region - Vincent Klink of the Michelin starred Restaurant Wielandshöhe near Stuttgart is a regular although I did see Harald Wohlfahrt of the Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn on the other night (as he managed to cut himself rather than the lamb he was trying to carve he might be thinking of sticking to his day job - at which he's rather good!).

edited to correct spelling

Edited by Stephen W (log)
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Interesting question, malcomjolley.

Along the same lines, I wonder if anyone can comment on cookbooks published in German (from Germany, Switzerland or Austria). Are there serious, newer books that might include regional cooking and/or baking from the German-speaking countries for instance? Do celebrity chef's or well-known restaurant chefs have cookbooks?

I have done some browsing on German Amazon but a perspective from someone living in one of these countries would be great.

edited to add: Thanks for the links and information, Stephen W.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Do celebrity chef's or well-known restaurant chefs have cookbooks?

Most of the top chefs seem to have at least one book - a quick trawl of Amazon.de shows books for Harald Wohlfahrt, Dieter Müller, Heinz Winkler, Christian Bau and Jean-Claude Bourgueil (5 of the 7 chefs with 3 Michelin stars).

"The-Best-Chefs.com" has a publications section on each Chef's page listing some of their books.

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Germany is a big country - it does have a lively food culture but sometimes you have to dig a little to find it, especially if you are approaching from the outside.

It's all really a bit like German wine - they produce some of the best whites in the world and it is hard to source complex wines with a capacity to age like their best rieslings at an equivalent price. You need to know that these are kept for home consumption and may need some work if you want to track them down.

I'm not sure whether Germans want to keep the better things for themselves or whether they just think that nobody else would be interested. Maybe it's just a large country syndrome.

As if by way of confirmation of hidden treasures, they also have some outstanding contemporary food writer and some have already been mentioned. The best has to be Wolfram Siebeck who usually writes for Die Ziet but see also amazon.de for his books (I hope). He is well informed, stylish, consistent and writes with an attention to detail that make his columns so valuable. He can also be opinionated, tetchy and, where he thinks it is justified, blunt. He never hesitates to puncture pretension wherever he finds it. All of these together make him very readable but he always writes in German. His topics however deal with food generally and his reviews of restaurants outside Germany are always worth keeping - he recent views on London restaurants can be found in translation via links elsewhere on this site. This apart, I think some of his books have been published in French but they are really worth translating for a wider audience.

Like many of the better things in life, you need to do a little work to find them.

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To quote "Kerriar": ... I'm not sure whether Germans want to keep the better things for themselves or whether they just think that nobody else would be interested. Maybe it's just a large country syndrome...."

You are very close ( I am German )

* Example: A fence around everyone's House/Home.

* The usual answer to many questions: " Das geht niemanden was an " -- No ones business.

* The male 'Breadwinner's' refusal to let his wife know how much he earns an hour, etc.

* Keeping to oneself is traditional -- English speaking eGullet readers might be a bit apprehensive reporting anything in/for/of their country.

* Just to think of possible embarrasment, because they may be found wrong when posting and can't stand being corrected.

This is the reason why I quite often finish my posting with:

"As always, I stand corrected"

Peter
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  • 3 weeks later...
It's all really a bit like German wine - they produce some of the best whites in the world and it is hard to source complex wines with a capacity to age like their best rieslings at an equivalent price. You need to know that these are kept for home consumption and may need some work if you want to track them down.

I'm not sure whether Germans want to keep the better things for themselves or whether they just think that nobody else would be interested. Maybe it's just a large country syndrome.

Like many of the better things in life, you need to do a little work to find them.

You are absolutely right. Because of the past experiances in sharing all goodies with everybody and his brother ended up in tremendious profiteering and insult to regional taste. For instance good Moselwine had risen more than four times the price value since an US lawyer was possibly pushed to discover German whites and to publish the results in a magazine. Sometimes you aren't be able to buy those wines because they are sold out for export. Many German cooks were influenced by French cooking styles to satisfy their client's asks for imported recipes. Some times the regional kitchen had lost its character and you might find more ethnik restaurants around than German ones.

I don't think that nobody would be interested in good german cooking but we want to retain some regional treasures and traditions which we won't share widely any more. As you've said one need to do a little work to find them.

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just found this thread...so I'll try to give some "first hand" information straight from germany.

There are alot of germany "star chefs" at the moment, some very good ones, and some worse. Apart from Johann Lafer, who was a 2* chef before becoming a tv-cook, and the aggressive Vincent Klink (1*), who is constantly attacking the food industry and the corrupt farmer-lobby, there ist the more quiet 3*-cook Dieter Müller, who is already in his late 50s and has become some sort of media-star lately, after publishing an enormous cookbook - but he has no tv-show and stands in his restaurant-kitchen every night.

Apart from those celebrities there is a lot of talk about 2* chef Juan Amador, who cooks in the same experimental style as Adria and Blumenthal. His 6 course tasting menu is a 4-hour-dream...even though "6 courses" is a huge understament: the dessert alone, counted as one course, really consists of 3 courses. And before the menu itself starts there are 7 small amuses bouches, which he calls "tapas&snacks", and 7 incredible petit fours (which he calls "our little crazy things") afterwards...so all in all you get like 21-22 "courses"...

When it comes to critics and food writers there is the already mentioned Wolfram Siebeck, who is very influential since the 70s when he helped the german gourmet scene getting started through his writing. Though lately he has become more and more smug and polemic on his writing, he is still essential reading.

Then there is Jürgen Dollase, who has become very influential: a former rock musician who writes for the renowned Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and the "Feinschmecker Magazin". He has a very intellectual and analytical approach - sometimes it's very enervating, but noboby can describe a meal as detailed and precise as he does. He constantly tries to sensitize people for the nuances of a meal - he has even written a book called "Geschmacksschule" ("School of Tasting"), where he tries to visualize the succesions of taste in your mouth of, say, a spoonful of mashed potatoes and peas, through graphic curves...

Siebeck and Dollase, though very different in their approach, stand up for a more "local" cuisine. Several chefs, such as Vincent Klink, try to include local dishes in their menus. But it is still way too early to speak of an "avanced" local cuisine.

(to be continued...)

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Thanks, can't wait to hear the rest, kai-m.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Then there is Jürgen Dollase, who has become very influential: a former rock musician who writes for the renowned Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and the "Feinschmecker Magazin". He has a very intellectual and analytical approach - sometimes it's very enervating, but noboby can describe a meal as detailed and precise as he does. He constantly tries to sensitize people for the nuances of a meal - he has even written a book called "Geschmacksschule" ("School of Tasting"), where he tries to visualize the succesions of taste in your mouth of, say, a spoonful of mashed potatoes and peas, through graphic curves...

(to be continued...)

Did you read this book and have you made some dishes to verify his results? For instance for "Millefeuille von Ziegenkaese und Schinken" you need really very good EVOO and tasty lemons to come close.

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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Interesting question, malcomjolley.

Along the same lines, I wonder if anyone can comment on cookbooks published in German (from Germany, Switzerland or Austria).  Are there serious, newer books that might include regional cooking and/or baking from the German-speaking countries for instance?  Do celebrity chef's or well-known restaurant chefs have cookbooks?

I have done some browsing on German Amazon but a perspective from someone living in one of these countries would be great.

edited to add: Thanks for the links and information, Stephen W.

I have a number of cookbooks by "Graefe und Unzer" that I can recommend. You might be able to search for that under amazon.com.

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Regarding the cookbooks: there are countless german cookbooks available from german chefs - in fact, every half known chef has his own cookbook, let alone renowned ones like dieter müller, joachim wissler, harald wohlfahrt, harald rüssel oder jörg sackmann.

Many of them are pretty good, even though the recipes are pretty damn complicated most of the time. But none of them really features "typical german" recipes, as german chef are rather on the "french side" (though I have to say that american "upscale" chefs aren't very different in that regard, too...).

If you are looking for a book with dessert/baking recipes that include rather typical ones from germany and austria, I highly recommend "Süsse Verführungen" by legendary austrian born chef Eckart Witzigmann - a wonderful book with tons of rather easy to cook desserts and sweet/salty baking recipes, icluding typical austrian fare like "kaiserschmarrn", "palatschinken", "salzburger nockerln", "topfenknödel" or "Linzer Torte".

I love that book!

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A dozen years ago I toured Germany regularly in a VW Transporter with a false floor, under which I would pack cases of wine I'd picked up from the best wineries along the major rivers. They were so cheap that I bought what I liked, paying no attention to the little figues in the right-hand column. At the end of the trip, the average cost per bottle was usually well under five pounds. If I had behaved similarly in Bordeaux or Burgundy, a single journey would have required a second mortgage.

With the World Cup looming on the horizon, London's "quality" papers have suddenly discovered that Germany actually exists. The Guardians G2 recently devoted an entire issue to ironic columns by eminent German journalists.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Wolfang Puck is well known among people who are interested in food. Others know him only from pre-"oscar"-reports, where he is always interviewed about what he will cook for the stars this time...

Personally I have never eaten at one of his restaurants. But honestly, I don't know what to think of a chef who lends his name to a rather mediocre fast food chain. I would compare him to germanys Johann Lafer, another austrian born chef, who is extremely popular/famous in germany through his tv-shows. Once he was a michelin-2*-chef (still has 1*), now he does virtually everything that is offered to him to make a buck - though he has no fast food chain yet... but at least he is honest and doesn't call himself a "chef" anymore, but a "cooking entrepreneur".

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I think it is fair to say that Wolfgang Puck is no longer considered a European chef.  And why should he be?

Well, at least Puck can cook. Like many in the kitchen biz, you finally can't take the idea of working your butt off for years and ending up with no money. As a foreigner, Puck, by far has done the best with what he had to offer (Lagasse and Prudhomme and other Americans of a specific regional style are excempt here).

I know this, Puck would now be hard pressed to need to find Europe on a map; and he has to be one of the happiest persons on earth.

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2005/53/Q10O.html

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Still I find it very strange for a serious chef to jump on the fast-food-bandwagon - fast food being a, sad enough, typically american phenomenon that people like Puck should avert, not promote.

And regarding that forbes list: I didn't know that power and wealth equals happiness...

But we are getting off topic here, because as cmling pointed out: W.P. is not a european, let alone german chef.

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Still I find it very strange for a serious chef to jump on the fast-food-bandwagon - fast food being a, sad enough, typically american phenomenon that people like Puck should avert, not promote.

And regarding that forbes list: I didn't know that power and wealth equals happiness...

But we are getting off topic here, because as cmling pointed out: W.P. is not a european, let alone german chef.

Of course Puck is European, being an Austrian. Also, German can be used ethnically in the same way as the word "Anglo" - as any German well knows...

For those who are interested in an extensive listing of finer restaurants in Germany:

Restaurants in Deutschland

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Moderator note:

Let's please try to keep this discussion on topic, i.e. about new trends, chefs, etc. are big in Germany.

Discussion about Wolfgang Puck or if it is desirable for a top chef to go in the fast-food business are certainly pristine to the eGullet Society's forums, but neither to this thread or particular forum.

Thank you for your understanding.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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I hope that this fits within Albiston's frame of reference but readers of this thread might like to know that the inestimable Wolfgang Siebeck has recently made one of his rare forays into English in defence of German food (well, a somewhat moderated defence).

It's at Would you like cabbage with your dumplings? where after a brief run through some highlights, he concludes that "Yorkshire pudding and Bratkartoffeln are equally indigestible. Nevertheless, they should never be united on the same European plate."

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