After 27 years of holding our own Oktoberfest, I decided it was time for some of our team members to experience how it all began. And so our Executive Chef, Matt Reichel, and two Managers, Ted Rink and Tim Lucas set off on quite the fact finding adventure to Munich, Germany. My goal had two parts, to not only surprise my team members with an anniversary present, but to send them on a research mission. It proved to be a success as I was delighted with the knowledge and experience they returned with.
The first thing I was focused on was the food. How did it compare to ours, what did they do differently, what would you bring back to the Berghoff, etc? The first thing out of Chef Matt’s mouth -“I was impressed by how well we do things here at the Berghoff”. For any of you that know Chef Matt, a comment like this is rare, so I’ll take it and run with it! All three of the men agreed that many of the dishes were similar, but the overall difference is in Munich it’s all about the meat and starches. It’s rare to see vegetables or colors on the plates. Their sauerbraten (our 2nd biggest seller in the Restaurant) was more like a pot roast, a thicker and different cut of meat with plain brown gravy. Our sauerbraten is clearly a different cut of meat and with a much more flavorful sauce. Other differences include their spaetzle, duck (more of a peasant style there), sauerkraut (theirs was a bit more sweet), and creamed herring (they serve the entire fish). Our wiener schnitzel tastes the same but is a bit more colorful in its presentation. It is however important to note that much of it comes down to regional differences.
That is not to say that there weren’t dishes Germany did better, because there were and our chefs are already in the kitchen getting ready to add them to our winter menu! Among the top: liver stew, and a few vegetarian options – a dumpling dish with sautéed spinach and mac & cheese with spaetzle dish. The entire reason for joining together for a meal is what really stood out to me. In Germany people first get together around a table to visit, and secondly to eat. They tend to eat at home as a family much more than we do in the U.S. As a mother and a caterer, it is something that I have always strived to do, make meal time an experience and a family occasion.
It was quite a learning experience for my team as they saw the differences in Munich, the food, and their Oktoberfest as well as for me as they reported back. Stay tuned as I continue to showcase some of their experiences as well as what ideas and methods we plan on implementing at the Berghoff. Prost!