Becoming an experienced chef starts with culinary school, but then the real trip begins. You work in as many good places as you can to acquire professional experience with master chefs. If you're lucky, you go to Europe.
Of all the places I've worked, the one that most influenced me was the Intercontinental Hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. I learned a great deal about discipline, hard work and humility. I also learned about authentic German food. Not so much from working at the hotel, but from going to local restaurants and eating at friends' houses.
German food is heavy. I mean heart-stopping. Most of the local restaurants put big crocks of rendered pig fat, or schmaltz, on each table. The customers slather it on thick slices of rye bread then top it with camembert or muenster cheese. I would gaze at them and wonder how they lived so long.
These are not the dishes I remember fondly. My favorite is spaetzle — handmade, irregularly shaped dumplings eaten as a side dish, entree or spooned into soups and stews. They are soft and comforting. There is the basic version made of eggs, flour, milk and seasoning or more upscale versions that can include herbs, poppy seeds or everything from cheese to smoked salmon.
When added to soup, these dumplings plump up and soak up the flavor of the soup. Spaetzle are simple to make and will keep in the refrigerator five days, but I can never keep them around that long.
—By Chef Steve Petusevsky