Interview with Certified Master Chef Hartmut W. Kuntze
When I received an email from Chef Hartmut, I was thrilled. A Certified Master Chef sending me his recipe for perfect mashed potatoes…what a great way to learn. Now as some of you may know, I have my own recipe for mashed potatoes that is good, but very simple and does not look at it from a trained professional. I learned more from Master Chef’s Kuntze’s recipe for mashed potatoes than from all the cookbooks I’ve ever read. If you like mashed potatoes you will love this recipe.
I then asked Chef to do my Novice to Pro interview. Below are his reponses that include some wonderful tips for home cooks like us. Enjoy, RG
Master Chef, did you cook growing up?
Yes, with a passion. My mother was capable of burning water but my grandmother was a great cook. Simple but great food, prepared with love.
What made you decide you would become a professional cook?
A family friend was a chef in a fancy hotel and touted the virtues of the profession. When I graduated school and it was time to pursue a profession, I knew what I wanted. You have to follow your heart, although some people say to never make your hobby your profession cause you learn to hate it. I think that is poppycock. Over 70% of your life is spent working. Might as well be something you love.
Where were you trained and how difficult was your training?
Yes. It was a traditional three year apprenticeship in Germany in the sixties and it was grueling. My first day on the job I was in tears and ready to leave. I couldn’t because the alternative would have been worse, having to face my father who wanted me to become an engineer like him and work in his business. I am still glad I held on. Ten years after that I went for master chef training in Germany and graduated in 1976.
Would you do it again?
Yes, I would in a heartbeat, however I would try to be less of a smart ass during my formative years, learning more sooner, rather than later in life. The old saying ” A little Knowledge is Dangerous” is absolutely correct. When you are young, you are invincible and dangerous, not realizing how little you really know.
Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?
Learn methods instead of recipes. Perfect the basics. In other words, become a craftsman before you become an artist. Apply skills before being creative. The same advice I would give to aspiring professionals too. And remember, food usually doesn’t bite back.
Best cooking tip for a novice?
Keep it simple and use the freshest and most flavorful ingredients you can get. Don’t forget basic sanitation.
The computer. For gathering, storing and organizing information. The internet has put the knowledge of the world at our fingertips.
Funniest kitchen incident?
There are so many of them, it’s hard to pick just one. From being told to dry sauerkraut on a clothesline in the kitchen to when an apprentice rubbed down the metal surfaces of a freshly koshered kitchen with bacon rind to prevent them from rusting again and was caught by the rabbi. And then there was the incident when all the live trout died in the tank because we apprentices were told for the trout to be cooked “bleue” they had to be kept in blue water, and so on and so forth.
Favorite food to cook with?
When at home, what do you like to eat? Sandwiches made with home baked breads, like focaccia, grilled pesto chicken breast, roasted peppers and aiioli.
Your favorite cookbook?
Le Guide Culinaire by A. Escoffier.
Thanks for the interview