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
I was a student of Chef Kuntze in 1990. During the last major recession,special programs funded by the State of California were conducted to retrain unemployed workers in different professions.
After cooking classes, I was very fortunate to land a job with Chef Larry Vito @ a restaurant called Pier 33 in San Francisco.
Shortly after that I became an Employment Program Representative for the State of California.While there I was recruited, as an artist chef to cowrite and illustrate The Anioxidant Cookbook, published in 1995.
My fondness memories of Chef Kuntze include his love of Kentucky Fried chicken, and his discovering their magic recipe, thru his knowledgable taste buds. He rode a huge motorcycle to work and commuted from the East Bay. We share the same birthday. His job was to share the basics with his students, in a limited amount of time, and getting us working in professional kitchens.
My cooking career went into a different direction. I became the kitchen manager for 3 nonprofits in San Francisco.
I wrote a cookbook, had a very satisfying cooking career thanks to Chef Kuntze. I would like to be able to thank him. If you could share his email address I would appreciate it. Sincerely, Terri Chantrelle
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Terri, this interview was done so many years ago, I have lost touch with Chef Kuntze but maybe he will read it and respond to you directly. Thanks for all your stories about your experiences with him.
Terri: I Googled your name and a cookbook and this website popped up. I have been trying to reconnect with you for quite awhile. Congratulations on the cookbook. You were always a terrific cook and artist and I am very happy with your success. Nice to see things are going well for you. Good luck.