Job-related areas of expertise, fly fishing, hunting, volunteering for the fire brigade, travel, adventure, good food, flying, motor sports (rally driving)
What do you get up to while you're abroad? Can you describe a "normal" day when you're on your travels?
I mostly travel for my job as a pastry chef, which means I have to be an "early bird" and a "night owl" at the same time. In other words, I need to start very early to prepare for lunch, then I only get a short break before moving on to preparations for evening service. This means my working day varies in length.
However, when I am travelling for pleasure, I enjoy the day. But most of the time you'll find me undertaking a placement at a top company, so I try to get to know the country while I'm there.
What has been your most exciting travel experience?
It's always exciting when you're travelling from one place to another. But Bangkok 2010 was definitely a fun experience. Leaving behind temperatures of -14 degrees during the European winter, I flew from Frankfurt am Main and arrived to temperatures over 30 degrees in a very muggy Bangkok. I was in the city for a placement at the Banyan Tree. A dear friend came to visit me unexpectedly, having found out from my father that I was in Bangkok. I had no idea that he would be visiting me until he was standing in front of me in the restaurant. Of course, I was very surprised.
Mexico in 2012 was also great. I working in a top restaurant in Mexico City, and one of my former bosses (Eckart Witzigmann) came over to cook for an event. The restaurant owner gave him a tour of the kitchen and introduced him to us. When my former boss spotted me, the owner was suddenly sidelined and he wanted me to show him the kitchen.
What is the biggest challenge or project that you have mastered, especially in relation to strict deadlines?
I would definitely say the biggest challenge was in 2016, when as Head Pastry Chef and Baker, I helped a hotelier's family to establish and open Hotel Lemongarden on the island of Brac in Croatia. It is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen and is run with so much passion and kindness. We employees were part of the family. When I visited the hotel at Easter, it was still a complete building site. The kitchen was practically non-existent. "We're opening in the summer," said the manager, and I jokingly said: "Yes — summer 2018." Fortunately, the manager's husband had a background in construction and was well-informed in such matters. And everything went well, really well. It was incredibly exciting because everything had to be ordered from scratch, from the crockery to the food.
On the morning of opening day, pallets were still lying about the yard but at midday, the guests were sitting in the sun. We continued to be on edge until our products arrived. In such situations, you experience the Mediterranean lifestyle and Croat mentality. They take things a lot more slowly than we do and you adapt to this way of life very quickly.
To be the first person to turn the oven on and remove the protective film from the patisserie products is a fine thing.
And when it was established that the space in the kitchen had been designed incorrectly, the boss just said, "Please redesign it so it'll work and we'll build around it" (the project had been planned for years and extended — the new patisserie section was then remodelled). The family put a great deal of trust in me.
What has been your most creative excuse/apology for arriving late to a meeting or event?
Fortunately, I have never needed to have a good excuse because the importance of being super-punctual has been drummed into me. I've only ever been in a bit of a tight spot once: In 2012, I was summoned to Vorarlberg to the training camp for the national youth team of Köche Österreichs (Austria's professional association of chefs) who, by the way, were awarded silver at the Culinary Olympics.
During the training session, we ran out of glucose powder and isomalt sugar substitute and one of our trainers, who was Chef de Cuisine in Hohenems, called his pastry chef and asked him to pack up one lot of glucose and one lot of isomalt in vacuum pouches for me. I went to pick up the pouches, both weighing approximately 1 kg, from the pastry chef and placed them on the passenger seat. They were not labelled and were undeclared because a professional would recognise the content from its granulation. It was late in the afternoon, dusk, and suddenly I ended up at a police check. Straight away, I was afraid that the police might think the bag contained drugs and that I would be banged up. The first inspector shone his torch into the car, spotted the pouches and said: "Right young man, get out, inspection, against the car". The police dog was already on its way. Inevitably, I couldn't help shaking my head and found it impossible to suppress a grin. Then the second policeman asked me what was in the pouches. Then I explained the situation to him, that we had run out of glucose powder and isomalt during a training session and that the trainer's pastry chef had helped us out. Po-faced and deadpan, the first policeman said that my excuse didn't wash because anyone could say the same thing. But fortunately the second inspector showed a bit more understanding and accepted my suggestion that they allow me to taste both powders. Straight away, they both saw how some of the powder stuck to my finger (which is normal for glucose when it gets wet), meaning there was no way this could be drugs. Jokingly, I advised them not to sniff the powder as it would stick to the inside of their nose. It suddenly turned out that the friendly policeman was a trained confectioner. We had a chat and began to talk shop until his fierce colleague split us up. So an unpleasant inspection turned into a very nice chat. And after about 30 minutes' downtime, the training could finally continue in the evening.
Another gaffe comes to mind: It was 2015 and I was with several people on the way to the Formula 1 in Texas for a large caterer. We had to change planes in Paris and I was on my way to the next gate with two other colleagues. They were both supposed to know the way because they said they'd been there before. So we dashed off the plane, got straight on the shuttle bus, sped over to the other gate and were just about to check in when all of a sudden one of our mobile phones rang. One of our other colleagues was asking us where we were because the connecting flight was waiting for us. Horrified, we realised that our departure gate was only two gates away from the gate at which we had arrived. The other two had made a mistake because the previous year, they had gone to Texas and had had to catch the shuttle bus to get to the other gate. But the problem now was that our time window was shrinking and we were supposed to be sitting on the plane to Houston. Our colleagues somehow managed to hold the plane. As we three "experts" finally got on the plane, we were greeted like superstars.
Going to Mexico, work equipment in tow, was rather entertaining too: my knives, etc. were tightly sealed in a three-compartment tool box. Each compartment was locked separately and everything was sealed with lashing straps. Inspections are usually just carried out at random when you arrive there, but obviously when someone like me comes through with five cases, obviously they'll be checked. I had to open the toolbox, so I started with the first compartment that contained the whisk and some other equipment. I had to explain to the customs official straight away that I was travelling on business as a pastry chef. We went through the same rigmarole with the second compartment. Again I offered the same explanation, that I was travelling on business as a pastry chef. Then I asked him whether he would like to see the third compartment too and he replied "No, you're here on business after all!" Oh well, different countries, different…
Do you have a secret for dealing with jet lag? How do you cope with stress?
Jet lag, what's that? I think I must have good genes because I have never had any real problems with jet lag. I can sleep anywhere, even in the smallest of places — when I'm asleep, I'm out for the count.
I've been resistant to stress ever since my dancing days. When I was younger, I took part in competitive dancing seriously for years, and played ice hockey too. A great deal of excellent extra training sessions for the volunteer fire brigade have also helped me to be better able to deal with stressful situations. My teacher at secondary school once said that I would suit the nickname Baloo because I was completely unflappable — contentedness personified. There really does need to be a lot going on and things needs to get really stressful before anyone would notice anything change. If I do happen to be under stress, nobody really notices. This never ceases to amaze my counterparts and colleagues.