There have been a lot of inquiries as to how I got into cooking. Now, I do have to say, cooking wasn’t my first choice of professions.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in teaching and had all intentions of teaching physical education and coaching skiing and baseball. I had done one of my co-op jobs at one of the three junior highs in my home town and was offered a job to begin as soon as the current teacher retired after the following year. During the summers, I helped run a sports camp for children ages 7 to 15. The school district told me the job would be mine if I would substitute for the year while waiting for the teacher to retire.
We made a deal where I would substitute during the fall and spring and would take the winter off be a ski bum up in Stowe, Vt. That first year, I bused tables two days, was a houseman two days and a bellhop two days. When the teacher didn’t retire, it was decided I would do the same routine for one more year. Once winter ended, it was back to Boston and subbing for the spring.
The following fall, once again, the teacher didn’t retire and I went up to Stowe for the third winter. A friend talked me into working at a small Austrian inn. It was run by a husband and wife: Dietmar cooked while Trudy ran the inn. When the teacher again didn’t retire, I pretty much told the office I would love the job and to call me once he did.
I worked year-round for Dietmar and Trudy doing whatever needed to be done. We had a staff of only four, so we all waited tables, did dishes and helped with prep. I also took care of the lawn, painted the building inside and out and did just about anything that needed to be done. Dietmar and Trudy were truly like my family away from home.
In the kitchen, Dietmar did all the cooking and wasn’t into answering a lot of questions, so I just watched him like a hawk. I watched how he held the knife and after a little experimenting, I could pretty much dust him in cutting veggies. He saw how much I was learning by watching and started teaching me. There was one guy, Byron, on our staff who went to Johnson and Whales University and he was allowed to cook breakfast, but I think I was the first one Dietmar ever let cook dinner. He was the person responsible for getting me into the apprenticeship program under Anton Flory. They were good friends and he talked me into applying for the position. And, he got Anton to accept my application over the 34 people on the list that were ahead of me to apprentice under him. Anton’s daughter, Katrine, also worked at the inn, which I’m sure didn’t hurt my situation.
In 1982, I started the three-year program, but was given credit for one year because of how much I had learned under Dietmar. Under Anton, I worked every station of the kitchen, but also did an extra six-month baking program and learned to carve ice. I honestly cannot think of any better way to learn to cook than how Anton and Dietmar taught me. They were awesome and so, in their honor, here’s an Austrian dish.
4 pork (chicken or veal) cutlets, tenderloin or loin, pounded thin
¾ pound mushrooms, sliced
1/8 C burgundy or red wine
¼ C heavy cream
1 T demi (if available) or 4 T beef stock or consume
2 T oil
4 T butter
3 T flour
Salt & pepper
Season the pork or veal with salt and pepper. Dredge the meat in the flour. Get the oil hot in a heavy sauté pan and add half the butter. Sauté the pork until golden, flip and place in a 350-degree oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove meat to a plate and put the pan on a burner.
Use that pan to sauté the mushrooms in the remainder of the butter. Add the wine and let reduce until just a little liquid remains. Add the demi and bring to a low boil. Add the cream and return to a low boil.
Put the meat back in, turn down to a simmer and let the sauce thicken for maybe a minute or two.