Das Cookbook: Rediscovering My Childhood Cuisine

It has been seventeen years since I wrote my first cookbook, and a lot has changed since then. I traded in the chef’s whites of the high-end restaurant I owned, operated, and cooked in for twenty-three years for the civvies of a startup entrepreneur/baker. The food scene has moved from formal kitchens helmed by classically trained chefs to food trucks and pop-ups headed by unconventional culinary wizards. And once-exotic foods like kimchee and purslane are now mainstream.

Yet despite the increasing adventurousness and sophistication of the American palate, what strikes me is that German food in the United States is still misunderstood and undervalued. My publisher confirmed as much—of the many hundreds of cookbooks published each year, ones showcasing German cuisine are rare, even though Germany claims a disproportionately high number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including eleven three-stars, second only to France in Europe. And in the twenty-nine years I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I can count on one hand the number of German restaurants I’ve been to.

My hope with this book is to make German food more relatable, more approachable, and more integrated into your everyday cooking. As you will see, the recipes are meant for the home cook, and they’re designed to be shared. All of these dishes mean something to me—whether it’s the spätzle on the cover (the first thing I learned to make, at the age of twelve, while helping out in my parent’s restaurant), or the goulash that goes so well with it (my father, a butcher, made goulash every Sunday on his day off), or the desserts (which, as the owner of a large wholesale and retail bakery, are my current obsession).

I never set out to be a crusader for German food. As I built my career as a chef in L.A., I just realized that I’d become homesick for the wealth of tastes, techniques, and flavors from my home country, and I could contribute some of that wealth to the Southern California food scene. Nothing would make me happier than the calls I’d get every spring from newly converted white asparagus lovers wondering when we were starting our white asparagus menu. Or the grateful letters I’d receive during the holidays thanking me for making authentic Christstollen. Or the many requests I still get every day from chefs, hotels, and cafés begging for our pretzel recipe.

I realize that I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to discover new foods, cultures, and traditions in Los Angeles. What better city to learn about Mexican food, Korean barbecue, and matzo brei? What’s dawning on me now—after nearly thirty years of cooking and eating in this great city—is how wonderful it has also been to rediscover the food of my German childhood. My hope is that you’ll join me on this journey.