In this cookbook and travel autobiography, Chef Wolfgang Hanau shares his memories of growing up in East Prussia and his many adventures as a chef, working at world-class hotels – and even a cruise ship – throughout Europe and America. His memoir takes up the first 124 pages of the book; treasured recipes from his mother and grandmother, and from his restaurant and hotel experiences, make up the rest.
Hanau’s narrative is friendly, overlaid with his strong religious faith, and joie de vivre. However, his upbeat approach often leaves much unsaid that might have added emotional depth to his story. Instead, he moves from one event to another with a clichéd nod and a shrug: “Help came in the shape of an experienced Swiss boatman, who steered us to a safe harbor. Safe at last! ” Likewise, the autobiography often reads like an extended thank you note to co-workers and mentors or people he befriended in his travels: “I was made very welcome at the Park Lane Hotel, where Mr. Gerald Parker was the general manager…’’
The cookbook, which provides the bulk of the volume, offers solid choices. Hanau’s recipes— from his travels all over the world—run the gamut from Oma’s Warm German Potato Salad to Apricot-Glazed Mushrooms over Mixed Baby Greens to It’s the Berries Tacos. The recipes use easy-to-find ingredients, including brand-name products like Bigelow tea or bottled sauces that make the recipes easily accessible for home cooks. Although the cookbook isn’t organized by nationalities or food categories (appetizers, entrees, etc.), it’s fun to explore, and readers can always consult the index, which makes it easy to locate a particular food type.
The chef plans a sequel to this volume, and despite the narrative’s shortcomings, the combination of cookbook and adventures works well. The autobiography gives some insight into the chef’s personality, allowing readers to feel as if they’re in the kitchen with a trusted friend.
Also available in hardcover