When it was time for Pastry Arts student (now graduate) Christina Siegl to go on externship, she looked across the Atlantic seeking a position abroad. Today Siegel remains in Germany, working as garde manger at the historic four-star Malteser Komturei Hotel Restaurant in Herrenstrunden. She tells about the best parts of living and working abroad, the wisdom of her Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts chefs, and how love, in addition to fine cuisine, keeps her in Deutschland.
Escoffier: How did you decide to go abroad?
Siegl: When I first started to think about an education in food I always knew I wanted to work abroad to learn different cuisines. Luckily for me I have dual citizenship with Germany and the United States. My father was living in Cologne at the time and said he found an externship location for me in Bensberg. It was very easy for me to decide that Germany was a good starting place.
Escoffier: What is your favorite part about working abroad?
Siegl: Being exposed to so many different cultures all in one place. At my restaurant alone we have Italian, German, Turkish, American, and Indian workers in the kitchen. I always love to have the opportunity to hear and learn bits and pieces of different languages.
Escoffier: Tell us about your entry role – your externship.
Siegl: For my externship I did four different stages at Schloss Bensberg: one with the night baker doing breads and pastries, one at Restaurant Vendôme working with Chef Joachim Wissler, one in the pastry kitchen making all of the desserts for the banquet events and the next door restaurant Trattoria Enoteca where I did my last stage.
Escoffier: What a great experience! You decided to stay; how did you get your current job?
Siegel: I decided to stay after the sous chef of Enoteca and I fell madly in love. The restaurant manager of Enoteca told me that a friend of his owned a restaurant and was in need of a chef as soon as possible, and that if I was interested he would take me for an interview the next day. Naturally, I said yes. The next day I had an interview, and the day after that I spent the day in the kitchen with the kitchen chef where I got to see how the restaurant operates. After this, I met with the restaurant owner and the kitchen chef and they offered me the position of chef garde manger at Malteser Komturei Hotel Restaurant in Herrenstrunden, Germany. I do à la carte lunch and dinner service as well as catering and banquet events. Basically I am in charge of all the starters and desserts for the restaurant. The cuisine is German with a Mediterranean influence.
Escoffier: What’s your favorite part about your job?
Siegl: My favorite part of my job is that I learn something new every day. My chef has told me that there are three ways to cook everything: the classic way, the fast way, and your own way. The more chefs you work with, the more tricks you pick up which you can integrate into your everyday work so you can figure your own way out – I get to work with three other chefs and go home to a chef every day.
Escoffier: How did school prepare you for your current role?
Siegl: School provided me with a good foundation to build off of. Doing a little bit of everything gives the ability to recognize how something you haven’t made before is similar to something you have. Working in the kitchen at school was good practice for the real world. The most important lesson I learned from Chef Amy was “Feet under you!” (Never stand with one foot out; someone will eventually trip on your feet if they’re not under you.) You have no idea important those three words are.
Escoffier: Any advice you can share with a soon-to-be graduate?
Siegl: Take in as much as you can from your chef instructors! School goes by much faster than you would think, so take advantage of the time you have with them. And keep an open mind; you can learn much more this way.