Podcast Episode 19

How to Write Books About Food, Cocktails, and More: Chef and Food Historian Albert Schmid Shares His Secrets

Albert Schmid | 40 Minutes | October 26, 2021

In this episode, we speak with Chef Albert Schmid, a food historian, educator, and author who holds 13 certifications including Certified Executive Chef®, Certified Culinary Educator®, and Certified Cannabis Edibles Professional.

He received his Master of Arts in Gastronomy from University of Adelaide, has taught hospitality management at Sullivan University in Kentucky, and is currently a Chef Instructor at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Albert has authored a number of books including How to Drink Like a Spy, How to Drink Like a Mobster, The Beverage Manager’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits and many others.

He also spends time as a culinary consultant for companies that need help with cost control, menu development, and strategic planning.

Listen as we chat with Albert about his favorite cocktails, research process for writing books, cannabis cooking, consulting, and all things food.

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Notes & Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone. My name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode we’re speaking with Chef Albert Schmid, a food historian, educator, author, holder of 13 certifications including Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Educator, and Certified Cannabis Edibles Professional. He received his Master of Arts in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide and has taught hospitality management at Sullivan University in Kentucky. Most recently as a Chef Instructor at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Albert is also a culinary consultant helping companies with cost control, menu development and strategic planning. He has authored a number of books including How to Drink Like a Spy, How to Drink like a Mobster, The Beverage Manager’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits and many others.

Join us today as we chat with Albert about his favorite cocktails, cannabis cooking, culinary education, consulting, and all things food.

Welcome Albert! Thank you for chatting with me this morning. How are you?

Albert Schmid: My pleasure.

Kirk Bachmann: You doing good? Do you have bourbon close by? Be honest!

Albert Schmid: I do. Just so you know, I’m better than a farm fresh egg. I have a little bit of bourbon.

Rocking the Bow Tie

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. Can I tell you: I love the bow tie! For those who are going to be able to see. I can’t recall. I think we met early 2000s, 2002 maybe. IECP, both you and I had a long streak of IECP conferences. I thought, you know what? Not many people can rock the bow tie, not many like Albert. Where does that come from? Is that something your dad did?

Albert Schmid: A couple of things. Bow ties, I learned how to tie one when I was a little kid.

Kirk Bachmann: So that’s not a clip on!? That’s a real one.

Albert Schmid: It’s a real one. I can undo it at the end.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it.

Albert Schmid: The other thing is that I’ve found, when I’m traveling, bow ties are much easier to pack. So you don’t have to worry about them wrinkling or anything.

Kirk Bachmann: So it’s practical.

Albert Schmid: It was very much practical.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s part of the whole thing. I’m an author. I’m a chef. I’m a little sophisticated. I’ve got the bow tie. I absolutely love it.

How are you doing? Good to see you. It’s been some time. You’re on the East Coast these days, right? Living in Florida, right?

Albert Schmid: I am. In Florida. Tallahassee.

Kirk Bachmann: How’s everything with the weather, New Orleans and all of that? Is [Hurricane Ida?] touching you guys up there at all?

Albert Schmid: It came up. We thought that it might shift a little bit toward us. We might get the edge of it. We’re getting a little bit today, but it’s not too bad. Not like New Orleans.

Kirk Bachmann: Our thoughts are certainly with them. We have a number of Escoffier students in that area. I have one student in particular from our Boulder residential campus who actually went down to New Orleans to be with his grandfather and got stuck because the power when out. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in that area, for sure.

Albert Schmid: Absolutely.

Food DNA and Culinary Formation

Kirk Bachmann: Speaking of New Orleans, there’s some history there. Let’s go there. You’re originally from Texas.

Albert Schmid: Born in Austin, Texas.

Kirk Bachmann: Austin, Texas, one of my favorite towns, anther Escoffier campus, in Austin.

Albert Schmid: The Schmid family immigrated from Switzerland and settled in Texas. I have tons and tons of cousins that still live there. I’m talking first cousins, second cousins, third cousins.

Kirk Bachmann: Still in Switzerland, or Texas?

Albert Schmid: We have some in Switzerland, but we also have a lot in Texas.

Kirk Bachmann: I don’t know if we ever talked about that. The Bachmann family is all from Germany, but obviously I always assumed the Schmids were from Germany, but Switzerland originally.

Albert Schmid: Switzerland originally.

Kirk Bachmann: Food DNA, that’s where it’s coming from.

Albert Schmid: Right.

Kirk Bachmann: We’ll dig deep into where the bourbon comes from. Talk to me about New Orleans. What are some of your memories and your food thoughts about that. One of my favorite cities in the United States, particularly for food.

Albert Schmid: Oh, I agree with you. My father was a Presbyterian minister, so after he graduated from seminary in Austin, we moved to Louisiana – Lafayette at first and then to New Orleans. That was really where my culinary formation started, my awakening. You probably, at that time, would not have been able to convince me that beignets were not part of life everywhere.

Kirk Bachmann: Aren’t they still?

Albert Schmid: Oh my gosh. They’re wonderful!

Kirk Bachmann: Cafe Du Monde, right?

Albert Schmid: Absolutely.

Kirk Bachmann: You probably can’t see them, but I’ve got a couple of prints. One of pears back here. I’ve got some beautiful asparagus that I picked up right on the street – probably on Bourbon Street – in New Orleans. They’ve been with me for many, many years. It’s amazing how many conferences, particularly food related conferences over the years have been in New Orleans. Why not?

Albert Schmid: It’s a good place to hold a conference.

Kirk Bachmann: When’s the last time you were there?

Albert Schmid: Fairly recently, within the last two or three years. We just went for a weekend, went and stayed right on Canal Street right off Bourbon.

Kirk Bachmann: We’ll get into the books in just a second, but I was just thinking to myself: is there any connections between your love of spirits, bourbon in particular, and New Orleans, Bourbon Street and all that, or am I just making that up?

Albert Schmid: No. Actually, there is. The first time that I ever smelled bourbon was actually living in New Orleans. I went to elementary school down in the French Quarter. The school was located on St. Phillipe between Royale and Bourbon Street. Dad, as I mentioned, was a Presbyterian minister. His drink was bourbon. Every so often he would pull out a drink. Dad was really good about making sure that I tasted things. He cracked open my first oyster and handed it to me, showed me how to eat it. I was pretty used to just walking up and saying, “Hey, what are you eating? Can I have some?”

One day he had a glass of bourbon. He was sitting there smelling it. I said, “Can I have some?” And he said, “No, no, no. This is an adult drink. I’ll let you smell it.” So I got to smell it. I remember that whole conversation about there were certain things that I could have and certain things that I could not have. Even though I was willing to participate, he wasn’t going to let me. It was many years later that I ended up in Kentucky, which is Bourbon Central.

Kirk Bachmann: What a beautiful story! Every time you write about bourbon, or more important, sip bourbon, there’s that memory of Dad, right?

Albert Schmid: Absolutely.

Kirk Bachmann: I absolutely love that. I bet a lot of people have similar stories. For me, it could have been beer with my dad. Maybe Jagermeister. I absolutely love that.

Let’s fast forward a little bit today. I’m still tired from introducing you. You’ve done it all. Let’s stick with Kentucky. When did this all come about that not only did you have an appreciation for bourbon, but you started writing about it? Was it serendipitous that you ended up in Kentucky, or did that propel your love of the spirit?

Serendipity and a Book Deal

Albert Schmid: At the time, right before Kentucky, I was living in northwest Missouri in a small town, Maryville. I was the executive chef there at the university. I was offered a teaching position at Sullivan University. The significance of Louisville was the fact that it was about halfway between my parents and my wife’s parents. It was a good central point. My parents were living in the D.C. area at the time. We were traveling there for Christmas and we drove through Louisville. I remember waking her up and saying, “Hey, this is halfway. We could live here.” And she said, “What would you do?” I said, “Well, there’s a university here I could teach at.” I applied within the next month. Within three months, had a job.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s great. You pronounce it perfectly. My wife always corrects me. We live just east of Boulder, and there are two towns here, Lafayette and Louisville [“Lou-is-ville”]. It’s spelled exactly the same way, but she’s always reminding me that it’s “Lou-ih-ville.”

Albert Schmid: Lou-ih-ville.

Kirk Bachmann: You’re teaching in Kentucky at the university. I think I remember you once telling me the story of being a novice teacher at the time, many years ago.

Albert Schmid: Right. I was the junior member of the faculty. I was a full member of the faculty, but I was the most junior. We were without an administrative assistant. They said, “Since you’re the young guy, you get to answer the phone.” One day I picked up the phone, “National Center for Hospitality Studies,” and on the other line was somebody from Prentice Hall. They were trying to get ahold of one of the chef instructors because there was a book deal. I said, “Okay, I’m going to give you that information, but please hole on because I have a couple of questions.” And I just asked the question, “How can I get a book deal?”

Kirk Bachmann: Brilliant.

Albert Schmid: They were great! They coached me through it. They said, “Just send your proposal to this email address.” I did, and within a month had a contract.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s, what, 20 years ago?

Albert Schmid: That’d be about 20 years ago.

Kirk Bachmann: And at least ten books later, right?

Albert Schmid: Right!

Kirk Bachmann: Which was the first book?

Albert Schmid: It was this one right up here, The Hospitality Manager’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. First edition.

Kirk Bachmann: Brilliant. So a textbook.

Albert Schmid: A textbook.

Kirk Bachmann: We’ll talk more about career paths and such. I think it’s fascinating. Students will listen to the podcast, and there are other paths and journeys you can take. This is all fascinating to me.

What’s the advantage of writing a coffee table book versus a textbook that many, many, many schools may just purchase?

Albert Schmid: There is a big difference. Textbooks, they’re a little more technical to write. You have to be on point, and you’re going to get lots of reviews from professors. But as you pointed out, the potential for sales is greater. It’s a closed audience, and as long as you’re selling new copies of the book, you’re going to receive a royalty. This book put both of my kids through college.

Kirk Bachmann: Look at that. Congratulations! I love that. Who knew?

Albert Schmid: The other books – and I have switched away from textbooks to more coffee table books or cocktail books, or cookbooks – and those are not as lucrative, but they are a lot of fun to write. It gives you a good platform to do speaking and consulting and various other things.

Drink Like a Mobster, Spy, or Royal

Kirk Bachmann: It’s probably enjoyable to write anything if you have that passion, but I imagine writing How to Drink Like a Spy was probably a lot of fun.

Albert Schmid: That was a blast. I really enjoyed that. The funny part about that was that I got the contract for How to Drink like a Mobster. That was from my publisher. They called and said, “We were thinking maybe a book of how to drink like a mobster.” I said, “Great, I’ll do it.” So I signed the contract. By the time I finished the book, I had done the research for other cocktail books. I counter proposed, “How about Drink Like a Spy, Drink Like a Rock Star, and Drink Like a Royal?” So I moved one book into four books. They issued contracts and I was able to produce them fairly quickly because the research had already been done.

Kirk Bachmann: Walk us through that. I’m sorry, but I’m just fascinated by that. It’s got to be a book that includes the cocktails, right? It seems like it would be super, super natural for any James Bond movie I’ve ever watched. Shaken, not stirred. What’s the research? Is it research about what type of beverages mobsters were drinking back in the ‘20s and that sort of thing?

Albert Schmid: What I did was I put a bunch of cocktail books and flipped through them. If there was something that sounded mobster-ish. There’s a drink called The Godfather. That got included. Then there are certain others that were included because they were significant to something related to mobsters. Then I gave a little bit of history on certain very famous mobsters. Of course, Al Capone. But others that are less known.

I actually had a chef instructor who I worked with in North Carolina while I was writing that book who because a really good friend. I would call him. He was Italian, from New York. Some of the people he went to high school went ended up in a garbage collection company.

Kirk Bachmann: With an account in Sicily. I get it.

Albert Schmid: Absolutely. We would have discussions about that. I thanked him in the book for those discussions.

How to Drink Like a Spy: when my parents were in D.C., I had a conversation with my dad – this is great – he said, “You took the job.” And he would go and he would meet people at his church, go to their homes. He called me and said, “I think I have some spies in my congregation.” I said, “What are you talking about? Why would you think that?”

He said, “This is the first time that I’ve ever been to somebody’s house where I said, ‘What do you do?’ and they said, ‘I work for a government agency.’” He says, “Oh, what agency?” “I work for a government agency.” That’s all they would say.

So when I was writing that book, I actually contacted one of the people who worked for a government agency that knew my dad and said, “Would you write the foreword.” He said, “Absolutely.” I got a spy to actually write the foreword to the book.

Kirk Bachmann: No way. Wow!

While I’m listening to it, I’m thinking to myself. It’s got to be accurate when you’re talking about the beverages, but you’re also thinking about a plot and espionage and all of this.

So what about a movie deal. Is that next?

Albert Schmid: That’d be great!

Education’s Influence

Kirk Bachmann: We’re going to work on that. Let’s talk a little bit about your fascinating career. I’m not sure where this all tucks in. I’m going to say early 2000s, but before it was common to grab an education 100 percent online, you were earning your Master’s in Gastronomy, essentially the study of food, from the University of Adelaide through a relationship with the Cordon Bleu International. Is that correct?

Albert Schmid: That’s correct. The way that happened was – this is actually something really good for the students to hear – the International Association of Culinary Professionals at the time had a scholarship program. The scholarship program allowed a short course, a long course. I applied to do a week-long course at the Culinary Institute of America and did not get the scholarship. I persisted and applied again and applied for a scholarship for an 11-week course at Le Cordon Bleu International. Didn’t get the scholarship. Then I applied a third time and it was for the Master’s Degree in Gastronomy at the University of Adelaide. And I DID get that scholarship, and it was a full scholarship for a Master’s Degree. Of course, of those three, I would much rather have the Master’s Degree, so I was really glad I got that one. That’s how I ended up at Adelaide for the Master’s.

Kirk Bachmann: Fully online, back then. How long was that program?

Albert Schmid: It was 18 months if you did it full time, and I was teaching at the time. I did the first year full time, and then took another year to produce what I was supposed to produce in that last half year, which was the long paper which, down in Adelaide is called a dissertation. But in the United States it would be a thesis.

Kirk Bachmann: I absolutely love it. Fascinating resume. Fast forward. Is there an influence of the educator in you in all of the books that you write as well? Is that part of it?

Albert Schmid: Absolutely. Part of the reason why I ended up with wines and spirits: originally when I was asked to teach the class, I was handed a book and it was Grossman’s Guide to Wine, Spirits and Beers.

Kirk Bachmann: Big book.

Albert Schmid: It’s about that thick. While I was teaching the 11-week course, I would ask students, “Have you read this?” And they were like, “No.” It had 36 chapters and an alphabet of appendices. What I was thinking was that if I could shorten that, condense it or distill it down to what the students really needed to know. That’s how I ended up with that book.

The other books, the Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook came out of an IECP conference 2008 in New Orleans.

Kirk Bachmann: I was there. We were both there.

Albert Schmid: There was a dinner at the Dickie Brennan Bourbon House. They paired bourbon with food. It was a five course meal. At that point, I was of the opinion that spirits didn’t really go well with food, but they proved their point. I walked out and thought, “I wonder how chefs are using bourbon in food.” I called a bunch of friends and said, “Do you have a recipe that has bourbon in it?” They did, and they said, “Oh, no problem.” They gave me their recipes, and I developed other recipes and put this book together. The whole idea was to educate people on how to use bourbon in cooking. That’s true for the rest of the books, too.

The Ins and Outs of Bourbon

Kirk Bachmann: My wife would love this question – what makes it 100 percent without doubt Kentucky bourbon?

Albert Schmid: Kentucky bourbon? Okay.

Kirk Bachmann: Versus whiskey.

Albert Schmid: Bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky. 95 percent of it is, but it has to be made in the United States. There are actually several bourbons coming out of Texas. What does it take?

It has to be made from at least 51 percent corn. Absolutely. The other 49 percent usually some of that is corn. It can go 75 percent corn. That’s made into a beer or mash that’s distilled. Usually distilled twice. It has to come off the still at no more than 160 proof. It has to go into the barrel at no more than 125 proof. Barrel, that’s a container. The container has to be made from brand new white oak which is charred on the inside. As far as aging requirements: if it’s aged less than two years, you have to have an age statement on the label. It would say something like, “Aged 18 months in charred oak.”

Kirk Bachmann: I think bourbon sales are going to go up today. It’s all about knowledge. It’s such a beautiful gift to buy for someone. A bottle of whiskey, a bottle of bourbon. But it’s overwhelming when you walk into the liquor store. There’s a big price various, but how do I know that I get something that is special.

Albert Schmid: There’s some really great value to certain bourbons. One of the people that I used to work with at Sullivan University was Chef David Dodd. One time I brought him a bottle of gin, because he was a gin drinker. He responded, “Oh, Albert, you spent way too much. I like Gordon’s Gin.” Which is bottom shelf.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s the well.

Albert Schmid: It’s a fine bottle of gin. There are bourbons that are similar to that. They may not have the press or the PR, but they are still solid bourbons.

Kirk Bachmann: Made well. I love that. I want to come back to the pairing of food. I’d love an example, one or two. That’s fascinating to me. When we talk about building flavors, I’ll use a typical French. I’ve got the shallots in the pan and we’re going to deglaze that pan after we’ve seared whatever the product is and we’ve reduced that wine and it becomes syrupy. What about bourbon and that type of approach? Is it cooking off or is it reducing in a very similar way that maybe a beautiful pinot might?

Albert Schmid: Alcohol begins to boil at 173.1 degrees Fahrenheit. When we talk about boiling in the culinary world, we’re usually talking about water, and that’s 212. Before you get to 212, you’re already beginning to evaporate some of the alcohol off of the dish. Some of it is going to remain, but not all. There’s a chemical bond between water and alcohol, so they like to attach to each other and hold onto each other. You’re not losing everything, but you’re losing some of it.

The main thing that I discovered about cooking with bourbon is that whatever it is you are cooking with bourbon and you’re trying to pair with bourbon, it has to have a huge flavor profile. Otherwise, what’s going to happen is the bourbon is totally going to cast a shadow on it. You’re not going to taste the food. At the same time, it can’t be too big because you want to be able to taste the bourbon.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. This is conversations with an educator. I absolutely love it. We can be cooking most of our lives, but little tidbits like that. There won’t be a quiz at the end of the podcast, but I love it. I love talking about food, food and beverages.

Let’s fast forward a little bit. I’m absolutely fascinated by Certified Cannabis Edibles Professional. Alright. What is that? It’s a fascinating title.

The Role of a Cannabis Edibles Professional

Albert Schmid: It is. It’s interesting how this came about. The America Culinary Federation actually started a specialization in cannabis that you can take online. It’s a knowledge base. I started with that. I think this is the beginning of the pandemic and I was looking for something to do. I thought, “This would be interesting. I’d like to learn how to do this.”

I live in a medicinal state. Part of the reason somebody might eat cannabis or cannabis infused foods is because they don’t want to smoke it. They’re looking for pain relief. I have two herniated disks in my back, and I can tell you, it’s a game changer. The other thing is that when you’re eating cannabis, the effect lasts longer than inhalation. Medicinally speaking, it’s actually a better way to do it.

Not that I’ve done it very much, but I have the knowledge of being able to do it. As this is becoming legal across the United States, I think it’s important to adapt. I think that chefs need to be able to partner with the medical community to serve the patients.

Kirk Bachmann: I was just going to ask: Do you truly believe this will become more mainstream, like plant-based cooking? Really important for young chefs to understand it.

Albert Schmid: I believe it is. I think that especially in the medicinal states and even in the recreational states, I think this is going to become more important. One of the books that I read during my study for Certified Cannabis Edibles Professional was a book called Edibles. One of the things they said in that book is that there are some James Beard award-winning chefs who have given up working in kitchens at restaurants to focus on edibles full time.

The Next Book and What Comes Next

Kirk Bachmann: I love it.

What about your next book? Is there one? Can you talk about it? Are you thinking about writing one?

Albert Schmid: There are two that are being currently worked on. One is on bourbon. It’s kind of Bourbon 101. An intro to. The other one is a focus on a gentleman who was in Kentucky who was at Berea College. They have Boone’s Tavern there on the campus and he wrote three cookbooks: on in the 50s, one in the 60s, and one in the 70s. I took those three cookbooks, and this is a exegesis of the three books, but it’s also focusing on him. He died, I believe, in the 1980s. I just think that the three books and what he published were very important books. People are probably not familiar with him. His name is Richard Hogan. I’m looking forward to that. I’m actually in touch with his daughter who lives in New York. I’m able to…

Kirk Bachmann: That’s neat. A legacy work of love.

Albert Schmid: It’s funny. Sometimes you’ll get what’s called an advance from your publisher. On this particular book, they said, “We’ll let you write it and we’ll publish it, but you don’t get an advance.” I said, “That’s fine.”

Kirk Bachmann: Any advice for the culinarians and students that are listening today? I think it’s fascinating how a career can find it’s career into writing and documenting your memories and your studies. Any advice for how to get into, what to watch out for? Are there things you might have done differently as you entered this area of book writing?

Albert Schmid: I think, like a lot of people, I want to write a book. I got the opportunity to write the book, wrote the book. But I didn’t have a plan for what happened after that. There’s actually a period of time where I’m not writing, I’m not doing anything. A lot of wasted time. I wish that I had had a plan for, “Okay, when I finish this book, what do I do then?” Because there is speaking and consulting and various other ways to generate revenue or income. Or, what’s the next book? And now I’ve got so many ideas for books, there’s no way I have enough time to write all of them. I’ve corrected that. That would be my advice to somebody who was thinking about writing a book. Write the book, but have a plan for after the book so you know what to do next.

Kirk Bachmann: Make a plan and then work the plan.

Albert Schmid: You bet.

Kirk Bachmann: You mentioned consulting and such. That’s also part of what excites you, part of your passion. What goes into menu design for example? You have a client, they probably give you the concept. Do you do the research on the menu design or do they do the research? How does a project like that come about?

Albert Schmid: Sometimes what they are looking for is a better way to sell their product, so you’re providing the description. Maybe they already have the design. Or you’re providing nutritional analysis. There was a project that I was involved with several years ago where the company approached me. This was right about the time when the United States Government was going to require fast food companies to provide the calories, the fat content, the nutritional analysis. The fast food company’s position was if you require us to do it, you need to require everybody to do it. The response from some of the smaller companies was, “We don’t have the manpower to do it.”

I helped the fast food companies do – Yum, which is Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken – what I helped them to do was to prove that it only takes about 40 hours to take a menu concept and do a full nutritional analysis for the entire menu: calories, fat content, that sort of thing. I found that this helps me when I go out to eat. What I can do is I can look at the menu and I can look: if the calories are listed and the fat content is listed, I can make a better informed decision on which item to get. Hopefully that will lengthen my life a little bit.

Kirk Bachmann: I’m thinking about our entrepreneurship classes at Escoffier. Is it about networking? Is it about contacts? You and I have obviously been in this industry a long time so we know a lot of people. If you’re just starting off in this industry, are there some correct paths to take to ensure that you’re building a nice network so people call you for this type of thing. This sounds fascinating, to be able to help a big company like that with a nutritional analysis. It’s mind-blowing. It’s awesome. How does a young culinarian get on the right track for that?

Albert Schmid: I think the deal with Yum had to do with proximity. Their headquarters were in Louisville, Kentucky. They were actually located not too far. One of their executives had seen one of my books. All of a sudden, it provided credibility. Then I could help them with whatever. I also helped them with another project where there was some news that maybe their taco meat wasn’t 100 percent ground beef. I helped and advised on that one as far as what should they say, what should their response be.

Food Culture and History

Kirk Bachmann: Definitely more strategic. Good advice. Let’s talk a little bit about food culture. You’re a food historian. Another title. What’s involved with that? It’s not just about reading. It’s talking to people and understanding food in the communities and breaking bread with folks. Talk a little bit about that world: food culture, food historian. I think students would love to hear about that.

Albert Schmid: This book right here was The Hot Brown. The hot brown is a specific sandwich that is from Louisville, Kentucky. It was first made in 1926 at the Brown Hotel. It was also created by a chef whose name was Fred Schmidt. No relation.

Kirk Bachmann: There’s a “t” in that last name.

Albert Schmid: Correct. Nobody had done a book on this particular sandwich. Usually you’ll get a recipe for a single sandwich, but what I did was put it in context as far as timing. That was during Prohibition. I also interviewed a lot of people and took a bunch of recipes from a bunch of different sources to come up with, “What is the Real hot brown?” The Brown closed down for a while and they lost the recipe and had to recreate it. What I did was took their recipe – and they, by the way, worked really well with me. Mark Salmon, the general manager Brad Walker both made themselves available to talk about the Hot Brown and what it means to the hotel.

Then I interviewed a bunch of foodies in the Louisville area and beyond, and was able to put a book together on this particular one single sandwich. And I did the same thing with these two books, the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan where I just looked at that particular drink and was able to produce a book just on that one drink.

Kirk Bachmann: It reminds me of the story my father always used to tell. You know my father’s a master pastry chef. It’s like the Hotel Sacher in Austria with the original Sachertorte that so many recipes are based on. He used to always tell the story of how he was working at that hotel, and everyone wrote the recipe down. Everybody would go to different hotels and say, “I have the original! I have the original!” No one had the original. I just love the history there. To be a food historian means you also have to be a great communicator. You have to tell stories. I love that you said the general manager and the other gentleman participated. Of course they did! It’s a beautiful thing to write history down. Otherwise it’s gone forever.

Albert Schmid: I was also able to find articles where Fred Schmidt’s sous chef published his version. I thought that was probably really close to what the original was. Those recipes and that perspective is lost over time unless it’s captured. I was able to take a bunch of sources, capture all of that information in one place. I do think that’s important.

Kirk Bachmann: What about Albert? Born in Texas. You’ve got this obvious influence from the cooking of New Orleans. French background in terms of classically trained chef. Define your cooking style. What do you like to cook? What do you like to eat?

Albert Schmid: Usually it has something to do with New Orleans. Even in the Kentucky bourbon cookbook, I did a lot of New Orleans style or French style recipes. If I’m just cooking here at the house, red beans and rice is sometimes on the menu more often than not. That’s something I grew up with.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s familiar.

Albert Schmid: I remember the first time I had dirty rice. Real dirty rice is not hamburger; it’s shaved chicken liver. I must have been three or four, and I just couldn’t get enough of that. That was fantastic.

Chef Albert’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: That’s a flavor memory that has stayed with you. I absolutely love those stories.

We’re running out of time, believe it or not. I have no idea where the time went. Such great conversations. I wish you tons of luck with the new books. Thank you for your work with Escoffier now. I’m so happy that you’re part of the family. We’ll bring you back and we’ll talk more. But before I let you go, the name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. Albert, what is the Ultimate Dish?

Albert Schmid: I’ve talked about my dad a lot. A hot dog is the ultimate dish, and the reason I say that is that when my dad grew up, he grew up in a lower-middle class family. Middle class for sure. For them, going to James Coney island in Houston, Texas was a night out. So when Dad would take us to Houston, we would go to James Coney Island and we would meet my grandmother there, and we would have chili dogs. We’d talk about remembering my dad. He passed away about three years ago of pancreatic cancer. When he was diagnosed, he went immediately to Costco and bought a hot dog. Every year, we pull out the hot dogs on his birthday and everybody has a hot dog.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s a beautiful story. With the chili, promise me there’s no pasta, like in Cincinnati? No noodles. Tell me no! My wife’s from Cincinnati. It’s all I ever hear about. What it is Skyline?

Albert Schmid: Skyline. There’s another one. Gold.

Kirk Bachmann: I can’t do it, Albert. I can’t!

Albert Schmid: My wife is from Kentucky, too. The deal is whenever there’s chili, there’s usually spaghetti. But being from Texas, I had never seen that before.

Kirk Bachmann: A lot of people haven’t seen it before, buddy. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today, Albert. Really appreciate it.

Albert Schmid: My pleasure.

Kirk Bachmann: And thank you for listening to The Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit Escoffier.edu/podcast where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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