Not so long ago we received an invitation by GRÄFE UND UNZER (publishing house) to join a book launch event in the center of Munich. GRÄFE UND UNZER -in case you didn’t know- have been market leader for cookbooks in Germany for over thirty years now – always known for down to earth, comprehensible and no-fuss cookbooks. Out of curiosity I started counting all GU, Teubner and Hallwag books (different sub-brands of GRÄFE UND UNZER with different foci) on my bookshelf – and gave in after 26 or 27… yes, they are quite well represented in my cookbook library, too ;)
Wait a second, did the invitation say “workshop”? Even better. So this event, showcasing Sebastian’s latest cookbook “Wie koch’ ich…?” (“How to cook…?”), apparently entailed a fair bit of hands-on work. Which to O. essentially translated to: super, there’ll be food, too!
So last week we found ourselves among a select group of journalists, photographers, cooks and other invitees. In case that may sound a tad stiff, far from it! A first glance was all it took to understand that this is was anything but an uninspired, official we-kinda-have-to-do-this type event. Quite the opposite, a well organized food happening in a quaint location. By the way, it was the very same location where most, if not all shots for the book were taken (by Coco Lang).
Speaking of which. Possible doubts about whether or not the world needed another cookbook, were quickly dismissed after reading the first few pages. Apart from my very own opinion (there can never be enough cookbooks!), “Wie koch’ ich…?” is so wittily and charmingly written, it’s a more than welcome change from some of those antiseptic cookbooks out there. The concept caters to the entry level cook, revealing little tricks about the one or other recipe and method, helping to understand what can make or break a dish. Different sections are dedicated to different ingredients, for each including a whole range of dishes, basic recipes as well as more elaborate ones – including easy-peasy scrambled eggs & fruit salad as well as perfect oefs bordelaise & turrets of orange-cookies with green tea cream at the other end of the spectrum… Sebastian’s very own recipes all have one thing in common: They taste delicious (the surfer’s banana pancakes we tried yesterday were a hit!) and he also understands to navigate the reader carefully around possible pitfalls. Culinary intuition is great, the more you cook, the more you can rely on it. But I don’t know, how many times I literally cursed a cookbook recipe, that said “fry in a pan until done“. Hot pan? What pan? Medium heat? Flip? When? How often? When is “done” done? Sure you can always wing it, but in the end it’s simply annoying to go by trial and error (at least when you do it for the first time). Chances are slim that you’ll run into anything like it with this book. After all Sebastian worked as a chef himself for many years and shares his knowledge in a very sensible and approachable way.
In line with the book’s concept, the event was all of the above: entertaining, scrumptious, held in a warm atmosphere, putting everyone in a spring mood and in the end we learned the one or other thing – what a wonderful idea to present a new book!
To kick things off, Sabine Sälzer, a well known food writer herself and project manager (editorial office) gave a brief introductory note on GU’s and Sebastian Dickhaut’s cooperation and the international track record of the GU BASIC series. Making a seamless transition to the workshop and Sebastian’s planned menu:
The four-course menu commenced with a hearty butter & herb spread (green sauce inspired) on a slice of farmers bread, followed by carrot soup shots (small cups of tasty soup), lamb chops with oven baked oriental spiced potatoes and an oven-caramelized tomato/sheep milk cheese combo. Concluded with -and you should have seen O’s sparkly eyes when he found out about it- Kaiserschmarrn. The latter came with an artistic highlight, two helping cooks throwing pan cakes (that’s really what it is, before turned into this version of Kaiserschmarrn) in the air, passing them back and forth! Whether is was the artistic throwing or simply the recipe, the dessert turned out fantastic. The Zwetschgenröster (a type of plum compote) on the side was to die for and as we learned later, self-made by our favorite herb and preserves stall at the local market – note to self: must buy asap!
Throughout the cooking Sebastian did a wonderful job in both keeping a starving crowd happy and providing good background info on his book, allowing everyone to take a glimpse into his past years as a chef and food writer.
Unlike events that bore the heck out of me and where I get antsy after the first 30 minutes, that night, time flew by in a hurry. The workshop wasn’t only a fun way to pragmatically demonstrate some of the books recipes, but also enabled very interesting conversations with professional food photographers and food stylists. Knowing O’s interest in absurdly sharp knives and his current mission to find the perfect knife (does it exist??), I immediately knew that he’d be the first in line to help in the workshop. Can’t remember how many different knives there were, but he sure tried them all…
All in all a very successful launch event leaving behind a lasting impression, or in other words kudos to the GU team!!