Peeking behind the scenes
September 6th, 2006

The awareness and demand for organic, local and simply healthy food products is steadily rising. Some countries have been embracing the notion of “going local” and consciously cooking with quality ingredients for a long time already, others are quickly catching up. XXL supermarkets seem to also jump on the band wagon and even though it appears as a smart strategy noble pro consumer gesture, a healthy bit of skepticism may be appropriate. On the other hand, how do you know that a seemingly high quality food product isn’t a fake, how often do you get the chance to visit a production site yourself? Especially if it’s your favorite stall on your local market!

Hans Hollweck

A couple of weeks ago, on a typical Saturday morning, we made a stop at our favorite herb and preserves stall (Rottler) on the Viktualienmarkt. Rottler’s product line focuses on preserves such as jams and chutneys, herbs and spices as well as delicatessen including truffles. Like usually we’d chat with Hans Hollweck (the owner) about this, that and the other, totally forgetting about time. He is a charismatic character, always with a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile, but what a lot of his customers may not know, he not only caters to high-end restaurants and chefs, he was one himself – in, what he refers to as his previous life.

And just before we left, he made us an offer we simply couldn’t refuse: he invited us to come and visit his manufacture, for a better understanding of how he works and the environment he works in.

Oranges

Weeks later Oliver and I had a day off, so we jumped in the car, drove past the city limits and soon arrived in a small village outside the perimeter. Parked the car in front of the building and knew immediately that this was the right address: through an open door we could see wooden buckets and containers stacked to the ceiling.

Manual work

Philipp, his son visiting from Pennsylvania, and Hans gave us a brief tour through his facility and highlighted various products (in average: over 60 different preserves, 35 different herbs) he fabricates on a weekly basis for both his daily customers on the market and businesses.

Heavy duty equipment

Along the tour, Hans shed some light onto his background and past life as a decorated chef, starting with Bayrischer Hof in Munich, his experience at various star-awarded restaurants like Le Gourmet (Munich) or La Cuisine (Rottach-Egern) as well as his international exposure on Antigua, in Houston and London (St. James Club). His high standards concerning quality food have essentially built the foundation for his canning, preserving and herb business. A business he joined as a partner in ’91 and now runs by himself, delivering his products to many of his old friends and colleagues.

On the production site

For his creations he only accepts high quality ingredients, and that may include deep frozen fruits if needed. These come with the advantage of having a constant level of quality year-round and usually outperform its freshly plucked relatives, which in turn require manual screening. For his new creations (four citrus fruit, chili jam) as with the other jams and jellies, he only uses natural apple pectin to gel fruit and sugar. If your travel plans ever take you to his booth, make sure to try the mango and ginger jams, they are our personal favorites.

Addressing the oodles of mugwort we noticed on our way in, he said he couldn’t resist when he noticed it growing wild in the green countryside and had to harvest it right then and there. Once a week, typically on Wednesdays he flips the power switch to bring his production site to life… but if asked by a chummy restaurant owner, he’ll whip out a portion of elder pepper overnight, too.

Pickles

Coming to speak of the Viktualienmarkt his view and perspective is refreshingly honest and not void of humor, perhaps with a pinch of light sarcasm. He is always sincerely interested in an open dialog and customer feedback, random and unsubstantial grumping he can live without. Wait, is the latter perhaps a typical German (or Bavarian?) trait…?

“Cooks tend to be quite sensitive about their creations. I’m still a cook, so yes, I’m a bit touchy.”

A long those lines, he told us about a customer that refused to purchase any of the items he looked at so closely before, simply due to the fact that Hans would not share his original recipe with him. No need to say more. A more general observation that strikes him is related to the fact that quite a few customers seem to always want the best quality with no expiration date AND for no money. Hm.

“Make food your hobby. Don’t expect others to make an educated choice for you.”

And to top it off, they push responsibility to the stall owner – in other words, oblivious to what the product they’re buying is actually made of and probably not caring anyway, they assume that a certain price tag equates or better yet guarantees quality. If it hasn’t been obvious already, at this point it’s quite clear that Hans is a manufacturer as well as a cook and food lover – wholeheartedly. After we completed the tour and having had the pleasure of sampling a bit here and a bit there, he leaves us with a question that obviously still puzzles him: “How come people ask for strawberry jam in peak season, when they easily could do it themselves…?”

Rottler GmbH
Viktualienmarkt Abt. 1, Stand 9-11
D-80331 München
phone: +49 89 26 61 36
web: rottler-gmbh.de

Comments
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Sep 6th,
2006

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2006

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2006

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