An opportunity in Brandenburg
As a tourist, just stepping out of your comfort zone widens your viewpoint affecting your thought process in your home environment. Taking a chance to live and work in a different country like Brandenburg, Germany immersed in an unfamiliar culture for 6 months or longer, changes you completely. The change is never immediate, but certainly poignant once realized.
As a traveling chef, when an opportunity arises, it must be seriously considered even if it is located in a place as unfamiliar as Brandenburg.
Fresh out of college and in my 20s, I was at the point where I wanted to continue growing and learning all I could as a budding chef. I quickly grabbed at an opportunity to work in the kitchen at the Four Seasons Hotel. I just had to feed my hunger for actual practical experience even though I was also furthering my studies at a local culinary school program. This kitchen was full of international colleagues all with different stories and on a similar search for knowledge. In the beginning, we were quite a heavily accented motley group with a head chef from Italy, a sous chef from the Czech Republic, and colleagues from multiple states in America, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Germany. Our common love for food and quest to create quality flavors out of raw products, provided the connection that we needed to come together as brothers and sisters of the kitchen.
I created a particularly strong connection with one of my brothers in the kitchen from Germany named Markus. He was here on a one-year visa and his family owned a boutique Hotel and Restaurant in the heart of the Ruppiner Seenland in Brandenburg, Germany. Knowing that a love for traveling and cooking stood at my core, he shared with me that they were in need of some extra motivated help in the kitchen at their hotel. When his parents came to visit, they invited me to dinner. Over a bowl of spaghetti at Markus’s apartment, we had an impromptu interview that was carried out completely through Markus since his parents did not speak English and I did not speak German. The whole interview conversation was rather comical as we communicated using gestures and body language and Markus almost lost his voice with the constant translation work between his parents and myself. They collectively decided to take a chance on me and the next thing I knew, I was offered a sponsorship to go work at their hotel for one year.
My extensive travel aspirations got the best of me. So, I fast-tracked the culinary program I was enrolled in and finished it earlier than expected to set the stage to be able to actually take the opportunity set before me. Even though I could not speak with or understand my future employers, there was a reliable sense that I could comfortably dare to take a chance trusting Markus and his family. In college, I spent five unforgettable months studying and traveling abroad in Florence and I picked up quite a bit of the Italian language by the end of it, I could most certainly do the same in Germany, right? Right! I confirmed that I was just going to go into this adventure with this positive affirmation running through my head and that everything would just work out.
I started to research more about the area in which I would be living. A realization quickly set in that this might be a bigger challenge than I thought. Markus explained to me that most adults spoke either German or Russian due to the fact that this area was heavily influenced by the Soviet Union. The hotel where I would be working was located near Berlin on the East side of the former wall separating the East and the West. This would be a full immersion into the German language and culture right from the start. My focus would have to be split on trying to communicate, better understand the classic European kitchen organizational structure, and pick up all I could on the flavors of German cuisine. I packed my memories full of all I had learned at the Four Seasons Hotel and prepared myself for an expansion in cultural and culinary exposure.
Want to learn more about Brandenburg?
Check out the Brandenburg 101 section to learn more!