Expat chefs in Romania: Daniel Wendorf of Societe Gourmet

The kitchens of Bucharest’s restaurants harbor a number of internationally renowned foreign chefs. Romania-Insider.com talked to expat chefs about work, food and life in Romania’s capital – check this section as more will follow in the coming days.

Daniel Wendorf, Chef at Societe Gourmet. In the past he worked for Elb Lounge Hamburg and Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains St. Moritz

1.When did you first come to Romania, when did you move here? I came to Romania four years ago but meanwhile I have been in Switzerland for a winter season.

2. What brought you here in the first place? I came here because friends of mine had a restaurant in Bucharest and they needed help. I had a contract for one year but I stayed longer.

3. What is your favorite place in Romania? My favorite place is Transylvania, especially Sibiu.

4. Where else in Romania have you worked before your current position? At La Mandragora

5. What is your favorite Romanian food? Papanasi!

6. What is the one food you love to cook? There isn’t any food I would point out. It has to be fresh, seasonal and creative, then it is on a good track!

7. How did you learn how to cook? First of all I had a good education in Germany. But in my first position after training at the Elb Lounge in Hamburg I learned the most important things. Learning by doing is the way.

8. Tell us about an adaptation of a Romanian recipe (if you have any) Well, I am doing cooking classes and I had classes where I reinvented Romanian dishes. I made Ciorba de pui and also mamaliga in a way that you could sell it in fine dining restaurants all over the world. The classic Romanian recipes are usually too heavy and if you invest some more work you can change them very easily.

9. What sort of recipes sell better in Romania, from your experience? The best selling dishes in Romania are with meat, Italian influences and of course it needs to be a big serving!:-)

10. To what extent do Romanians appreciate more uncommon recipes? Are they traditional or do they like to try new things? It is very difficult with new things. Most people like to eat what they know: Traditional Romanian cuisine.

11. What is the largest number of people you ever cooked for? Alone for 30 people. In a team of 35 for 400 people.

12. What was the biggest kitchen ‘disaster’ in your career? How did you solve it? The biggest disaster was definitely when I made croisants with a cherry filling, someone switched the buckets of salt and sugar’s usual places and we put them on a buffet. There was nothing to solve anymore. After the first guest tried one the service team sneaked them away without attracting attention . Horrible day…!

13. What is your favorite Chef (in the world)? Difficult question… Juan Mari Arzak, René Redzepi and Dieter Müller are three of them.

14. How many people currently work in your kitchen? Actually I am working alone because my business with cooking classes and teambuilding events for companies is not the typical restaurant business anymore. But I am more relaxed.

15. What is the first thing you usually do in the kitchen at the beginning of the day? Drinking a coffee and making a to do list!

16. Where in Romania have you eaten the best Romanian food? It was in a hut in Vama Veche, where I had a very fresh turbot from the grill with zucchini and tomatoes from the garden. Not really a classic Romanian dish but it was the best ever!

By Corina Saceanu, [email protected]

(photo source: Societe Gourmet)