Food for thought

March 26, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

"I cook how I feel," said Schmankerl Stube Executive Chef Dieter Blosel.

Whatever he creates in the kitchen at the downtown Hagerstown restaurant is what he thinks at the moment, he explained.

"Recipes are nice to have, but recipes are only a guideline."

For example, he used a basic dough and provolone cheese for Lothringer Specktorte, a German version of quiche Lorraine. He prepared the fragrant, cheesy dish for the gourmet cooking class at the Women's Club in Hagerstown last Wednesday evening. But he advised the members of his audience of about 30, including one man, to do whatever they like. You can substitute, he said.

Blosel's Women's Club demonstration was the first of four gourmet cooking classes the organization is offering this spring.

The program is a fund-raiser for the club, and people from the community are welcome, says club member Mary Kalin.

For the third year in a row, local chefs and caterers demonstrate their skills and provide ideas, recipes and food for attendees' thought as well their tastebuds.


Blosel's cookbooks have pictures. "Not because I can't read," he quickly pointed out. Blosel likes to look at a picture and let his ingenuity take over. Recipes are just inspiration, he said.

Blosel, 33, can read and speak English, although he's been in the United States less than four years. His speech is charmingly accented and illustrated with more than a little body language.

Although he had studied English while growing up in Bavaria in the southern part of Germany, he didn't speak much of the language. He said he "couldn't even read the contract" when he signed on at Schmankerl Stube.

He learned by having to communicate with his staff and also by watching television.

Blosel said he really doesn't know when he became interested in cooking. Although his family owned a pub, he wasn't too involved in the kitchen and thought he'd pursue electrical or mechanical engineering.

He instead studied cooking and did a three-year apprenticeship. He cooked in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Liechtenstein. He said he "was looking to come to the States" for three or four years.

He answered Schmankerl Stube owner Charles Sekula's advertisement in a German restaurant trade publication. Blosel says he didn't have any expectations about coming to Hagerstown, and he likes what he does and the place in which he does it. He doesn't really have a favorite dish, although he especially likes doing desserts. He described the restaurant's mostly traditional cuisine as authentic as possible.

All of the draft beers served at the downtown Hagerstown restaurant are German. "Our beer is stronger," he said of the brews from his native country. Blosel is diplomatic. All he'll say about American beer is, "It's different."

Blosel finds it easier to cook in Schmankerl Stube's kitchen than in his apartment, because he has everything - tools, ingredients - right at his fingertips.

"I don't like too much to cook at home."

Last week's demonstration was the second he's done in the Women's Club auditorium. "It's not too formal for me," he said.

Blosel usually likes to be in the background.

"I can be messier back there."

"What I do, you can do, too," Blosel said. "It's not hard. It's just putting things together."

Blosel's audience may not have believed that, but it didn't diminish their enjoyment of his demonstration or his creations.

"This mousse is elegant," said Sarah Rowe, a longtime Women's Club member.

"He makes it seem so easy," said Marian Tuzes, as she tasted the Lothringer Specktorte. "This is really delicious."

Gourmet Cooking Classes

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 23 - Audrey Harrington of Audrey Harrington Catering: Easy Appetizers and Fast Hors D'oeurves

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 30 - Shellie Ralston of The Rhubarb House

The Women's Club
31 S. Prospect St.

Cost is $10. Reservations are requested.

Corporate Chef Roger Tappen of Johnnie's Restaurant and Hotel Service in Chambersburg, Pa., had planned a program for 7 p.m. today. Because of deaths in his family, the class is postponed.

For information, call 301-739-0870.

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