Chef shares recipe for success

Last updated 10:48 08/11/2012

Top chef: Stephan Baumberger of Stephan's Restaurant, Manakau, Levin.

Stephan Baumberger of Stephan's Restaurant, Manakau, Levin.

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Horowhenua Mail

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Keeping it simple is key to successful cooking, according to one of Horowhenua's most renowned chefs.

Stephan Baumberger, of Stephan's Restaurant in Manakau, may have the skills to produce a fancy and technically advanced dish, but his philosophy is to serve uncomplicated food where textures, colours, flavours and taste combinations are in harmony.

Mr Baumberger also prefers to use locally grown vegetables and other ingredients which are in season and alters the menu about four times a year to achieve this.

"Whitebait is in at the moment, venison when I can," he said.

Creativity is a required attribute for chefs, he said, as well as passion for food and commitment to being a chef.

"When the restaurant is busy, it's hard work, mentally and physically," he said.

He remembers this when he and his wife Brigette go out for lunch or dinner.

"I never complain if something's not quite right, because I know what the job can be like."

Originally from Switzerland, where he trained, Mr Baumberger emigrated to New Zealand in 1982. He gained a job as executive chef for two years at the Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook, before moving to Wellington to be executive chef at the James Cook Hotel between 1985 and 1990.

In 1989 he was guest chef for New Zealand Food and Beverage's promotion in Los Angeles and the following year a member of New Zealand's team at the International Salon Culinarie in Singapore.

In 1991 he became manager of Delicato Delicatessen and started running cooking classes. This led him into a six-year career tutoring, between 1993 and 1999, at Hutt Valley Polytechnic (now Weltec), Wanganui Polytechnic and Ucol in Palmerston North.

He and Mrs Baumberger bought what became Stephan's Restaurant in Manakau in 2000.

"Without Brigitte, who is a very good hostess, and our staff, I couldn't do it alone."

During his time working as a chef, Mr Baumberger has trained nearly 50 apprentices, including seven at Stephan's Restaurant. He sees it as contributing something back to his industry.

"It also keeps me on my toes," he said.

However, during his years teaching cooking at polytechnics, he was surprised that some students had never cooked before.

"There they were wanting to be chefs, yet had never cooked at home. Cooking is something parents should definitely encourage and it can start as simply as making a salad or baking a cake."

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- Horowhenua Mail

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