Und now, we arrive where the story started. Gerald had gone to Horst’s famous Berlin eatery to taste his legendary sausages. But why did he go if he disliked Horst?
After the conclusion of the Blitzkochen reality TV show, Horst had been uncharacteristically contrite and had meekly asked Gerald for some feedback on how he felt the sausage dish could be improved.
Only a failed chef and poor food critic such as Gerald could be taken in by this. And he was. Horst asked him to Berlin to taste the improvements he planned to make. Horst was in deadly earnest!
It was perhaps rather surprising that after the show was over, Horst asked to speak to judge Gerald, on the pretext of being genuinely eager to get guidance on how he could improve his cooking. This caught Gerald off-guard. It had been pure spite that had prompted his negativity towards Horst and his food. It would be difficult for him to refuse to speak to Horst because it might make the other judges even more suspicious of his motives in marking the Berliner down. So he agreed.
Horst couldn’t seem nicer, more contrite or eager to learn.
The judges’ votes were secret, but Horst, desperately trying to suppress his anger, knew. He knew from Gerald’s body language, feedback and manner of its delivery that the bumptious Englishman had seen to it that Horst would not win.
The other three judges were astonished by Gerald’s judgements, but, being democratic, and German, they went along with it. A relative unknown and un-Michelin-Starred chef from Hannover was crowned Chef of Chefs, or Chefkoch der Köche in German.
Third place was Horst. He knew who the real Chefkoch was, as one nasty Englisher critic would one day find out!
Horst had successfully nobbled three chefs he believed were his real competition. That left 4... but too many more upsets might get the Blitzkochen programme producers mighty suspicious and the finger of suspicion would point to him if he subsequently won. He would take his chance with them. He was arrogant enough to believe his food alone would do the winning.
And so it might, except for judge Gerald. This judge was already suspicious of Horst. He didn’t like Horst’s manner. He made a point of giving top scores to all the others and marking Horst down.
A silly mistake....
As it happened, there was so much going on in the kitchen as each chef was ‘plating up’, after their final taste tests, Horst was easily able to subtly overload his rivals’ food seasoning.
In addition, casually hurrying past his rivals’ ovens where they were cooking the meat elements just before serving, Horst inadvertently brushed the temperature dials to a lower setting, in the case of the Munich chef and a higher one for the chef from Hamburg. In the end it was too late to start again. Extremes of temper broke out in the kitchen... not from Horst though.
From the limited research he’d done earlier and the chatter between chefs in the Blitzkochen kitchen, Horst was able to make an assessment of who the most creative chefs might be and must be targeted. He decided the Hamburg and Munich area winners must be favourites, with their two Michelin stars apiece.
He reckoned that over or under seasoning would prompt negative comments from the judges, as would undercooked or overcooked meat or fish. Both of these shortcomings would lower marks considerably. With salt and pepper in his apron, Horst’s particular challenge would now be how to introduce them, surreptitiously...
I’ve always thought how dangerous kitchens are with sharp knives all over the place. And that’s a normal kitchen. Imagine a kitchen full of brilliant, arrogant, tempestuous professional chefs. It seems like a licence for blood letting!
With someone as volatile as Horst in the mix, one might question the wisdom of having any knives on display at all. But Horst was clever. He told the producer that all the knives in the Blitzkochen kitchen were a potential danger, suggesting they were secured.
“With tensions hotting up, any one of us could go crazy!” he warned.
Any suspicion instantly widened...
Horst may have been a maniac with homicidal leanings, but he wasn’t stupid. He did an Oscar-worthy performance of blaming himself and offered to leave the show. The producer pitched in and absolved Horst of any blame. He most certainly didn’t want to lose his ratings winner.
As Burak was taken off for medical attention, whilst the odds might have shortened for Horst, he realised that another accident in the kitchen would be foolhardy. To shorten those odds further, he decided that food sabotage would be the best way. But only if it was achieved with the greatest discretion...
The chefs had the same fixed time allocation and cooked in turn. Burak was the first to produce his main course. Horst would help him. One of the ways that Horst ‘helped’ Burak was to fuss around him, offering help, but just enough not to irritate him.
Horst praised Burak at every stage of preparation. “Wow! Your dish is going to beat us all!” admitted Horst. He saw his chance when the deep fat fryer was being used. Horst accidentally caught Burak’s foot as he fussed around. Trying to maintain his balance, Burak’s hand slipped into the hot oil.
As observed earlier, Horst could be very nice when he wanted to be. And he wanted to right now. He decided to ‘befriend’ his Turkish rival Burak. His friendship gambit was based upon how, as a newcomer to Germany... with its historic savage racial prejudices, Burak needed someone to ensure ‘fair play’.
The way it worked in the kitchen, even though chefs were competing with each other, they tended to help with some of the final touches to get the dishes of other chefs ‘to the pass’.
Horst warned Burak, offering himself as sole aid to his new Turkish friend.
Getting selected as one of the 8 Blitzkochen finalists from the Berlin heats was easy for Horst. None of his competitors came close. The final cook-off might be trickier though. There were some very talented chefs in the group, each offering regional taste differences to their food. Despite supreme personal confidence, Horst didn’t know the judges’ backgrounds and thus any gastronomical preferences they might have that might not work in his favour.
And with positive discrimination rife in just about everything these days, he feared unfair bias.
So, for starters, he was definitely going to nobble that blutig Turk!
The Blitzkochen judges sought high levels of creativity from the chefs... brilliance in cooking, novelty in ingredients and contemporary style.
Horst heard this and thought he could tick all three boxes easily. As far as ingredients went, he doubted that any other chef could possibly match his ‘novelty’. But for reasons that might become clear, whilst claiming novelty for his ingredients, he would never articulate what exactly those ingredients were.
“Herren Richter, for reasons of maintaining commercial advantage, please judge my ingredients not on what they are, but how they are.”
Amazingly, the judges agreed.
‘Blutig gut!’ thought Horst, literally.
The way Blitzkochen worked was that each week, regional teams of four top local chefs competed to establish which one of them would represent their region. Eight regions in total, each represented by a big city, thus: Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich.
The 8 winning chefs would then compete to determine who would cook the starter, fish course, main course and dessert at the grand banquet. They all wanted to cook one of them, but the best prize was to cook the main course.
Horst had no doubt that his ‘Wurstravaganza’ would be chosen.
Horst might have appeared to all to have remarkably retained his composure in the face of considerable provocation, but inside he had found a way to temporarily sublimate his anger and ‘keep a lid on’ for the time being.
“Horst, mein freund,” he told himself, “let your feelings run hot, but your revenge must be cold, like that foul Vichy soup!”
Revenge would wait, for now, but in time, like that mediaeval sheißter Shylock, Horst would have his pound of flesh... and more.
Right now Horst had to cook the living scheiße out of the other contestants, especially that Turk!
Terrific! thought the producer. Having worried that there might be some kind of fracas, he was mighty relieved that Horst was so measured. Gerald, the English ponce, was fair game for humiliation. The German audiences would lap it up. This footage would definitely be included in the cut.
One of the reasons Gerald was invited onto the Blitzkochen judging panel was that he would bring controversy, interest and would play to the German audience’s residual loathing of the British.
Gerald Churchill was the production team’s manna from heaven, earning him countless two-fingered salutes and the programme, audience ratings galore.
At a measured pace, Horst approached Gerald, who stood his ground. He was used to confrontation and was blowed if he would be intimidated by this hot-headed Hun. The others there relaxed as each realised they’d be OK after all.
“And what did you want to say to me.... chef?”, the final word Gerald delivered with hesitation and disdain.
“You are a very rude man for an Englischer! You failed as a chef yourself so maybe you like to take it out on those of us who have not! I suggest you keep your bad taste shit to yourself!”
The judges chamber was located 30metres from the Blitzkochen kitchens. Such was Horst’s volatility that in the time taken to get there, he had blown his top at the top of his voice such that judges and contestants could hear and start to fear... and then had mellowed, with his PR’s words ringing in his ears. He’d gone from brutal murder in mind to mere confrontation in that distance.
The judges and crew were planning their speedy exit, but the Horst that arrived seemed more hurt than homicidal. The canny producer kept the cameras running. Interesting outtakes were always useful...
A relative newcomer to the German food scene, Burak was a Turk who’d come to Germany as a gastarbeiter, but had made a name with his experimental fusion food. Polite and mild-mannered, his German speaking was not so strong though. Nonetheless, as the other chefs buttoned their lips at Horst’s question, Burak sympathised and said. “I think that man is so rude, saying your food’s ‘shit’!”
“Whaaaat!” roared Horst, grabbing Burak’s apron. “Who said shit?”
“The stupid English judge” supplied another chef, not wanting the Turk to be mutilated.
Horst immediately dropped Burak and headed for the judges chamber...
It hadn’t occurred to Horst that any of the Blitzkochen judges mightn’t appreciate his sausage. Probably for that reason, when failed English chef-turned-critic Gerald uttered the word ‘sheißewurst’, Horst thought he heard ‘nice’ wurst. So he wasn’t at all bothered while he received feedback on his main course.
Gerald, thinking himself a bit of a wit, was trying to reference Horst’s legendary tirade of bad language in the kitchen, ‘sheiße’ flying liberally, albeit not literally. No studio audience... so no laughs, except from Horst’s Blitzkochen competitors, as he returned to the kitchen.
“Warum?” he demanded belligerently.
The producers of top TV food reality show ‘Blitzkochen’ loved Horst. His sour, surly, downright rude approach to competing chefs and the show’s judges, taken from the glitterati of restaurateurs and food critics, was an amazing ratings winner. Somehow, whatever the judges might judge, they had to keep Horst on the show.
The trouble was that Horst’s PR people were desperately urging him to behave... for his image. Against all instincts and by internalising his build-up of volcanic rage, Horst suddenly became quite the angelic mild-mannered gentleman.
Until one judge was persuaded to describe Horst’s sausage as Sheißewurst...