Thomas Preidelt, an Austrian , came to Transcorp Hilton Hotel , Abuja as Executive Chef recently with wealth of experience spanning over ten years as Sous Chef with Langham Hilton Hotel, London. He also worked as Executive Chef in Munich City and Poland.
In this chat with Vanguard’s JIMOH BABATUNDE, he traces his journey into being a chef to his family background and also shares his goal of working with the Transcorp Hilton’s team to creating more exciting culinary experiences for their guests. Here is an excerpt.
Did you cook growing up?
Yes as one of the routine house chores especially when mum was not there to cook for you.
What made you decide to become a Professional Chef?
This goes back to my family, my grandfather was a chef and my father was also a pastry and bakery chef. So my passion goes fare back!
Where did you train and what was it like?
I had my training in the mid-80s (86-89), that was a quiet hard time. I was working an average of 14 hours a day, one day off, one –two week vacation per Year. It was very hard and demanding. Chefs at this time were very tough and shouting was a standard.
I would just compare it with “hell’s kitchen/ Gordon Ramsay” .Just watch that show on TV and you will know exactly how it was in earlier days! But still thinking back, I don’t regret anything or any minute of my training.
How difficult did training?
It was difficult, but without that training I would not be where I am now. So it was worth all the time and effort.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely yes. Anytime, I will do it again
What’s your best cooking tip for a novice?
Start to follow recipes – increase your product knowledge – try to recognize different herbs & spices in different dishes – focus on the products taste – don’t over season.
What advice would you offer a young person interested in getting into the culinary industry?
Culinary industry is a LIFESTYLE and not just a profession; you should dedicate your live around the profession. If you are committed, the world of opportunities will open for you.
Your favorite gadget?
What is your funniest kitchen incident?
A non novice waiter filled sand in pepper shakers instead of white pepper.
Favorite food you like to cook?
Veal schnitzel “Vienna” style Most memorable cooking moment Cooking a dinner for Bill Gates at the Zuma Grill of the Transcorp Hilton Abuja.
From your experience how important is the food culture to Nigerians today?
Food is very important for all Nigerians; they are very particular when it comes to even simple dishes. And lately I see an increased number of Nigerians going for international cuisine.
Do you think the younger generation is in tune with the traditional culinary recipes passed on by the older generations?
My experience from working with Nigerian chefs for the past one year tells me that recipes from older generations are passed on very well.
What do you eat at home?
“Everything and anything my wife cooks.