A few weeks ago I received an email from Liz at the British production firm Denhams, asking if I would like to be a ‘fixer’ for the German Rick-Stein-Tour! Rick Stein, the English chef and TV presenter, was going to visit Germany, starting in Hamburg, traveling to the coast, then down to Düsseldorf and on to Frankfurt and the Rheingau. He was on a tour exploring German cuisine and his family history, as his great-grandfather was born in Düsseldorf.
I was excited, when I started on the pre-tour with Liz in Düsseldorf, first without the production team, just the two of us. I didn’t know what to expect and what was expected of me! We had two jam-packed days in Düsseldorf, looking out for spots and interesting places to film. We visited restaurants, met with a historian, looked at cafés and met interesting people, all connected with food! It was fun to do something totally different than my everyday work, showing Liz a bit of Germany, translating and explaining German traditions and culture! So when I was asked to do the same a few weeks later in Frankfurt with the production team and Rick Stein, I was even more excited!
So last weekend I found myself sitting in the Deutsche Bahn (extremly early) on my way to Frankfurt! I met up with the production team surrounding Rick Stein: director David Pritchard, production assistant Liz Bunnell, cameraman Chris Topliss, soundman Pete Underwood and Martin Willcocks, the assistant. And what a great team it was! We started off at the heart of Frankfurt, the Kleinmarkthalle, an indoor market with over 60 stalls filled with international and local food. It was also packed with people, but that didn’t bother Rick or the director – off Rick went with his son Jack and Eckhard Stein, a distant relative from Frankfurt, who pointed out the specialties of the region. Of course the ingredients for the typical “Grüne Soße” (Green Sauce) were absolutely central.
After filming the making of Grüne Soße in the kitchen of the restaurant “Liebfrauenberg” and a good crew lunch, we headed off to the Rheingau. Our destination: the “Kaffee Kränzchen”, a beautiful café in the heart of the small picturesque town Walluf, right on the river Rhine. We were met by the owner, Martina Kurz, a lively and cheerful lady who runs the café. This place really is a secret gem! It has a beautiful, intimate courtyard, with lots of flowers, colorful chairs and tables, and antiques. Inside you are greeted by a counter filled with cakes. Martina told Rick in the interview that she got up at 5 am to bake 24 cakes (all by herself) for her guests!
At the café Rick met up with Nadia Hassani, who wrote the cookbook “Spoonfuls of Germany” and they chatted about German cuisine, while having some of Martina’s delicious cakes! If you’re ever in the Rheingau, you really should stop by the “Kaffee Kränzchen” (Alte Hauptstr. 26, 65396 Walluf).
The night was spent at the Radisson Blu in Frankfurt – an all-glas hotel with an impressive architecture and great views of Frankfurt (and, best of all, a swimming pool on the 18th floor!). A very nice place to stay!
The next day began with stormy weather and we headed off to Büttelborn a little later than expected, hoping the rain would stop. The crew drove south of Frankfurt to visit the asparagus farm “Melchior“. There was a team out on the field harvesting the “white gold”, which is really hard and strenous work.
After seeing them doing their job, you eat asparagus differently and with more ‘respect’. Bernd Melchior and his friend Tery Toal explained the cultivation and harvest of asparagus to Rick – they harvest an impressive 500-1000 kg a day! It was a really interesting morning on the field – unfortunaltey there wasn’t enough time to visit Melchior’s restaurant, because the schedule was packed and we had to leave for our next appointment at a vineyard in Hochheim.
We had lunch at this really outstanding restaurant “Kulinariath” in Hochheim. We were greeted by Sebastian Scheffel and his young team, who work with regional and organic produce, and that was really obvious during our tasty lunch! All the dishes were delicious and so good that David, the director, decided spontaneously that he wanted to film in the kitchen! The team at “Kulinariath” take traditional German dishes and give them a modern twist. What a great place to visit! Definitely a must-go if you’re in the area!
Just around the corner from the restaurant, the vineyard “Domdechant Werner’sches Weingut” is located in a very picturesque setting: after passing through a green gate we were greeted by the family’s dachshund in a chestnut-shaded courtyard and a beautiful garden.
The historic estate has been in the family since 1780 and is being run by the seventh generation of Michels: Dr. Franz Werner Michel with his wife and daughter. Rick sat down with Dr. Michel over a glass of wine and they chatted about Riesling wine and the clichés foreigners have about German food. Foreigners often think we Germans only eat bratwurst and sauerkraut, but there is so much more going on in German kitchens!
At the end of the tour Rick Stein said that he gained a good insight into contemporary German cuisine, without ignoring the “classics”. I’m happy to have accompanied him and the crew for a little while. It was a delightful and interesting time and I’m so much looking forward to seeing the outcome on BBC! Thank you so much for having me, Rick, David, Liz, Chris, Pete and Martin! I hope to see you again sometime. There are a lot more great places to explore in Germany and I’d be happy to travel with you again.
(Rick’s Germany Tour will be shown on August 5th 2013 on BBC Two, 9 pm!)