10 Sep. 2021 · Stories from the valley

Gourmet chefs and hosts of the future

All of a sudden, someone had pushed "pause". An eerie silence took hold in the hotels: no dishes were clattering in the kitchens, no culinary masterpieces being created. And at the reception desks, there was not a trace of guests who were happy to receive tips for the vacation. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the new start, but it was a long time coming. At the beginning of 2021, many apprentices in the hotel and catering industry were also stuck in the middle of this vacuum; after all, the training period in the company accounts for more than 60 percent of the learning time in an apprenticeship. What's more, many things in these professions are almost impossible to teach at a distance. But how do you learn a trade when the company is closed due to the lockdown?

Since doing nothing is not in the nature of the Walser hoteliers and hosts, together they found a way to support the apprentices during this time. In just a few days, the project "Lehre trotz lockdown" (apprenticeship despite lockdown) was born and within a very short time, a training program for the months of February and March was set up. 15 companies and 27 apprentices were part of the project. Support came from many suppliers and partners who made the project possible with speakers, workshops, products and food.

In areas such as kitchen, service or reception, where practical experience is so important, the apprentices had the opportunity to learn in presence in small groups and in compliance with strict prevention and hygiene measures. In addition to technical competence in the various professions, there were also topics related to personality development. Since professions with a lot of customer contact are a bit like being on a stage, there were many tips and exercises in the theater workshop  "learning from the acting profession" to gain self-confidence for one's own appearance. But individual coaching, Walser culture and marketing were also part of the program.

While the next generation of hosts trained in a wide variety of situations at the reception desk during so-called "Stress Days", the up-coming gourmet chefs had the opportunity to learn from some of the best chefs in the valley. In addition to patisserie with Sascha Kemmerer from Travel Charme Ifen Hotel and food pairing with Jeremias Riezler from Biohotel Walserstuba, the "Creative Kitchen" with Max Nikolic from Genuss- & Aktivhotel Sonnenburg, Andreas Ziep from Haller's Geniesserhotel and Dominik Josch from Hotel Birkenhöhe became a weekly highlight. Each time, they challenged the apprentices to creatively apply what they had previously learned. The task: to develop their own dishes and recipes from a food box provided by suppliers. "Each week, and depending on the contents of the box, we focused on a different theme. So we built on the apprentices' knowledge, repeated some things and showed them variations of learned dishes. Above all, the apprentices were able to be creative, work independently and try something new," say the three instructors with satisfaction. Sometimes meat was served, sometimes vegetarian, sometimes unusual and sometimes traditional - supported by tips from the three experienced chefs, many great recipes were created.