A wintery Saturday morning in December 2011 at Wiehre’s Farmer’s Market.

 

psst…. Im Hannah Huddy.

In October 2009, whilst living in Seville in southern Spain, I fell in love with a German man.

I’d never been to Germany before, I knew virtually nothing of the language, and as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I’d never even heard of the Black Forest… But nevertheless following my heart, I packed my bag and made my way to Freiburg. After a couple of years teaching English, working behind a bar and intensively learning German, I got offered the opportunity to start up and run a vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the former Mexican establishment El Paso, which we renamed El Haso.

There was only one small thing… I had never actually stepped foot in a restaurant kitchen before. I’d been a passionate hobby chef for over 10 years; I’d taken pleasure in creating many a feast to share with those closest to me and closest to them. I’d also always been excited to try new foods and learn about where they come from. So deep down I had a feeling that this was a true calling for me. Taking the lead from my heart, I jumped in and ran with the opportunity.

One of the most important things to me here in Freiburg, has always been that I can buy my fruit and veggies direct from the farmer at the local markets. Over the years I have built up wonderful relationships with a couple of local farmers. Regardless of the season, there are so many delicious and vibrant vegetables and fruits, it never ceases to amaze me what can be grown here. This is the foundation for all my cooking endeavours.

I left El Haso to start up my own kindergarten and event catering company – Kraut und Rueben Catering. My focus was always on creating inspiring and nourishing vegetarian dishes, completely seasonal and regional all 12 months of the year.

Alongside running my own catering business, I began giving cookery classes to kids and teenagers at Bensels Kochschule. Not long after that, I also started helping out at the school in the evenings. During those evenings I started to realise how much I didn’t know yet about the basics of cooking. How to properly chop an onion, or easily peel a garlic clove, or how much salt I should have in my pot of boiling water to blanch vegetables, it is by the way a LOT more than you would think! And, although I felt very confident with vegetarian and vegan cuisine, it became very clear to me that I was missing the foundations in which I could build up on to refine my cooking skills.

I needed to become a qualified chef. To do so, I had to do an apprenticeship. But where? I was 30 and not your typical apprentice, so it seemed appropriate that I also didn’t do a ‘typical apprenticeship’. I started to train as a chef in June 2016 with Ben Kindler and Sebastian Bertram as my teachers at Bensels Kochschule.

For the first year of my apprenticeship I continued to provide lunches to the Kindergarten der Kulturen but after a year of working and training (despite how much I loved both), it was clear I had to concentrate on just one thing: my apprenticeship. Although it was sad to call an end to my personal venture, Kraut und Rueben Catering, the decision came easy because I knew I was doing what was best for me.

I was still following my heart.

After 3 wonderful, but tough years at Bensels I had qualified as a chef. It had been in so many ways the best job I’d ever had. Giving cooking classes, to children, teens and adults gives me so much joy. I really feel in my element and it rarely feels like work! But it was time to move on and to gain some more experience! In particular in restaurants.

My first post apprenticeship job took me to the edges of the Black Forest to a village called Aasen. There I worked as a young chef in the restaurant Ösch Noir. However, my time there was to be cut short. After winning the Franz-Keller Förderpreis, I decided to leave Ösch Noir, to go abroad and expand my horizons.

I have taken 6 months out to travel to Italy and India. Italy because I love their rustic, traditional, and unpretentious approach to cooking. And India because of their vast array of spices, their rich and spicy sauces, a culture that I cannot imagine, until I go and experience it for myself. That’s where my heart wants to lead me, so I would be a fool not to follow.