Interview with Alexander Herrmann, Michelin-starred Chef, Restaurant Owner and Book Author

There were times when bashing TV chefs was practically the norm

Veterinarian, Jedi or Rambo – as a boy, Alexander Herrmann had a number of career aspirations. Ultimately, he became a chef and has been more than satisfied with his lot. The 46-year-old also found his path to publicity through his many appearances on TV cooking shows. His current activities include being a judge on “The Taste” on the German television network SAT 1. In an interview with European Food, Alexander Herrmann gives insights into his own biography as well as the world of TV cooking shows and explains what Helene Fischer has that Taylor Swift does not.

This is where Alexander Herrmann calls home: The Posthotel in Wirsberg.
Alexander Herrmann‘s Posthotel in Wirsberg, exterior
The Gourmet Bistro in the Posthotel
The Gourmet Restaurant in the Posthotel

European Food: Mr. Herrmann, you are a Michelin-starred chef, member and former President of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe, book author, hotel owner, and judge on “The Taste”. Is ‘leisure time’ a foreign concept to you?

Alexander Herrmann: Not exactly foreign, but I do in fact have to plan my time well to have leisure time. People always see only what you’re doing, not what you’ve turned down. For example, “The Taste” is on the air for twelve weeks. Because we had nine normal episodes and two celebrity episodes, and there was a short break in between. So naturally you’ll get the impression that we were on camera for nearly three months. However, one episode takes two days, and we shoot the episodes in a block. You have to because you need a lot of time in advance to record since it’s incredibly difficult and time consuming to cut an episode. That means then that although I’m on TV in the fall, I don’t actually have anything to do with TV at the time. Since August, I’ve had next to nothing to do with TV because in fall of 2017, I opened two new businesses in Nuremberg: the Frankness and the Imperial by Alexander Herrmann. With that in mind, outsiders get this impression: How does he do it? So I really need to plan in leisure time.

"I thought about becoming a Jedi, but that turned out to be a disaster, unfortunately. There just aren’t any apprenticeships for it."

Alexander Herrmann
Michelin-starred Chef, Restaurant Owner and Book Author

European Food: You grew up in a family of hoteliers. Did you always want to be a chef, or did you have other career goals?

Alexander Herrmann: Originally I wanted to become a veterinarian. At that time, our hound, a German shorthair, sneezed once, and at the age of six and a half, I knew exactly how to treat that. So I rubbed eukalyptus ointment on his muzzle. He thought that was great as long as I kept petting him, but eukalyptus vapours and a dog’s nose, especially a hound’s nose, don’t go together very well I’m afraid, and the dog was pretty worked up. So my father had to conduct emergency surgery in the bathtub. Back then was when I first heard the comment that I had more talent in breading a schnitzel than healing a dog. But you also have to admit that, without a higher education entrance examination, you won’t get into a vet school anyway. After that, I thought about becoming a Jedi, but that turned out to be a disaster, unfortunately. There just aren’t any apprenticeships for it. Although Bavaria is rather ‘black’ politically, so Darth Vader would indeed have a good chance here, but there are nonetheless no apprenticeships. That was pretty rough. At some point I also wanted to become Rambo, or an actor or a racecar driver. Ultimately I found my calling in an apron at the stove and was actually pretty pleased with becoming a chef. Starting at about the age of 10, the kitchen became my natural environment because I always went through the kitchen after school. I sort of soaked up cooking.

"Starting at about the age of 10, the kitchen became my natural environment."

Alexander Herrmann
Michelin-starred Chef, Restaurant Owner and Book Author

European Food: You have years of experience as a TV chef. What cooking show concept have you found most interesting so far?

Alexander Herrmann: I thought “Kitchen impossible” was very interesting. It’s a unique show. It lives on putting people into an incredibly big and challenging situation. “Kitchen impossible” has to do with the chef freefalling because you just have to a cook following a recipe outside of your comfort zone and you have no idea what exactly the ingredients are. And especially because often techniques are used in the kitchen that you’ve never used before or you just don’t have any routine with. That’s particularly true for all the regional classics. Even as a starred chef from Germany, you have no real advantage. This experience is simply tremendous.

On the other hand, “The Taste” is still an amazing show for me because although it’s just a studio production, it’s very real. That means the contestants are not just being used to fill the studio and because the rules call for it so that the system of the show works, but they’re really the content of the show. There’s no false bottom or anything. There are guest judges who really know their stuff, and you encounter some friction with them. You’re emotionally invested, and I’ve been doing it for five years, and it’s simply incredible. This honesty behind the format, also the significance of all the things you do with it. Because all the contestants, especially the final ten, that’s half the contestants, take with them loads of personal development with them when the show is over, and therefore, many of them have been able to take another step towards a new level in their career. That makes me proud.

"'The Taste' is still an amazing show for me because although it’s just a studio production, it’s very real."

Alexander Herrmann
Michelin-starred Chef, Restaurant Owner and Book Author

What was also incredibly important for me was “Kampf der Köche” – ‘Battle of the Chefs’ – another show on SAT 1. In retrospect it was pretty sensational because I was on the show only as the host. At the same time, however, I had to convey to the audience what the contestants were doing – it was hobby cook vs. professional chef – using my culinary expertise. We actually managed that quite well, but the show had the misfortune of airing at 7:00 p.m. We just couldn’t compete with the popular quiz shows on the public networks at the same time. That’s such a shame because the format garnered a lot of respect and attention within the television industry. I was truly happy and am extremely grateful that so many people commended me on it. I really can’t reduce this to just two shows. It all started with VOX and the show “Kochduell” (like “Ready… Set… Cook!”). “Küchenschlacht” (‘Kitchen Battle’) on ZDF is another one of the shows I absolutely love. Just like “Stadt, Land, Lecker” (‘City, Country, Tasty’) on ZDF, for instance, a very easy-going, almost daring show for ZDF, where I spend the afternoon on the road with a food truck and drive to selected restaurateurs. There I have to try a dish and have just three hours to cook it myself.

At the moment, “Stadt, Land, Lecker” is my personal feel-good show because it’s both an adventure and a challenge for me and that within parameters that hug my soul. “The Taste” because I think it’s just astoundingly honest, insanely exciting and highly emotional, and of course it’s a huge honour to be on a show at the 8:15 p.m. time slot that has increasingly gained momentum over the years. Basically it’s these two shows that mean the most to me.

"In the meantime, we TV chefs have become a kind of standard reference, and I find that to be a significantly higher honour for the industry and for us as craftsmen."

Alexander Herrmann
Michelin-starred Chef, Restaurant Owner and Book Author

European Food: What do you think of all the hype that the media world makes of many TV chefs?

Alexander Herrmann: What hype? It’s certainly not hype. There was some hype there 20 years ago, you could say that. In the meantime, we TV chefs have become a kind of standard reference, and I find that to be a significantly higher honour for the industry and for us as craftsmen. An extreme example: Helene Fischer has been practically attacked for her incredible success. You can barely stand to listen to her anymore, and what not. I think that woman is sensational. Who needs Taylor Swift; we have Helene Fischer. If you translate Taylor Swift’s lyrics into German or, vice versa, Helene’s lyrics into English, then Helene is more the global superstar, also with regard to her shows. People have attacked her because that’s a typical reflex when someone is so successful.

We as TV chefs in the industry have of course been attacked. Back then there were waves when bashing TV chefs was practically the norm. Just think about Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who, at the television awards, complained that you only ever see TV chefs on shows anymore. I didn’t hold it against him. I could empathize with how he was feeling. He was looking to vent, and we were in for it. By the way, a few other chefs did hold it against him. We do endure these waves where people allegedly hype us as good, serious craftsmen, to some extent as bearers of cultural assets. Basically I would say there’s not just positive hype. It’s difficult at times. Which is also proof that the things we do are better than some would like to admit.

"Who needs Taylor Swift; we have Helene Fischer."

Alexander Herrmann
Michelin-starred Chef, Restaurant Owner and Book Author

European Food: Let’s talk about a matter of taste: Do you prefer sweet or savoury?

Alexander Herrmann: Both. When I’ve eaten something sweet, I want something savoury, and when I’ve eaten something savoury, I want something sweet afterwards. For me, some chocolate or ice cream is really necessary to complete a meal. But that probably has to do with my insulin level. It wants even more.

Interview: Sarah Urquhart


Herrmann’s Posthotel GmbH & Co. KG
Marktplatz 11
95339 Wirsberg / Germany


People in focus

Alexander Herrmann

CV in figures

Born: 1971, Kulmbach

Career: Alexander Herrmann completed his training as a chef in Nuremberg with placements in Germany and Belgium. He passed his chef’s exams as the best in his class.

Since 1995, he has worked as head chef in his family’s establishment, the Romantik Posthotel in Wirsberg. In 2008, he was awarded his first Michelin star. From 2007 to 2010 he was also President of the organization Jeunes restaurateurs d’Europe.

He first appeared on television in 1997 and has since cooked on a variety of programmes for private and state-owned TV channels.

Link: www.alexander-herrmann.de

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European Food

Food Special 2/2017

In this issue: Brouwerij Anders! NV – Pushing the boundaries of Belgian craft beer / Mozart Distillerie Gmbh – Your chocolate moment / Gloria Maris Groupe – Breeding healthy and high-quality fish / Caseificio Longo Srl – The artisan cheese company / Fromagerie Biologique de Vielsalm – Pure nature, pure taste

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