Passport to the World
By Leah Spellman Craig
Looking through old photographs and
culinary memorabilia he has collected
during his 57-year career, Hubert
Schmieder, AAC, can hardly believe the
things he has accomplished. “The longer I
look at this, I say, ‘Is it possible that we do all
this in one lifetime?’” says Schmieder, 81.
around the world, including the presidents
of West Germany and India and the king
and queen of Greece.
His story begins in the Black Forest region
of Southwest Germany during World War II.
He was 14 years old May 1, 1943, when he
began his three-year apprenticeship under
Herman Beck, a German master chef.
In 1956, Schmieder’s connections
brought him to America. Sponsored by the
management of Marott Hotel, Indianapolis,
which had seen his menus and photos in
a German chef magazine, he came to the
U.S. to work as a cook at the hotel.
“When you are young, your mind is so
small. I didn’t focus on how big the war
was,” Schmieder says. “I just peeled
potatoes, picked mushrooms and learned
to cook being frugal—a lesson that has
stayed with me all my life.”
From the mid 1960s through the late 1980s,
Schmieder worked at various hotels and
restaurants. He continued competing, as he had
in Switzerland where he won his first gold medal
in 1954. He won an individual gold medal at the
1960 IKA, and competed as a member of the
1964 U.S. team. He was U.S. team captain at
the 1966 Pan-American games in Miami.
After the war, Schmieder worked as a
civilian for the U.S. military for about five
years. Food, as it was for most of his life,
was a precious commodity and hard to
come by. He became friends with several
German-speaking American soldiers who
gave him spices and other items that he
traded with the local butcher for meat.
Networking and being involved in member
organizations proved fruitful early in
Schmieder’s career. In 1951 he met the
president of the Swiss Chefs Association
at the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung
(IKA) in Frankfurt, Germany, and a year
later, with his World Association of Chefs
Societies (WACS) “passport” in hand, he
went to Switzerland to work for two years.
When he returned to Germany, he worked
at the guest house of the Federal Republic
of Germany in Bonn, West Germany. He
cooked at state dinners for dignitaries from
Schmieder is passionate about the benefits
of attending shows such as the IKA that bring
the world’s best together. He has attended
every IKA except one in the past 50 years,
and already has his hotel room booked in
Erfurt, Germany, for the 2012 competition.
Schmieder joined the American Culinary
Federation (ACF) while working at Adam’s
House, Adamsburg, Pa. In the 1960s, he
worked with close friends Paul Laesecke, AAC,
HOF, Willy Rossel, AAC, HOF, Otto Spielbichler
and others to increase ACF’s membership and
involvement in WACS. He served as president
of ACF Pittsburgh Chapter, ACF Harrisburg
Chapter and ACF Greater Indianapolis Chapter,
where he is still a member.
Schmieder spent the last years of his
working career as a chef-instructor at Purdue
University, West Lafayette, Ind., and was the
first professional chef to work for the school.
In the hospitality and tourism management
department he spread his message of
stewardship. His first mission: stop students
from using garbage disposals. Schmieder is
most well-known for introducing ostrich meat
to chefs and consumers in America and around
the world while at Purdue.
“I would fly all over the world and come
back late Monday, and Purdue would let
me do that,” says Schmieder, still surprised.
“I traveled to Tokyo, Austria, Africa, Taiwan,
Israel, Canada and other places to show
them how to cut and cook with ostrich. I
became known as the ‘big bird chef.’”
In 2000, after 57 years in the culinary industry,
Schmieder retired, and was named chef
emeritus of Purdue University. He now lives in
Lafayette, Ind. Five years ago, he was named
to the Honorable Order of the Golden Toque.
He attended the 2010 ACF National
Convention in Anaheim, Calif., to connect
with fellow chefs and friends—citing those
connections as one of the most important
aspects of his career—and to be inducted
into the American Academy of Chefs. He also
received a Cutting Edge Award.
Looking back, Schmieder is pleased with
his career, but there are some things that
sadden him, including the elimination of
home-economics classes in schools, food
waste and the lack of technical skills of
many young chefs. He urges students to get
to know older chefs and to learn from them.
And he hopes students discover the value of
member organizations. “My life, it was really
amazing,” Schmieder says. “For the average
chef, it is absolutely doable. By being a
member of organizations such as ACF
and WACS, you get immediate recognition
around the world. The basic knowledge of
cookery is global, and it connects us.”