Peter Gebauer’s Career in Cooking
Witty reflections in ‘Omnivore’s Travel’
The reality of a career
in professional cooking is exposed in Peter Gebauer’s freshman endeavor, Omnivore’s Travel: Career and Legacy of a
Chef. Gebauer is the executive chef at Milwaukee’s Potawatomi Bingo Casino, where he
oversees all culinary operations at the thriving entertainment destination, a
domain that encompasses 12 food venues, including the casino’s catering
department and the award-winning Dream Dance Steak restaurant.
Omnivore’s Travel is equal parts professional memoir and
travelogue, with a good measure of valuable career advice for would-be chefs.
The narrative follows Gebauer from his native Germany,
where he developed a passion for cooking at an early age while helping his
grandmother, also a chef, prepare Bavaria’s
local specialties. Gebauer details his unique upbringing, in which he “learned
to butcher livestock and was soon recognized for preparing the family’s Sunday
lunch feast on his own while still in elementary school.” There was never any
doubt in his mind that one day he would become a professional chef.
Compiling much of the
book’s content from personal journals and photographs that span his nearly
40-year career, Gebauer is a witty and vivid writer who has a gift for
endearing himself to the reader. In a similar vein as bad-boy chef, author and
food-show celebrity Anthony Bourdain, Gebauer is delightfully honest, recalling
how, when he was working for Royal Viking Line, he was busted by management for
preparing a Balinese omelet made with “magic mushrooms” for the entire culinary
team, including the cruise ship’s executive chef.
Like most foodies,
Gebauer’s memories are laced with all things edible. His deep appreciation of
food, and the people who prepare it, is displayed in his exquisite descriptions
of the different styles of food he encountered at worldwide ports of call while
working onboard luxury cruise lines and as a chef in Hong Kong, the Middle
East, Germany, Singapore and the Caribbean.
Readers are given a mouth-watering account of bienenstich, “a layer cake filled with whipped cream and topped
with caramelized sliced almonds,” in Germany, som tam, “a tangle of crisp, unripe papaya, peanuts and dried
shrimp, tossed in a lip-tingling dressing of fish sauce, palm sugar and lime
juice,” in Thailand, and calza, “a
piquant dish made of boiled and crushed potatoes, lime juice, ajichile
paste and seasonings, often topped with stewed octopus,” in Peru. Gebauer also
includes elaborate menus from a few of his most memorable meals.
Omnivore’s Travel develops a superbly detailed picture
of what life is like in hotel, resort, cruise line, theme park, and even
airline catering kitchens. Gebauer offers insightful commentary and humorous anecdotes
on the cooking industry, as well as helpful suggestions for those eager to make
the leap from home cooking to the professional trade.
After relocating to Milwaukee to join Potawatomi Bingo Casino in 2006, Gebauer
founded the PBC Culinary Academy
to offer culinary courses for all team members.
“Mentoring, in my
opinion, is just as important as a good formal education or training,” Gebauer
explained in an interview. “I didn’t have a mentor; that’s why I make it so
important [at Potawatomi].”
Gebauer, who earned the
title of Master in Culinary Arts in 1986, is in the editing phase of his next
book, Culinary Academy: The Comprehensive
Guide, a textbook that explains culinary fundamentals and basic cooking
methods based on courses he has taught.
While Omnivore’s Travel isn’t immune to the
occasional typo and awkward phrasing that sometimes occur when self-publishing,
it certainly doesn’t subtract from the overall reading experience. The lessons,
experiences and information Gebauer has collected in Omnivore’s Travel make the book very satisfying for many readers,
from people who like to cook to people who love to eat.
Omnivore’s Travel can be purchased as a paperback book or for the Kindle at Amazon.com.n