was a talented chef who trained at the top cooking schools in
Germany and then in France. He envisioned a career as a
chef in the most prestigious places in Germany, perhaps ending
up supervising the preparation of dishes for Royalty.
Dapper and elegant,
he looked more the part of a dandy than of a cook. He
studied with the greatest chefs in the great establishments in
Paris and Vienna, but always seemed to come to grief just
before he became famous for his brilliance. It could
only have been because the great chefs were threatened by the
presence of greatness in their kitchens. It could never
have had anything to do with Heinrich's attitude that he was
too valuable a talent to have to work his way up from the
bottom. Nein, of course not. His unfortunate
penchant for throwing tantrums couldn't have had any effect on
his career, either.
To get his career
off on the right foot after leaving Paris, Heinrich accepted
the position of assistant cook on one of the great estates in
north eastern Prussia. His intention was to establish
himself in a grand mansion where there would be much
entertaining of the gentry and minor aristocracy.
Naturally his extraordinary talent would be noted, and he
would be sought after. Heinrich was in no doubt that his
talent was extraordinary. He considered himself a
culinary artist. His plan was to accept only those posts
in establishments that were a step above the social standing
of whichever establishment he worked in.
Imagine his dismay
and disappointment when he discovered that the estate that had
hired him, Schönwald, did not host great parties and dances.
All of the accoutrements were there; large kitchens, ball
room, reception rooms, banquet room, musician's gallery; but
nearly all of the house stood empty, silent, vacant.
The lady of the
house kept to her rooms, she did not play hostess to
glittering throngs. There was no substitute hostess.
The lord of the manor, Otto, did what he could to fill in,
shockingly even dabbling in women's work. Otto had
business meetings and occasional small family gatherings, but
no opulent entertaining. There was only one child, not
yet out in society, and a greatly reduced staff.
The biggest blow
to Heinrich's illusions was that his superior was a woman.
Not merely a woman – he could almost have borne that if she'd
been a brilliant chef – but an illiterate Hungarian peasant
with thickly accented German and no concept of artistry.
Food for Emma was to be substantial and plain. The ideas
of presentation, or sauces, or liaisons between one part of
the dish and another was not merely strange to her, they were
As he reeled from
the disappointment and tried to come up with a way to get his
intended meteoric rise back on track, Heinrich took out his
frustrations on Emma and her kitchen staff. He hadn't
intended to defy Emma at first. His attitude to cooking
and his methods were so different from hers that by trying to
do his normal work he thwarted her. He found that it
made him feel better to keep Emma in a tizzy, and from then on
proceeded to irritate her just for the fun of it.
A short time after
Heinrich arrived at Schönwald the household staff put on a
surprise birthday party for Otto. Heinrich put his heart
and soul into the preparations for Otto's birthday meal, on
the off-chance that one of the guests would have the good
taste to realise his talent.
He was gratified
to have a lady question him about his proudest creation,
biscuits called "Springerle" that had pictures molded into
each one from wooden molds that he had carved himself.
When the expected requests to "borrow" his skills from Otto
were forthcoming, Heinrich realised that he could use
Schönwald as a springboard for his carrier after all.
Gratified, he settled down to enjoy his time at Schönwald
because he knew that it was going to be a short time.