By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs July 2, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- Wiener Schnitzel. Spaetzle. Blaukraut. Schweinebraten. Unless the average cook invests money in German cookbooks and time in perfecting the recipes, these Bavarian staples can't simply be whipped up at home.
Enter Chef Sven. Donning chef's whites and a good-natured smile, Sven Markert, a local national who knows his way around the kitchen, teaches Bavarian cooking classes through Army Community Service.
Markert's classes are popular. Though he teaches a course every month, they fill up immediately after the schedule appears online. Slots are limited due to the size of the ACS kitchen, allowing eight lucky participants to benefit from his knowledge.
Markert teaches three different menus, which cycle through as many months. Students often scramble to attend all three to make the most of the series.
Once in a "Chef Sven" class, the allure is easy to grasp. Markert leads a fun and casual, but informative, cooking class. He emphasizes hands-on learning, allowing each participant to craft a main dish and encouraging everyone to chip in with side dishes and prep work.
"It's very instructional. You learn by doing," said Bill Jacobs of the Bavarian cooking course. Jacobs, a cooking enthusiast, also teaches food handling for Child Youth and School Services. "The instructor's great. He really likes teaching," he added.
While making a sumptuous lunch of rouladen -- stuffed and rolled beef; spaetzle -- homemade noodles; and blaukraut -- red cabbage, Markert guided the class through simple instructions to otherwise complex recipes.
For Diana Ortiz, who has participated in two "Chef Sven" events, their appeal lies in the chef's clear directives that allow recipes to transfer easily from the classroom kitchen to her home kitchen.
"He makes everything sound simple, and it is," said Ortiz. After a pause, she added, "and it tastes good, too."
Markert began cooking when he started living on his own and tired of eating out every night. Intolerant of processed foods, he began making fresh, healthy meals reminiscent of his mother's home cooked Bavarian fare.
"Most traditional Bavarian recipes are hundreds of years old, from a time when there weren't any supermarkets with processed and canned foods," explained Markert. "So the recipes are very pure and simple."
The class began with chopping vegetables for the rouladen gravy. Everyone pitched in, hacking through celery root, crying over onions and coining carrots.
When Markert demonstrated how to fashion rouladen, he spread a generous amount of mustard on a flat cut of beef, then layered it with salt and pepper, fatty bacon and diced onions before rolling the concoction and securing it with a toothpick.
Then, everyone made their own while he watched, occasionally providing tips on mustard levels and toothpick insertion.
While Markert is committed to provincial cooking, he keeps convenience and flavor in mind.
He mentions American-friendly alternatives to ingredients and provides tips on how to get the right cut of meat at the commissary. Markret also adjusted his rouladen recipe to jive with modern tastes.
Traditionally, explained Markert to the class, rouladen is stuffed with a pickle -- an ingredient he left out -- before slow roasting the oven for hours.
"I don't know if anyone has ever eaten a pickle that's been cooked for three hours, but," he paused to shake his head. "I don't want to eat that."
After the three hours, the food was cooked and the German culinary students sat down together and enjoyed their creations.
Each participant left with a full stomach, a three-page cookbook of Markert's own Bavarian recipes and the confidence to throw together an authentic German meal.