Tracking down taste! Jörg Osswald works as a food hunter for the gourmet restaurant at Herrmann’s Romantik Posthotel in Wirsberg and tells us about his job
Food hunting sounds like an adventure. What does it involve?
Basically, I look for new, exceptional producers and food products. However, not only discovering but jointly developing is important. You could say I’m the connecting link between the restaurant’s head chef and the producer.
What role does food hunting play in gastronomy?
In Germany, still a very small one. We were pretty much the first to create such a job as a full-time position. You find food scouts more often in the New Nordic Cuisine in Scandinavia. But I think we’ll be seeing more of this in Germany in the future.
What kind of skills does a good food hunter need to discover or pick up new taste trends?
A food hunter must always be open to new things, keep an eye on various food trends, and be highly interested in developing food products. Personal skills are important too because relationships with producers are always on a friendship basis.
Where do you look for new ingredients?
As our restaurant is strongly focused on the region, my search is limited to Bavaria with special emphasis on Franconia.
How do you hear about trends or secrets?
It really depends. Often in conversations I hear who is currently growing what. The Internet is a good source as well. And just going through life with your eyes open.
How do you approach your search?
I’m actually always on the look-out. Only in very rare cases, our kitchen chef will say “Look for product XY.” We integrate whatever I find in the menu. When I meet promising producers, I visit them and let them show me around. This gives me a chance to see if we have the same interests and mindset. Usually, we then invite them to the hotel so that they can see how we work.
What qualities does an ingredient have to have for you to use it?
First and foremost, it has to taste good. There’s no use in telling people a story about a special ingredient when it’s bland in flavour. I feel that using an ingredient just to be able to say that you’ve discovered an old, regional variety is the wrong approach.
What’s the most unusual ingredient you’ve discovered so far?
It’s not even really the ingredients that are so special but the stories behind them. For example, we work with a palm house in the northernmost part of Franconia that grows bananas, papayas, passion fruit and quite a bit more with amazing quality. Or there’s the pensioner who grows lemons that are otherwise only found in Asia in his remodelled winter garden in Middle Franconia. Having found this exotic, fantastic taste variety in the middle of Franconia is what makes it all special for me!
More about the Hotel: www.romantikhotels.com/Wirsberg