Thomas Ridgley – Externing at Hotel Spielweg in Munstertal, Germany

Thomas Ridgley

Metairie, Louisiana

Externing at Hotel Spielweg in Munstertal, Germany

Everything about Germany’s Black Forest is breathtaking, from the lush mountain views to the region’s traditional, flavorful foods. I am here for the latter, supported by New Orleans chef and fellow Chef John Folse Culinary Institute alum Michael Gulotta to soak up a year’s worth of culinary experience at the popular Hotel Spielweg in Munstertal.

The deal was a no-brainer: Chef Gulotta would fund my externship in Germany in exchange for working three years in one of his kitchens upon my return. I had heard about Hotel Spielweg while eavesdropping on chefs’ conversations at Chef John Besh’s Restaurant August, my first job. Chef Besh had trained for several years under Chef Karl-Josef Fuchs, owner and head chef of Hotel Spielweg. Chef Gulotta, too, had spent some time in Europe and spoke favorably of the hotel’s culinary experience.

At 22, living in the Black Forest mountains at the southernmost part of Germany near the French and Swiss borders and following in the footsteps of my mentors, I am the youngest to extern at Hotel Spielweg. Having no cell phone reception and limited Wi-Fi has allowed me to focus on learning traditional German dishes while surrounding myself with the beautiful scenery and discovering more about myself with each new experience.

This year, I am working on becoming a more skilled cook, valuing humility and learning to appreciate other cultures. When I get back to the States, I plan to work my way up in the restaurant industry and pass on my accrued culinary knowledge to other culinary students, just like my mentors did for me.