“Amateur Chef of the Year”:
“Küchenschlacht” meets Automotive Engineering
TUMstudinews: When did you start cooking?
Michael Reich: I actually started cooking when I was a kid. I started watching my parents cook at an early age – and I did some baking with my grandma. At the age of 12, I baked my first “Prinzregententorte” for my mother’s birthday. Soon after that, I prepared multi-course menus for my parents.
When did you take cooking to a professional level?
In 2014, I took part in the show “Topfgeldjäger” on ZDF together with a friend. We won 4,000 Euros and used the money for a holiday in the Caribbean.
How come you took part in “Küchenschlacht”?
The show is produced by the same company that was responsible for “Topfgeldjäger” – that’s how I became aware of the possibility. The first production week took place last summer. The show is somewhat like a tournament consisting of six individual contests, each over the course of a week, followed by a final show in which the six weekly winners compete in a championship. At the grand finale, the six champions compete against each other – which is how I became “Amateur Chef of the Year” and received a prize money of 25,000 Euros.
Sounds as if you invested quite a lot of time.
I did. All in all, I cooked 15 meals on three weekends – two in summer and one in the fall, for the final show. All the shooting took place in Hamburg. Still, it was the basic ideas for the dishes, writing the recipes and the test-cooking that took most of the time.
How did you prepare for your participation?
I really like to cook for my family and friends. Thanks to “Küchenschlacht”, cooking became my most important hobby. I also cater for family celebrations frequently. We already prepared two 5-course menus – each for 30 people – in my home community. That was good practice for the show.
Just like the professionals…
There were music performances between the courses. Maybe not quite as professional as in “Schuhbeck’s Teatro”, but we were overwhelmed by the guests’ feedback. We have so many requests for future “gourmet evenings” that we will have to draw lots.
How do you get the ideas for your meals?
Often through cooking shows or cookbooks, but also when eating out. I pay special attention to flavor composition and the general idea behind a dish. Sometimes, I’m inspired by pictures on Instagram. When I cook a meal, I never follow recipes exactly – I pick out individual components and recombine them.
What did you experience at the show?
What I liked especially was how many people I got to know in the course of the show, starting from the TV-chefs – some of whom I am still in close contact with – to other candidates I made friends with. Also, I thought it was great to be able to cook in full swing in the television studio, as we didn’t have to clean up the place ourselves. Afterwards, the studio looked rather like a battlefield – true to the program’s title “Küchenschlacht” (kitchen battle).
What did you do with the prize money?
To match my course of studies, I’m a real car freak. I’ve wanted to have a convertible for quite a while. Two weeks after the final show, I was able to fulfil my dream and buy a Z4. I had this plan in the back of my mind throughout the show, which was a huge motivation for me.
How will your TV career continue?
The next step would be “The Taste”, which can be seen as the Champions League of cooking shows. However, I really would have to practice. The show is on a very high level – as there are even professional chefs who take part. We’ll see if I can become a candidate in 2017. In a few weeks, from mid-May onwards, I’m taking part in a new cooking show on Sat1. It’s an adaption of a US-format that will be aired in Germany for the first time. I’ll be on TV on a weekday at 7 pm, but I can’t give more details at the moment.
How did your fellow students react to your television appearance?
Mainly, they were very surprised that one of their fellow students had reached the finals of the “Küchenschlacht”. Shortly before the shooting of the final week of the show, I had registered for my master thesis. I had to inform my supervisor that I wouldn’t be at the institute for a while. He knew about the show and thought it was just fine. Then, of course, everyone was keen to enjoy my cooking skills, so we organized a “team cooking event” at the institute.
Did you ever consider turning your hobby into a career?
Two years ago, a friend of mine opened up a restaurant. After the final show, we had the idea of offering dishes from the “kitchen battle”, which I had to prepare, of course. For several weeks, I prepared a “Küchenschlacht”-menu on Wednesdays. It was great fun to work in a professional kitchen – and I learned a lot.
So, will you become a professional chef or an automotive engineer?
I definitely want to work as an engineer. Cooking is a hobby and I want it to stay like that, also because it’s an extremely stressful profession. If I can use my hobby to be on TV from time to time and earn a little extra money, that’s just perfect.
(Interview: Verena Pongratz)
Michael Reich, 25, is from Hörmannsberg in Aichach-Friedberg. He just handed in his Master’s thesis at the Institute of Internal Combustion Engines at TUM. It is about the development of an advanced system for the direct measurement of piston group friction.