We’ve got beer on the brain, and not just because Brooklyn Pour is coming up. No, we’re getting excited for Oktoberfest, which begins this coming Saturday and which will last through early October. In the sausage-and-schnitzel spirit, we decided to ring up Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban, the duo behind the upscale Austrian restaurant Seasonal and the homier, tavern-like spot Edi & the Wolf, to talk to them about their favorite Oktoberfest foods and to learn all about what it’s like being partners in the kitchen.
How does an Austrian Oktoberfest celebration differ from a German one?
Wolfgang: I would say that in Austria the tradition comes from the one in Bavaria. That’s where it started. The Austrian one pretty much copies it. Usually everything happens in a tent and there’s music and rustic tables where they serve a lot of beer, grilled chicken, veal shank, and sausages.
Eduard: And the traditional schweinshaxe, which is a crispy, slowly roasted pork knuckle. It’s roasted with caraway seeds and beer and salt and pepper and you eat it with potato dumplings, horseradish, and mustard. It’s super classic, but not the healthiest diet for ten to fourteen days. The pork shank or the veal shank is the most delicious because it’s cooked for a very long time and it has lots of flavor and juices.
Do you enjoy Oktoberfest?
Wolfgang: Usually there will be a lot of very drunk people because people can’t handle how much beer it is.
Do you have a favorite Oktoberfest beer?
Wolfgang: Well, usually there are special brews and the Bavarian breweries come out with the Oktoberfest brews which are usually stronger. They are usually lagers but sometimes pilsners.
Eduard: The most classic is Hofbrau and it’s basically the ultimate Oktoberfest beer. The most authentic beer. All beers from Bavaria are pushed, but that’s the staple.
Are you going to do anything at the restaurants for the celebration?
Wolfgang: Well, I think Oktoberfest is too rustic for Seasonal. It could work for Edi & the Wolf, but across the street is a Bavarian beer house Zum Schneider, and so Oktoberfest will be the most important day of the year for them. We don’t want to interfere with their restaurant. What’s it like being a tag-team in the kitchen?
Eduard: I think a kitchen is like an army. You can have a lot of fun, but when it comes to service, everyone has to work hard and know their positions and know how to execute at the right time. There has to be communication, and people have to stay in line and do exactly what they’re told.
Wolfgang: The beautiful thing about working on menus together is the cooperation. Other kitchens are like dictatorships, with one guy telling all the others how it is done. It’s a traditional managerial style. Now, we’re working with young people and making them part of the decision-making process which helps make people feel acknowledged. People in restaurants aren’t in it for the money. If that were the case, they’d be bankers, lawyers, doctors. What drives them is the passion for food; if you’re participating in the process, you’ll appreciate it more. [Working in kitchens] is a long process with 14 hour days, long services, high pressure, so creating an aura of cooperation is what you want.
Do you have similar kitchen personalities?
Eduard: We’re quite different, which is quite good. It’s like a marriage.
What’s your favorite thing about the other person?
Eduard: The thing about Wolfi is that he always keeps calm. Even if people are knee-deep in shit, he keeps cool and calm.
Wolfgang: Edi is an excellent troubleshooter. It’s always good to have him on your side because he’ll be able to fix things.