Vinzenz Aschbacher - Master pastry chef
January 1, 1970Charleston Grill and Charleston Place - Upon entering the Charleston Place hotel pastry kitchen I became part of a ballet – both female and male pastry chefs moving quickly, effortlessly, with ladles and pans, melting chocolate ganache, pouring it over a dozen small cakes for special birthday cakes, topping pralines with pine nuts; peeling peaches; hulling strawberries, making cookies, moving the trays of sweets to a rolling rack, and Vinzenz Aschbacher standing calmly there, directing the ballet with a nod of the head, a quick quiet answer, a rub of the fingers on some crumbs.
We moved to his office, next to stacks of Valrhona chocolate, and talked about ways to stay cool in the heat of a Charleston summer. “I couldn’t believe the summer the first year,” Vinzenz said. “It is a far cry from the summers of my childhood.” Vinzenz grew up in that area of Italy abutting Austria called the Tirol. He speaks German, Italian, kitchen French and near flawless English.
“But it is easy to stay cool in the summers here, and we can make desserts that accommodate the moods of summer -- fresh fruits, fresh herbs, ice creams, desserts that can be made ahead in the cool of the morning and then assembled just before serving.” Vinzenz keeps a sketch book on hand and as he walks about the city he sketches what he sees – a gate here, wall paper there, and incorporates those designs into his desserts, to make them unique and very Charleston.
“At first,” he says, “my wife and I weren’t sure we would stay. It was a good place to bring up our children. But I didn’t understand the culture, the people. Then I started traveling and consulting from here, and every time I came back to Charleston I realized I was home. The employees at the airport greeted me, people smiled at me in the airport, at the baggage claim, and I remembered what it was like in Germany – no one smiling, no matter how many times they had seen you, and certainly no one smiling on the street if they had never seen you before. A gracious “hellos”, “please” or “may I”, even “excuse me.” I realized I wanted my children to grow up here, that I was already becoming part of the culture, I wanted so much of what it had to offer. So we stayed. And we are happy here.”