Ever wonder what the name Chefin means? It’s a German word I learned on our latest trip to Munich for Oktoberfest.
Munich holds a special place in my heart. The first time I went there was to reunite with my husband after his four month deployment to Afghanistan. My husband and I passed through Germany once before, spending one night in Frankfurt and one night in Heidelberg. Heidelberg’s quaint charm captured my attention with its charismatic architecture and lovely castle high above the town. Two nights in Germany was simply not enough. So when we realized he had the opportunity to take leave-in-route on his way home from his deployment Germany was the obvious choice.
Our reunion took place in the Munich airport. With my husband’s previous service in the military, I cannot tell you how many joyous greetings and tearful departures we’ve experienced in airports. I had much anticipation and anxiety when traveling to meet him. It’s the same wonderful feeling one gets before walking down the aisle at their wedding, considering one spend months dreaming up that blissful moment. On top of this, I had the added anxiety of flying to Europe by myself for the first time and realizing if we could not find each other I don’t know much German to navigate my way around.
But find each other we did, instantly. He was waiting for me in a large crowd but stood out with his “I’m so excited to see you” glow and a single red rose. It was an amazing moment, and suddenly put Munich on the list of cities I love. Even if I only saw the airport that day I would love Munich because of the experience of embracing. It was the high of being reunited with the love of my life.
In all realty, if I hadn’t seen any more of Munich during that trip I would actually be missing out incredibly. It is such a wonderful city full of history and culture. However, the thing I love the most about Munich is the food! Munich is home to the Viktualienmarkt. It is a wonderful outdoor market right in the heart of the city that has the seemingly freshest and most colorful offerings one could ever imagine. If this was all Munich had to offer by way of food, it would be enough. But as we all know, what Munich is really known for are its beer halls and beer gardens. These delightful establishments serve really top notch food, not to mention the smoothest, freshest beer in the world.
Munich also serves as a wonderful jumping off point to tour Bavaria. We treated this trip to Germany as a self-proclaimed “castles and winery” tour. During our trip we visited Fussen, Rothenberg, Wurzberg, and Cochem, visiting some of the most famous castles and palaces on earth. Each stop seemed to only prove more enchanting than the last. And thus, the “Germany-Bug” was planted deep within me and I knew I needed to return.
Like most people, my husband and I always dreamed of going to Oktoberfest. No, not the kind we hold here in the United States in October, but the authentic one held in (you know where)….Munich. So after our wonderful first trip to Munich, we knew the next time we’d be back was for this intriguing annual event.
To me, Oktoberfest was exactly what I imagined, yet completely different than I imagined at the same time. It’s probably hard to understand that feeling unless you’ve been there. However, I know you can relate. Think of that one experience you dreamed up for what seemed like ages. You imagined every detail of that moment. The real moment could never be exactly what you dreamed up, yet it was still as amazing as you hoped. That is Oktoberfest.
The first thing I did not realize about Oktoberfest is that it is simply a huge fair. The best and most professionally mastered fair in the world, but still a fair. It came complete with food stands and rides. Not the greasy, fried food that you’d find at American fairs. Sorry, there were no Deep Fried Oreos or Krispy Kreme Burgers. In fact, about the only type of food I saw at a stand seemed to be roast chicken. Most people instead ate a delicious, full German meal inside the beer tents.
This brings me to my next revelation. Beer tents are not tents. They are actually ginormous, beautifully appointed buildings that seat thousands of people. Each major beer producer has their own tent that has a well-defined theme. In fact, some of the bigger producers have multiple tents. These beer tents are the heart and soul of Oktoberfest. I think many people, who have not been, envision Oktoberfest as drunken people stumbling around a festival with a beer in their hand. The beer tents actually prevent this from happening, as you can only drink if you are seated at a table inside one of the tents. Okay, you could also be standing on one of the benches at the table….but be careful as the benches tend to move the more you drink. I saw several people fall right off their bench, but of course, laughed it off.
Yes, the beer tent is where the magic lives at Oktoberfest. This is because my favorite thing about Oktoberfest (besides the freshest-best tasting beer in the world) is the people. Like you’ve probably imagined, the tables in the beer tents are long with wooden benches, forcing you to mingle. There is no option to sit alone. The most surprising thing about the entire experience is how much people really want to get to know you. In my experience, Germans did not go to get wasted, but instead went for the social aspect. I sat at tables where people would nurse a liter of beer for a couple hours, because they simply just wanted to enjoy the company around them. One time we had just arrived at a table and the group that was sitting there needed to leave. One of the men that was with the group turned to both my husband and me and said, “I’m really sad we have to go, I really was looking forward to talking to you.” It’s that kind of spirit that makes Oktoberfest such a beloved and tantalizing experience. The people who we met were some of the kindest, warmest, and friendliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with.
What kind of music would you expect to hear at Oktoberfest? If you’re anything like me, you’ve pictured Oktoberfest as people standing on benches swaying their beer back and forth while an oom-pah band plays. While there are moments that reflect this scene, there are also moments in which everyone chants along to American songs like Sweet Caroline, YMCA, Walking on Sunshine. In fact, the first night we were there the last song of the night was Prince’s Purple Rain. There was nothing more unexpected to me than seeing everyone rock out to these American songs at Oktoberfest….in Germany. Yet, at Oktoberfest celebrations here in the states only German songs are played.
The last thing I did not know about Oktoberfest was that they sell Lebkuchenherzen. Lebkuchenherzen are gingerbread heart cookies. However, they are not intended to be eaten. Instead, they are given to your sweetheart to wear around his or her neck. They come with all different sayings piped on them in colorful icing, like “I love you” (in German). They even come in a variety of sizes. The smallest is about the size of a CD. These gingerbread hearts are about as prevalent at Oktoberfest as the beer. Due to this, one of the merchandise options available in the tents is a pin that looks like miniature versions of the Lebkuchenherzen. For example, we met a couple who were wearing these pins containing the German word equivalent to “Babe”.
I saw a pin for sale that said “Chef” on it. Naturally, being a pastry chef it became my mission to buy the pin. I was not sure what Chef meant in German, but I knew what it meant to me here in America. As it turns out, Chef means Chef in both languages. The pins come in different colors and since pink is my favorite color I asked if they have it available in pink. The person selling the pins told me they only have “Chefin” in pink, since that is the female version of Chef in German. Since I would be wearing the pin, and wanted it to make sense in English, I decided to get the purple version which read “Chef”.
When it came time to decide a name for my business, I wanted to find something that really reflected who I am as a pastry chef. My travel experiences and the food I’ve tried all over the world have made the biggest impact on the kind of desserts I like to create. That is why the first table I created was a travel themed table. Wanting to incorporate this, I thought back to the word “Chefin”. When you look it up, Chefin states it is a female chef, but it also says female leader. These are two things I strive to be through this business, so I could think of no better name for this company, that I have so much pride in, than Chefin. Now, my only wish is that I bought the Chefin pin. I guess another trip to Oktoberfest is in order….