Sunday, May 27, 2001

Chef retires to his garden

Erwin Pfeil made Lebanon his home during 32 years in Golden Lamb kitchen

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After 32 years as chef at the venerable Golden Lamb in Lebanon, chef Erwin Pfeil retired last month. We couldn't let this go unnoticed.

        During a phone call that brought him in from the garden at his home in Lebanon, we asked Mr. Pfeil about three decades in one restaurant's kitchen.

        Question: How did a German chef end up cooking traditional American food?

  With Memorial Day picnics in mind, here is the recipe for the Golden Lamb's popular egg salad.
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chilled and chopped (not too finely)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped finely
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard (or more, to taste)
  • Dash of each: Tabasco sauce, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  Mix all ingredients except mayonnaise. Then gradually fold in mayonnaise until desired consistency is reached. (Salad should be thick.)
        Answer: I was born in a small town near Stuttgart. I worked in Switzerland, then Sweden and then back in Switzerland. I came to Dayton and worked at the Meadowbrook Country Club. Chef (Pierre) Adrian at the Maisonette asked me to recommend someone (for the Golden Lamb) who didn't work out, so I took the job. I had to learn a few things. I knew how to roast a turkey, but not 10 to 15 at a time. We did a lot of research about Shaker food and used those recipes. ... I organized the kitchen just like a European kitchen. Everyone has a station, and works their station. We roasted bones for stock. It was a European kitchen making American food.

        Q: And how did your job stretch to 32 years?

        A: Oh, I was too busy. I couldn't think about leaving. The Comisars (owners of the Golden Lamb) were good to work for, and the Golden Lamb has history and charm. Lebanon became my home.

        Q: What was your work schedule?

        A: I usually arrived at work at 9 or 10 in the morning and worked through lunch. I'd take a break in the afternoon, and come back for dinner. Except for my day off, I didn't eat dinner with my family. My wife (Ursula) cooked for our son (Christian, who graduated from West Point and is an Army captain stationed near Louisville). Except for vacation, I always worked on Saturday and Sunday.

        Q: What changes did you see over the years in the restaurant business?

        A: Lighter food. We began to do more sauteed dishes, less deep-fat fried. And more fish. Especially more fish. But we had to change things gradually. The customers of the Golden Lamb like to see their favorite dishes every time.

        Q: What are your plans?

        A: I have said no commitments for this year. We traveled to Germany for three weeks. I am tending my garden. When you work in a restaurant, you need a place of peace, so I worked on my garden in the afternoons. I have a nice vegetable garden, a big perennial bed, a koi pond and landscaping. And I cook dinner. I love to cook. Last night I made chicken breast in tarragon sauce. And we went out with some friends for dinner last weekend. It felt very strange to be out on a Saturday night.


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