He has brought a sharp imagination, specific cooking skills and a precise way of doing things along with his knives. This has helped him make a name for himself among the hotel chefs in Albania, where he has been working for three and a half years.
A native of Rammenau, Germany, Falk Gnauck, the Executive Chef of the five-star hotel Sheraton Tirana started out his career as a chef in 1991. He decided to pursue a career as a chef when he realized that he liked cooking and the creativity that goes with it. Working first as a chef in Dresden and Berlin, Gnauck then moved to Ireland and Jamaica and eventually ended up in Albania. He shared the joys and stresses of creating the best Albanian recipes for the local and foreign guests of Tirana’s Sheraton Hotel in an interview with Southeast Europe: People and Culture.
When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career? Tell us how your interest in the field began:
I have always liker food due to the wide range of products you have in your hands and the myriad kinds of combinations you can create out of them. In addition, chefs have the opportunity to satisfy people within a short period of time. People spend two or three hours at a restaurant and, during this time, I make sure that they will taste exquisite food and get satisfaction from every detail such as the presentation and the overall atmosphere, the aroma and so forth.
What do you enjoy most about your work in Tirana?
The most enjoyable thing for me is working with different mentalities. I like to show something to the people and I want to be a good example of a chef for them. A good thing is that I am working in a Mediterranean environment. On the other hand, my biggest stress for me is sourcing all the necessary products on time, so I can prepare the ordered menu.
Were you familiar with the Albanian food before you came here?
I had no idea. Over the years, I have learned many things about Albanian dishes from the chefs and the locals here. I have noticed that Albanian food is heavily influenced by Turkish and Greek cuisine because of historical factors.
What do you find most interesting about Albanian food?
It is the food variety and the strong home-made feel that many of the dishes have. What is surprising is that the same dishes taste different depending on the region of Albania that you are in. I have to underline that there are strong traditions behind Albanian food.
What are the best Albanian food recipes you can recommend?
Definitely the Albanian Qofte (meatball) which is cooked in many different ways here, with a lot of herbs as well. You have one meatball recipe but it always tastes different. Also the byrek (pie), which is mostly prepared with spinach and feta cheese.
Which Albanian dish is a favourite with foreign guests at your hotel?
I would say it's a dish called “fergesa”. I have noticed that it is mostly ordered for weddings. Foreigners are curious to taste this somewhat “strange” dish, which mixes liver with ricotta cheese. Also the lamb and beef, freshly cooked with vegetables, is often ordered.
And what about you – do you have a favourite dish from Albania?
I have travelled all over Albania. I have tried restaurants in Korca, Shkodra, Saranda, Gjirokastra. I like Korca-style meatball, the traditional Tirana fergesa and the Albanian way of cooking chicken, beef and lamb.