ADAMS -- Gerhard Schmid didn't plan on becoming a chef at Halflinger Haus. The arrangement was a happy accident when he first met Halflinger Haus's owner Donald Sommer after being brought to dinner, back in June.
"I met him on Father's Day," explained Schmid. "My wife found out there was an Austrian restaurant and my mother and father are Austrian, so they brought me here. We tasted the food, I met Mr. Sommer, we got talking about the food, and we took it from there. He needed help, and I was here to come and consult and help him out."
Schmid replaces former Haflinger Haus chef Alexis Girhiny.
Schmid's position at Halflinger Haus is not only that of chef, but also that of consultant, coming in to make sure everything is improved.
"I see that we get old customers back, and they're all excited about the food. People have come back and reacted positively," said Schmid.
And it may be no surprise, given his unique experience. Schmid has a long and storied history of working as a chef for over 50 years. He has worked at restaurants all over the world, from the Continental Hotel in Munich, to the Carlton Tower Hotel in London. He formerly ran Haus Andreas in Lee and the Gateways Inn and Restaurant in Lenox with his wife, Lilliane, and has worked in country clubs around Boston, and opened up the American Airlines hotel in Texas, where he cooked some Austrian food.
"My aunt lived outside of Vienna and they had a hotel," recalled Schmid. "I remember her cooking really good Austrian food. After eighth grade, I grew up with them after the war in Germany, and I had to decide what I wanted to do. I needed to go learn a trade, and my father was looking for apprenticeship, so I went and started out in 1955 cooking. I went three years to apprentice at a hotel and restaurant school in Germany, south of Heidelberg. I cooked over there for Prince Philip, and I cooked in Boston for the Kennedys."
Schmid's career has been marked by many notable encounters with fame. He has cooked for such notables as the Shah of Iran and American celebrities including John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Norman Rockwell, Arthur Fiedler and Barry Manilow.
His apprenticeship at a German culinary school under Count von Nipperg afforded him the opportunity to cook for England's Prince Phillip. After moving to England and then America, he joined Team USA to compete in the International Culinary Olympics held in Germany every four years. He won a gold and a silver in 1968 (with team USA taking the gold), and in 1976 he personally won three gold medals.
1976 was also the year that Schmid got to cook for Queen Elizabeth II.
"I had to do a competition," he said, "And when I won, I had to make a menu for the queen. It was sent to Buckingham palace, then I had to do a test run with the menu I created for them."
Once that was approved, Schmid ended up preparing a luncheon for the Queen and 250 guests, during her first visit to the United States for the Bicentennial.
In spite of his exciting travels around the world, Schmid said he is happy to be back in the Berkshires. "I grew up in a little village that wasn't even 100 people," he said. "I am enjoying the country and snow, just like every Austrian enjoys snow -- Austrians are nuts about skiing."
Cuisine, however, is less uniform across Austria. "Austrians have their own specialties in different regions," Schmid explained. "I grew up north of Vienna, where it's really hardy food, and they eat a lot of pork there. I like a lot of game, game birds, venison."
Schmid is now bringing his experience and familiarity with Austrian cuisine to Halflinger Haus, in the kitchen as well as in the larger scheme of things.
"He's been with us about two months," said Halflinger Haus owner Donald Sommer. "He's outstanding, and we're lucky to have him -- he's really the best around."
Schmid and his wife currently live in New Marlborough.