FREE in this country? This place has to be doing something right if they are giving out free sausage. I looked them up and found out they were owned and run by the very successful and well-known German catering chef Kai Loebach. I was sold! I needed to get in and find out more about this “Über Juicy Sausage Fest!”.
I could tell from Chef Kai’s resume which includes Presidents to Mick Jagger that he wasn’t making just any ordinary German sausage. Not even, this chef is selling perfection. To put it in an American perspective German chefs don’t fuck around its cook or die. When it comes to the sausage fight club Chef Kai is the master.
We all know the rules to that club! Don’t talk when your eating sausage and don’t eat sausage when your talking. Currywurst get’s right to the point offering the perfect sausage for everyone no matter if your the carnivore or the vegan.
I got the chance to sit down with Kai and enjoy a lovely taste of German perfection and find out exactly what Currywurst is all about.
MEAT ME: So what is this that I am eating?
Chef Kai: (German Accent) This is the Hungarian sausage with our grilled onions and homemade mustard. The mustard is a little bit of sweet and spicy mustard that we make.
MEAT ME: What type of meat is in it?
Chef Kai: Only pork.
MEAT ME: Any particular part of the pig?
Chef Kai: Pork Butt. It is pork butt, garlic, paprika, and obviously seasoning.
MEAT ME: What about this white sausage in the ketchup sauce?
Chef Kai: Currywurst. The original currywurst from Germany is a white sausage. Sometimes they use bratwurst and knockwurst but those 2 sausages are so similar that you can barley tell them apart. Even with the German’s they can’t (tell the difference). If you tell somebody ok this is the bratwurst, they look at it… They take it as a bratwurst. It’s just the wording really it is a combination of veal and pork and it’s a more fluffier sausage so it gets whipped.
What the hamburger is the Americans, Currywurst is to the Germans.
In Germany this dish as you have it, is sold over 800 million times a year annually. That is a huge number. You can imagine there are a gazillion places on a lot of corners and it is usually a dive. You will never find something as clean as here in Germany.
MEAT ME: In terms of restaurants?
Chef Kai: No in terms of this Currywurst places. In Germany it is called an Imbiss, which are basically fast food places. In Germany you don’t necessarily sit at a table. You stand at a counter and eat or you walk with it. Germany is also a place where people walk more. Here if you don’t have a parking spot in front of the door people saying oh there is no parking. We have a parking lot there (points north on Fairfax) you can park at the Grove there is plenty of parking but if you don’t have anything right out side there is no parking.
So in Germany this type of stuff gets eaten while you are walking. It is a differently mentality and the way it is severd here is we enhance the ketchup sauce a little bit. In Germany the traditional way with a lot of places is just pure ketchup. Our ketchup sauce contains certified organic ketchup, which has no corn products and is made with sugar. So it is already a different product but we also enhance it with organic tomatoes, seasonings and curry power. So it is a little bit more of a thicker sauce and a little bit more marinara (type) because I am not a believer of pouring just ketchup over it. If you go to better establishments in Germany you still get a nicer sauce. These people that sell these types of food are still a far cry from a chef or even from a cook.
It is like someone just wanted to open a Currywurst place. They don’t know anybody so they go to Costco and they buy ketchup in a large container and they just squirt it on it.
MEAT ME: Currywurst… How do you explain that to the average American?
Chef Kai: Your Fucked! (we laughed out loud) See that is the reason why we are not doing so well. When I started thinking about what I am gonna call it; am I gonna call it “Sausage Land” am I gonna call it “Knockwurst Haven” or “Sausage Kingdom” or whatever. I thought no I wanted to use “Currywurst”. Currywurst is the German name for it and the Americans just have to get used to it. It’s a learning process. Anytime you introduce anything foreign in this country it takes a while to incorporate it into the system. If you translate it people get turned off because it has the word “curry” in it, and the word “wurst”. It could be the worst curry? (he jokes) So they think, “ Why would we go there? It’s a bad Indian restaurant.” What we did is put up these words into the window to refer to what it could be. Brats, we have sausages, tater munchen those are all American invented words they are not existing in Germany these words. It is like the same with “Farfegnugen” it was an amazing advertising campaign by VW but the word farfegnugen does not exist in German. It is really difficult to translate the word into something that Americans can understand. Any Amercian that has been to Germany would be familiar with it. You come to America you have a hamburger you go to Germany you have a currywurst or a something similar to that. So that is the difficult part.
MEAT ME: So what is your background in terms of culinary experience?
Chef Kai: I am a fully trained chef I went to culinary school for three and a half years in Germany and learned the business from the ground up. Three and a half really hard years; in Germany the system is a little different. Each town basically has its own culinary school. Its not like here where it is all about school; there it is all about practice you work at a restaurant for five or six days a week depending on where you end up and you go to school one day. Here in the states the course is six months long, you only go to school, and when you come out of school you have no clue about the business. In Germany you can’t let loose on anything you know what it takes. From day one you’re on the line you know what to do. Yes you have to learn the basics and that is what you do for three and a half years. Those are really long hours. It has been compared to slavery that is what it is.
When I talk to somebody and they tell me they are thinking about going to culinary school I say think about it. Compared to American standards, culinary school in Germany is slavery. I cannot tell you how many times my supervisor rammed a meat fork into my ass… I mean it drew blood! There is no way of calling them an “Asshole” or “Screw You!” You would have lost your job immediately. You can’t just sue anybody; that is just not how it is. It is really hardcore, France is the same so I went through that.
I came to the states when I was really young just finished culinary school. I worked in Europe and Germany and then I came here and got a job at the Century Plaza Hotel. I was actually homeless for a week; I slept on the street I only had $2,000 dollars to my name with 2 suite cases including my knives that I traveled here with. I had a job as a chef at the Century Plaza Hotel but felt like they were taking advantage of me because I was only making $3.25 an hour. Since I was on a student visa they could take advantage of me and not have to pay me any kind of real salary. I left after 6 months and said this is not for me. I was making 2,000 salad roses a day and nobody cared about what I do.
So I started catering and with in a year I established my own catering company that I still have to this day and is now in its 25th year. It is doing really well, so well that I can afford this hobby (Currywurst), basically. This is not covering any cost at the moment. So I need the catering business to subsidize this little hobby. The plan was to open this 20 years ago since this is food that I grew up with and everybody was familiar with it in Germany. Every time I started looking into it the time wasn’t right. I was too busy catering or some kind of hurdle was in my way. 2 years ago when the economy tanked the catering business wasn’t doing so well so I thought that maybe this was the time to open an establishment with a six dollar and fifty cent price point where you can get full on something inexpensive and still be great quality.
There was this German trend that started about 2 years ago so I thought this was perfect I’ll fit right in. It took me a year to find the location and it took me another 8 months to build out the space. So it was a long time before the sign went up and with the city being so difficult and throwing so many sticks into my way it took me 8 months to open such a small place. We did it and I am glad that I did but would I do it again? Hum I am not sure. Maybe with a different name because it is difficult to establish something that people are not very familiar with. I mean if I had a hamburger or a weinersnitchel written on the door… It is something that they know. Currywurst was a challenge to myself and I didn’t want to give into the American mentality of promoting something that everybody can identify with. I wanted to make it interesting. For example we have this campaign running right now “Über Juicy Sausage Fest” that’s what we do. We have this gorilla sign (sausage xing sign) I am hoping that it stays up but it is not a legal sign so the city can take it down at anytime. You have no idea how many people stop here and get out of the car just to take a picture of it.
MEAT ME: That is so funny. I knew whom you guys where from Jordan Carver’s Facebook page; when she was promoting your place on Valentines Day. I thought that you guys were in Germany. I was walking home from the Grove and I saw your sausage xing sign and I looked to the left and saw your store front and I couldn’t believe that is was the same Currywurst. We had been talking on twitter before that had even happen.
Chef Kai: Jordan Carver came in February for the New Year campaign. That month on every Tuesday for twenty minutes and eleven seconds we had free sausages for everybody that walked in the door and we were advertising that on Facebook and Twitter. Jordan Carver, being a German model, tweeted it on her page as well so that the crowds rattled up.
MEAT ME: So how many sausages do you have?
Chef Kai: We have 3 different sausages. We have the pork and the veal. We have just the pork, which is the Hungarian. We have the Thüringer which is a region in Germany, it identifies with the style of sausage it’s a longer sausage. In Germany it is made out of pork as well. Germany is a pig land, but coming to this country you have to be flexible and you have to cater to different ethnic groups so I decided to make the Thüringer a chicken version. Because of the chicken I didn’t want to introduce a natural pork casing so we decided to do a collagen casing on the chicken.
MEAT ME: What is that exactly (collagen)?
Chef Kai: Collagen is a beef product. It is extracted out of beef so if you want to smear the sausage on your face you might get rid of wrinkles (laughing). Then we have the 2 vegan sausages. One is a smoked apple and the other is a much spicier version the chipotle. The sides we have; the sauerkraut we get from a German company who makes it with no preservatives the only thing they do is shred the cabbage and they marinate it. It is not really great to eat it like this so we prepare it; I use my grandmother’s recipe. The foundation of the recipe is an all natural and has no preservatives. This is very important because all of the products that you buy at the super market have preservatives in it and I get an upset stomach right away after that. There are so many health benefits to sauerkraut, if you buy it out of a jar the preservatives take away all of the… the… (sorry I have a hard time speaking in English when I am thinking in German so whatever is Spanglish to me is “Germish”! (too funny) What I am saying is all of the health benefits that sauerkraut has, with preservatives, you’re better off eating chemicals. Our French fries we use great oil for it, it’s the top of the line that money can buy it shows in the quality. We have five or six different sauces for the French fries we have the chipotle mayo, roasted garlic, ranch, regular mayonnaise, which is really all you needed in Germany. Cause we are in America you have to have all these choices. Germany you go into a place like this you say, “Darf ich ein currywurst MIT rot und weiss bitte” Which means red/white; red for ketchup and white for mayonnaise. There is no question of how you want the meat or how you want the French fries. This is what you get. Its like if you order decaf coffee in Frankfurt and the waiter brings the coffee and you say is this decaf the waiter says to you its coffee. You have to be flexible here.
It is not like the Würstkuche in downtown they have a great product but this place is more based on the concept of In-N-Out Burgers where your known for one product and you want to do this one product really well. The other thing is if you go too crazy and the Germans come in and the taste it and they say, “He’s been in America way too long. This is not currywurst any longer this is some American way.” I want it to be true to the original way of early currywurst. We don’t have rattlesnake sausage, we don’t have crocodile sausage we don’t have a lamb sausage. With the different seasons and Easter coming up we will most likely introduce a lamb sausage. For thanksgiving we had a turkey sausage and sweet potato fries and cranberry sour cream. I am trying to make it interesting but other than that it is basically currywurst.
MEAT ME: What is your favorite?
Chef Kai: I go between the Hungarian and the Currywurst. Personally I can never go wrong with the currywurst but I also like what you have there. The Hungarian with the sweet mustard and the onions I could eat that everyday but I can’t afford it because I will gain weight.
MEAT ME: You mean just like me! (laughs)
Chef Kai: At the same time this is not something you eat everyday (even though some people in Germany do) but there is not high fructose corn syrup in it and there really aren’t any ingredients in there that are bad for you. Fried food to a degree is not that bad for you. It’s not like these French fries are soaked in bad oil we change the oil every few days, the onion is a natural product the same with the sausages its an all natural product there are no nitrates in it. It is all those preservatives that America really has a problem with. I do my best to avoid it. Your Diet Coke that’s the worst. When you start introducing those artificial sweeteners into your diet is when you’re really fucked. I learned about all this from my nutrition classes. A little sugar goes along way. It all really comes down to portion control.
What are you waiting for? We have a little piece of authentic German culture right here in our own LA backyard. You owe it to yourself to take advantage of it.
You can check out Authentic German Currywurst of Los Angeles at:
aka Sean Rice