June 2006 > Chef Profile: Jake Wolf by Lisa LeeKing
The popular East Village German restaurant Zum Schneider, known for its tasty Bavarian drafts and al fresco dining, attracts anyone who craves a good pork shoulder and mashed potatoes with their lager. A little over a year ago, owner Sylvester Schneider met Jake Wolf, who had just honed his skills in a German hotel outside Bavaria. Call it kismet. Wolf has been expanding the restaurant’s menu ever since.
Zum Schneider was known as a beer garden. How has the restaurant evolved since you took over?
We’ve been trying to make more things by hand—like homemade potato dumplings, multoshin, which is similar to ravioli, and apple strudel. These are all dishes Sylvester’s mom and grandmother used to cook. It’s traditional German food, but it’s not typically found in other German beer gardens.
What personal touches have you brought?
I’ve added dishes I learned to make in Germany, like rolled potato dumplings and tafelspitz, which is braised beef brisket served with mashed potatoes, beef broth and roasted carrot, kohlrabi and celery root. For the apple fritter, we beer batter the fruit with Pilsner on tap and serve it with vanilla sauce and ice cream.
What defines German cuisine?
The staples are potatoes and cabbage. Other typical dishes include pork roast, pork shoulder, hocks, which is the pork shank. When roasted in dark beer, you get a crispy outer layer, but the meat inside will fall off the bone.
Any changes with the summer menu?
We’re taking off ragout and bread dumplings and replacing it with spätzle, a traditional German noodle, and potato pancakes with applesauce. In the summer, we’ll have dishes like krautwickerl, stuffed green leaves with cabbage, sausage, breadcrumbs and fresh vegetables in a broth with mashed potatoes.
We have zwiebelrost, which is a sirloin steak that’s pan roasted and served with caramelized onions, sauerkraut and roasted potatoes. The mixture of meat and onions are what make this dish unique, as it just melts in your mouth.
Which beers go best with which dishes?
Hearty food compliments the bold flavor of the beer. A crisp pilsner or lager goes well with some of the lighter food. Darker brews like Spatan Bock taste good with roasts, while wheat beer goes well with cheese or cold cut platters. We have about a dozen German beers, most from Bavaria.
Why are there only a handful of German restaurants in this city?
It’s definitely its own niche, but being a traditional Bavarian beer garden, we stick to 100-year-old recipes. We cohere to the guidelines, which makes us successful. Like the long wooden tables, where a couple different groups eat, drink and become friends.
What can we expect for Oktoberfest or special events?
You’ll see women wearing dirndls and the men wear lederhosen, shorts with the suspenders; it’s traditional and straight out of Munich. They only dress like this for big celebrations—like our anniversary parties every August. Last year, we cooked a 250-pound wild boar on the sidewalk; I’m sure we'll be cooking something just as exotic this year.