AIn the beginning there was the fire, and on February 20, 1953, Carl Clemens Hahn stepped in front of the audience at the television receivers for the first time, explaining for almost a decade in 185 programs what was going to be sizzling on it and, above all, how. Mr. Hahn, a failed actor and passionate self-taught when it came to the art of cooking, became Germany’s first TV chef under the stage name ›Clemens Wilmenrod‹. “You dear, cute people! Dear brothers and sisters in Lucullus! «He greeted a largely male-free audience to his show
Please sit down in ten minutes !, broadcast at prime time, on Friday evening at 9:30 p.m. from the NWDR TV kitchen in the bunker on Hamburg’s Heiligengeistfeld. With imagination, far from any convention and without competition, he created numerous classics of the economic boom from canned food and taught the Germans to eat again. Post-war television had just been on the air for eight weeks when Wilmenrod stepped in front of the cameras for the first time.
The spiritual father of Mälzer, Lafer, Lichter and Co., was not hesitant in developing surprisingly solid dishes, which he garnished with exotic and melodious names, including unforgettable taste sensations such as Arabian horsemeat (meatball with paprika powder and ketchup), torero breakfast ( a liver sausage slice with tomato and egg), or the Breton-style herring salad, the recipe that has been preserved as one of only two original recordings of the program and can be viewed in the NDR media library (www.ndr.de/media/wilmenrodoriginal100.html). Probably the most famous creation of the show chef pioneer is the Toast Hawaii. The buttered toast with ham, sliced cheese and cherry was fodder for people’s post-war longing for faraway places and the exotic, with the Hawaiian pizza also finding its way into German kitchens. In particular, the combination of salty cheese and ham with the sweet canned pineapple was new. When the first fresh pineapples reached Germany’s economic miracle, the fruits were like lead in the grocery stores, the sweetness (and the subtle metallic aftertaste) of the sugared canned fruits, which are still the first choice for a classic Hawaiian toast à la Wilmenrod, was missing.
Culinary historiography is no longer so sure whether the Hawaiian toast is actually Wilmenrod’s invention
However, culinary historiography is no longer so sure whether the Hawaiian toast is actually an invention of the self-proclaimed ›national gourmet‹. The cultural historian Petra Foede, who already dealt in detail with the toast Hawaii in her book How Bismarck Came on Herring (Kein & Aber Verlag) in 2009, discovered an advertisement for the canned ham company Hormel a year later on the kitchen-retro.com website (›Spam‹), which appeared in November 1939 in Life magazine. On it is a picture of a hot cheese Spamwich, garnished in the middle with red onions, which is very similar to Wilmenrod’s toast. A recipe booklet for the breakfast meat company published in the same year also offers a variant of toast with a slice of pineapple. Wilmenrod might have known the booklet and recipe, Foede speculates, after all, the television chef had lived in Wiesbaden, an important American military base, since the 1930s, and Hormel’s spam was an essential part of the troop catering. Hawaii, on the other hand, was an important supply base for the Americans during World War II.
So was Wilmenrod inspired by an advertising brochure for canned ham? What is certain is that the Toast Hawaii should have pleased the TV chef, in particular because of its cheese cover, which was worth hard cash. Wilmenrod was a master at gratinating, almost everything was gratinated with cheese. This was due to an advertising agreement with the manufacturers of the Heinzelkoch, a small electric oven with state-of-the-art grill radiators, which played an important role in almost every program. “When I’m in front of the camera, God doesn’t help me, only my device!” – an early case of product placement. Wilmenrod also secretly advertised refrigerators, rum pots and kitchen gimmicks such as Schneidboy and Griffin witch (today: Jamie-Oliver-Zange). When Der Spiegel revealed in a cover story that Wilmenrod had received 1,000 D-Marks in advance from an Oldenburg poultry farmer for his media presentation of a roast turkey for Christmas, the TV chef fell out of favor: from 1957, it was only broadcast once a month, and later Wilmenrod was banned Afternoon program, and on May 16, 1964, the show was canceled altogether. The former television star lived only three years. With the broadcast he was deprived of his purpose in life, and he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Falling into deep depression, Clemens Wilmenrod committed suicide in 1967, at the age of sixty.
In 2009, the ARD remembered the first German TV chef with the first broadcast of the wonderful television film Wilmenrod – It’s on the tip of my tongue. A worthy cinematic memorial for the man who may not have invented the toast Hawaii, but instead brought culinary art onto television.
for 4 people
- 8 slices of toast
- soft butter
- 8 slices of cooked ham
- 8 slices of canned pineapple
- 8 slices of sliced cheese
- 8 cherries or cocktail cherries
- 1. Spread a thin layer of butter on toast, top with ham and drained pineapple slices. Cover with sliced cheese.
- 2. Bake the toast in a hot oven at 220 degrees with the grill switched on for 3–5 minutes. Garnish with 1 cherry in each center and serve the feast in a hurry.
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