Heating up the kitchen with USO

by A.L. Shaff
Contributing writer

Miracles and masterpieces occur three times every month in the small basement kitchen of the Vogelweh Chapel in Kaiserslautern.

On those Tuesdays, master cook Karin Ullrich, assistant Rafaela Koch and United Service Organizations translator and facilitator Lisa Odom conduct three hour German cooking classes that show Americans the fantastic breadth of German cuisine.

On a recent day, Ms. Ullrich walked the 15 participants through making a three course meal that consisted of ciabatta parmesan casserole as an appetizer, pan-fried schnitzel and rucola leaf potato salad for the main course and finished with a marzipan cream of wheat with hot cherry sauce as the dessert.

Limited by space, the course can handle only 15 students at a time so it allows little student hands-on activity. But copious recipe notes and a smooth presentation develops as Ms. Ullrich handles the main cooking duties in a step-by-step manner while Ms. Koch assists by handing over pans and ingredients.
Ms. Odom, an American, delivers a running comment on each step and adds notes about where to purchase the ingredients or good knives or the CDs and cookbooks developed with the course over the years.

Ms. Ullrich recently received her own USO-emblazoned chef’s hat from the organization to celebrate 10 years of teaching Americans about her country’s

The class has become so popular that some participants come to all three sessions per month year-round in what seems almost like a club activity. In fact, of the 15 people at a recent session, only six were new.

One of the beauties of the class comes in the guarantee that Ms. Ullrich, Ms. Koch and Ms. Odom will not duplicate any menus during a two year period.
Because the USO provides all ingredients for the class that runs from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, participants need only bring their curiosity, their appetites, and maybe a container for eating and taking away samples of the fabulous dishes.
The wisdom of bringing a container showed just as the cooks served the luscious “Marzipan-Gries mit Kirschen” dessert. One woman held out her plastic container and said, “Fill ‘er up!”

Retiring Army 1st Sgt. Andrew McConnell, one of the only men present during a class in mid-June, drove over from Heidelberg for the course.

“Mainly, I wanted to get back into the German culture,” he said. “ I like to experience the life of wherever we move including a previous stint in Baumholder. We just moved back to Germany for my wife’s job with Army Community Service and here’s a chance for me to start cooking German food at home.”

On the opposite end, Department of Defense civilian Stacey Reitz took the class as a last chance to get tutoring from a master German cook before moving to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

“I’ve been here for three years but never took the class,” she said. “So now was the perfect time. I loved this short, friendly class because we’re making schnitzel the real way, not the dried out version we get so often. What could be better than learning from a real German chef?”

As a sample of future menus, Ms. Ullrich said the menu she will make on Sunday will be olive butter bread, oven-roasted vegetables with sour cream sauce, Kassler (season pork) steaks with mushrooms and a mixed berry dessert in aspic covered in cinnamon topping.

The next course offerings will be held July 14, 21 and 28. Classes cost $25.