Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Master Retires

On September 16th 2009 Hans Sebald retired from the Culinary Institute of America. Hans had taught the meat class for over twenty years. Hans, for those who never met him, is an old style butcher originally from Bavaria, Germany. He was a "master" butcher meaning he had been trained as an apprentice and moved his way up in skills, understanding the entire process of butchery, start to finish. I worked with Hans for the past eleven years and when I say he was an old "style" butcher I can also say that Hans was always on the "cutting edge" of the meat industry. He was always learning and reading about our industry and how it intersects with the foodservice world. He was never old fashioned in his thinking and lessons. His students were always presented current knowledge about new style cuts, modern processing methods, foodsafety concerns and new menu ideas. I learned from Hans. His cutting skills were always very smooth and accurate but at the school it isn't simply about cutting but about showing students how to cut, explaining the steps in a way that a person who has never cut meat before can feel comfortable attempting the task. That lesson, the one of patience and clarity, is a lesson that I use every day. Hans was above all a great teacher. He taught literally thousands of students the basics of butchery. His priority was never showmanship, instead a desire to share his skill. As a teacher, he was stern, professional and always fair, but also he had a sense of humor that was never lacking. He often had a quick witted response to situations. We were touring a pork plant in Iowa once while on our summer break. The typical worker attire was big boots and heavy coats. He wore shorts! We asked him why and he simply answered "I'm on vacation".
I'll miss working with him and I can only hope to be as devoted to my students as he was to his. They were all lucky to have such a "master" of education as an instructor!