The country of the monster steak is not necessarily the place where one would expect to find Germany’s most powerful dining critic. But during a recent visit to Australia, Patricia Bröhm proclaimed that she was thoroughly delighted with its cuisine. This says a lot about what the German head of Gault Millau understands her job to be. Australia had never been on her radar, yet she found there something that is missing in Germany’s top kitchens.
“In one point they are a step ahead of us, in casual dining,” said Ms. Bröhm. “Our restaurants will also focus more strongly on that. It is a form of upscale gastronomy that is pleasantly not uptight and unpresumptuous.”
Ms. Bröhm scaled the gourmet summit two years ago when she took over the post of head of Gault Millau. Before her arrival, Manfred Kohnke had given the thumbs up or down to cooks and kitchens there for 30 years. He had made Gault Millau the second heavy-weight in the restaurant guide industry after Michelin – thanks primarily to sharp-tongued reviews that were, at the same time, highly entertaining.
But such sucess can be fleeting if the critiques don’t keep up with the times. Perceptions change as to what a top performance on the stove is. Nowadays anybody can voice their opinion about top quality cuisine and cooks on Internet platforms such as Qype, Tripadvisor or Sternefresser.de. People in the target group believe they know their way around so well that they feel they could do a better job anyway. But whatever the voice, the cooks are under the microscope anyway.
If you talk for any length of time with the 52-year old Ms. Bröhm, who evaluates the different restaurants by awarding points (a maximum of 20, which have never yet been awarded), you will learn that her work has become more difficult. Restaurants are opening and closing much more quickly than the gourmet guide can process on a yearly basis, and fashions change fast as well. Today regional, tomorrow vegetarian, next week world food.
For Ms. Bröhm, not being noticeable is part of her job description. After all, it helps with objectivity if you aren’t immediately recognized. For that reason very few photos of her have been made public.