Hans Viertl Makes Sauerkraut Even the French Love, Part 2
Hans Viertl owns a few breakfast/lunch restaurants around Miami that have a comfortable yet classy New York/Euro flare. In the first part of our interview, we spoke with him about getting home to his family for dinner and his former life with Club Med. In this, the second par of our interview, he talks of youthful wanderlust, sauerkraut cookouts, and eating out here in Miami.
New Times Where are you from in Germany?
Hans Viertl: Outside of Munich. In the country. But I didn't want to be in this small village. Seven days was a cycle. Saturday and Sunday go to the soccer field, Monday come back to work. My idea, since I very young was to go out and see what's out there.
Club Med, when I went to Paris and I met Club Med through a girl, gave me the best opportunity. Every six months I had a new assignment. I traveled a lot for 18 years. I learned languages, I met a lot of people, I learned culinary skills. I still go back twice a year to my place in Germany.
Are there German dishes that remind you of home?
Since I'm German, and I have a lot of French friends here because part of my life was with French people together. I speak French better than English. Once a year we do the sauerkraut evening in my house and it's become a must. I make this huge table for 30, 40 people in the yard and we have sauerkraut with all the stuff around. Beer. I have the little beer kegs on the table, everyone helps themselves. The German music. It's private. Unfortunately, it's too hot, because sauerkraut you eat rather when it's cold out.
We do the real German apple strudel. At the Coral Gables Farmers' Market, in front of the City Hall, we sell it by the inch. You want one inch, it's a dollar, you want two inches, it's two dollars. I like, whatever I do, customer relations, I like to keep it funny, not too stiff.. That also makes us different from any big chain corporations. You have Panera, one of the biggest chains in the U.S. now, tons of sandwiches. But it's the big corporation, not the personality, service that you and I like... I see my employees, "Hello, Maria. How are you today? How are the kids? How's school?"&
Do you have favorite restaurants here in Miami, dinner restaurants?
You know, I have seen, the last 20 years, the Miami restaurant scene tremendously change. But Miami was really boring 15, 20 years ago. I mean extremely boring. Then big chefs came, some of them did very good work, you know the Mango Gang. Jonathan Eismann, I really don't know why he's in trouble now, something must have happened, because I really admired him. Today, one of the best ones, I should say, here in the area is Pascal's Ponce de Leon. For me, he's the most professional. He is the stable one. He never got too high, like some other ones who went crazy, some other ones started to mix everything just to mix everything. If I have to bring my wife to dinner, I would go to him, I would go to Michael's. Michael's, I think is very good. He's very good, he's inventive.
We are a two-man operation. One is Hans and the other is Sonia. Sonia is my wife. Basically, we split it up. I take care of the everyday operations, the employees, and my wife is the one in the background. She takes care of all the accounting, all the books, all the paper. She's also the one who keeps control of my spending.
That is the woman's job!
That is definitely her job. I say this because you cannot spend more than you have. You have to be very careful. We have opened four or five places, but with each one, we make sure it runs, it's paid for, and we put some money on the side and we try to open another one. That takes us more years, but our philosophy is we don't make a step when we're not sure we have ground there. We have a lot of opportunity to do this kind of operation in Miami, Fort Lauderdale. If I have a beautiful place but it's too complicated for customers to come or it's too expensive, my rent. I say no thank you very much.
What about the place in Brickell, you're definitely comfortable with the spot there?
Yes, because Brickell is definitely a hotspot now for our customers, office customers, working in the building and surrounding area, it is almost like a mini-Manhattan. Lunch-time, people come down the elevator like, where do we go? You've been in Manhattan at twelve o'clock, all the employees waiting like this, here comes the Subway, and the door opens and then zoom. Brickell's not there yet, but I expect in the next couple years.
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