When Wolfgang Ban, who grew up pressing grapes on his family’s vineyard in Austria, moved to New York to cook in its sweltering kitchens, the city got a taste of some of the most authentic, uber-traditional Austrian cuisine this side of the Danube.
Ban experienced his first rush from the hospitality industry in his early teens, tasked with organizing food and drinks for a music festival: “The satisfaction of when you see 5,000 people having a good time, that was ever such a joy for me. I think that's where I decided that maybe I should start working in a hotel.” After apprenticing at a hotel and rotating through all departments, Ban finally stopped at the kitchen, where the executive chef noticed his talent. Culinary school in Vienna followed shortly after.
Ban was selected to represent his school in a competition of European cooking academies, where he went on to win six out of ten challenges. The only problem? Back in the '90s in Austria, "being a chef was nothing you would be very proud of, and people looked down on it," he recalls. "I think this was the main reason I was holding back.” So when the principal of his school offered him two jobs—one in London, the other in NYC—he headed straight to the Empire State. There, he served as the executive chef for the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations and co-executive chef and operator of German House, the in-house restaurant of the German Mission to the United Nations.
After all that, you might wonder whether Ban has had his fill of cooking the country’s landmark dishes: crispy wiener schnitzel, chewy-cheesy spätzle, and hearty, paprika-loaded goulash. But preserving Austria’s delicious cuisine runs deep in his veins. We know you'll enjoy the true flavors of Austria through the rich, immensely satisfying dishes he's contributed to Panna.