Handke stands tall in his dining room, a reclaimed underground area once part of a brewery more than a hundred years ago.
Handke's on-hands training trademark is demonstrated by the experienced hands he left in his kitchen when it was sold in July, 2008. Left to right: Handke; Scott Pierce, a culinary grad of Hocking College, now the sous chef; and Asa Rodriguez, now executive chef, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Both have been on staff with Handke for three years.
Editor's Note: Once opened the first review of Handke's Cuisine appeared in The Columbus Dispatch, on 29 August 1991. The headline:
World-class Hartmut Handke taking on Columbus
By By Doral Chenoweth
Dispatch Restaurant Reviewer
Now the time has come for the judge to be judged. Hartmut Handke, world-renowned for his culinary expertise in international competitions, is putting his cooking on Columbus plates six days a week.
He now faces the toughest of judges - the patrons who pay the checks.
Restaurantgoers in any city are a notoriously bitchy lot. One small miscue on the plate, one little smudge on a wine glass, one inattentive server, all impede progress toward a restaurant's perfection.
In today's world of star chefs, Hartmut Handke ranks at the top.
As for credentials, if Handke were a race horse, he would be Man O'War. ''Star chefs'' are those with a single specialty and a good press agent.
Usually, they are platform flashes who spend more time on the road for charity events and little time in their base kitchens.
Their cuisines range from Texas-southwestern to California's botanical freshness. Emphasis is on their publicity.
Handke's personal trophy rooms showcase two World Culinary Olympics (1984 and 1988) gold medals; he is one of only 48 Certified Master Chefs (accredited by American Culinary Federation); he is the recently resigned executive chef of the world's most prestigious spa, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
His Columbus connection was to serve as top chef at the Athletic Club.
For years, Handke has been top judge in food competitions conducted by Columbus State Community College.
In that judging mode, he heads culinary teams across this nation.
Now enter the Columbus chapter: Handke is owner/chef of his own restaurant - Handke's Cuisine in our Brewery District. He has pleased spa gourmands.
He has a support block of private clubbers. How will he do with that customer who gives a new restaurant little more than one chance?
Here's a quick two-visit (dinner and lunch) appraisal.
Entrees: Excellent. Seared sea scallops ($17.95) served on a bed of red onion marmalade, something different, something certainly to be credited to the unique approaches of the man who teaches others how to present an otherwise tasteless deep-water product.
Scallops arrive with just the correct tints of hazelnut color from the grill, moist centers, each of the three-bite size.
Plus plus: Barbari duck breast grilled ($18.25) on the side of a duck sausage served in a green peppercorn sauce. Handke uses Savoy cabbage as an accompaniment.
Daughter Carter Chenoweth, who ran away from home several years ago, took one bite of her salmon scaloppine ($18.25) and decided to forgive all my past trangressions and return home. Permanently.
She remembers Chef Handke's plates at the Athletic Club of Columbus. And, in recent years, at The Greenbrier ( * reviewed here May 17, 1990).
''This would make a nice, like, walk-to place each night, wouldn't it?'' was her way of seeking a bed-and-board contract.
Carter doesn't understand the system of reviewing, that all evenings cannot be filled with Hartmut Handke.
One good reason is price. Handke's Cuisine will be pricey at dinner, more modest for the lunch crowd. (Note: Lunch no longer is served.)
Dinner appetizers include Handke's noted onion cream soup (2.75 cup, $3.50 bowl) and essence of red bell pepper soup ($2.25 cup), both familiar to his friends and followers.
Whichever pate recipe is operational on your evening will be outstanding.
I've never been too sure as to the first introduction of pates locally. If it wasn't Handke at the AAC, it should be credited to Chef Hubert Seifert, who served the general public. Both are from the same Germanic mold of culinary circles.
Price examples, for dinner: farm-raised catfish with a tomatilla salsa and a soft polenta, $16.50; grilled Wisconsin veal chop, $19.75; roast honey-rosemary glazed rack of lamb, $19.75.
Chef Handke's location once was Pete's, a steakhouse. So as not to upset the natives, steaks in limited number will remain: porterhouse, $21.75; an Angus strip, $19.50; medallions of beef tenderloin, $16.50.
When the chef arrived, I called to inquire about his sudden change and assumption of a steak clientele: What are you serving?
''Big steak, little steak. Big steak, little steak,'' was his reply.
It had to be. However, a single visit for lunch was a delightful test of change.
Mrs. Chenoweth du jour went for the North Carolina pork barbecue at $6. Someone got to this noted German culinarian.
His pulled pork was the nearest thing in town to the real stuff (other than Crook's Place).
It is done without tomato sauce but with just enough vinegar for bite and plenty of peppery spices. And it tasted slow-cooked, very important to Carolina barbecue.
My winner was his version of a Cajun ravioli, $7.25, a pasta made different with an infusion of stone-ground mustard and loaded with cracked pepper.
My verdict on Handke's Cuisine is in.
Now it is the public's opportunity to judge the judge.
All content herein is © 1991 The Columbus Dispatch