A Handke scrapbook:

Editor's Note: Here is a collection of images relating to Chef Handke's 17-year career as creator and owner of Handke's Cuisine. Several are credited to The Dispatch Dispatch as they appeared in reviews and news stories.

master chef
scrapbook one
scrapbook two

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Hartmut Handke, CMC, Columbus, Ohio
Editor's note: Handke, the Chef, was first reviewed by The Columbus Dispatch on 17 May 1990 when he was executive chef for The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. The headline:

Perfect dining awaits in West Virginia hills

By Doral Chenoweth
Dispatch Restaurant Reviewer

The perfect restaurant?
Is it small, intimate, tingly, fresh and smoke-free?
Is it a barny, cavernous place serving 2-pound Black Angus steaks? It could be an assembly-line cafeteria with an all-you-can eat ticket.
It could be a restaurant with a marquee-quality chef. Every food lover has visions of the finest meal, the best service, the ultimate in fine dining.

Mine would be on a Paris side street, one stoop up from a narrow sidewalk, with a pristine window and a noon menu, a jewellike front inviting me inside. The chef's wife runs the house. There's a butcher in the kitchen, where the chef pauses between orders to sip from a communal carafe of a dry white Graves.
Baguettes fresh as morning, crusty, dense, moist, golden mie, arrive with a wedge of raw milk brie. I pour my own wine. This could be La Tchaika, 9 Rue de l'Eperon, a small Russian-style tea salon.

Perfection closer to home? How about a room that seats 600-plus, staffed with teams of servers measuring tenure in generations and toting food from a kitchen that has 65 chefs and apprentices, six bakers, 12 pastry chefs and three butchers? Intimate? Yes. Perfect? Affirmative. The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., a spa almost as old as our nation and already one of the world's finest hotels, has a culinary reputation to match.

One of the reasons is the boss in charge of food: Hartmut Handke.
Handke, one of only 25 Certified Master Chefs in America, has strong Columbus connections: former executive chef for the Columbus Athletic Club, president of the Columbus Chefs Association and continuing presence hovering over scores of local culinarians starting in the restaurant business. Handke, a native of Germany, continues to call Columbus home.
The Greenbrier, sitting amid 6,500 rolling acres including three golf courses and a conference center, has 24-hour food service for the 650 rooms, a half-dozen dining rooms, food boutiques, drinking clubs and a coffee shop.

The Greenbrier's origins are traced to the "curative powers" of nearby mineral waters. Those powers remain for those of us who remember when "taking the waters" was medicinal.
Handke is commanding general of those 65 chefs, six bakers, etc. His business card reads "executive chef." He will not actually prepare the creamed watercress and leek soup served tonight. Neither will he be looking over the shoulder of the cook preparing the oyster sauce for a grilled breast of chicken. But Handke's pertinacious pervasiveness goes with every plate. My recent evening in Handke's new domain was on a slack, off-season night. Only 361 guests were in the hotel, with 292 being served in the main dining room. That's the name of the posh salon where the minimum dinner charge (for non-registered guests) is $37.50 plus gratuity and tax.

The kitchen is fascinating. Above the 100-foot serving line of ranges is a racetrack-like tote board of lights and numbers. Each tells line chefs how many servings of crabmeat ravioli and Maine lobster ragout have gone out the swinging doors, how many remain.
I had selected the ragout after an inquiry to my server (Doris Watson, 33 years tableside). I wanted "something reflecting the chef's signature." She recommended Handke's recipe calling for use of a whole-grain mustard sauce. She was right. So was Handke.

As soon as you are seated, the "bread lady" arrives. She is Annabelle Reed (35 years tableside), slightly stooped, but spry and steady as she performs a circuitous route offering the day's fresh products. Six bakers, remember?
The Greenbrier may be one of the few hostelries still baking and serving Melba toast as a palate cleanser. Reed offered warm cornbread, hot rolls, muffins and always a small stash of Melba. She never spoke - just opened the lid of a "hot box" she cradled like a baby. What a wonderful tableside manner.
My opening Handke signature appetizer was crab and brie fritters, paper-thin wrappers crisper than phyllo, no corn, although this is mountain country, all sitting in a spicy remoulade with traces of a dry mustard, capers and parsley. This will be an entree when I open my perfect restaurant.

My notes have five pluses next to the chilled cucumber-with-dill soup. Handke's noted Columbus protege and keeper of his mantle, Carolyn Claycomb, should duplicate cucumber-dill for the summer.
On a typical evening, the Greenbrier's entrees include at least three seafood variations, always poultry, usually a leg of lamb.
Server Watson likes warm desserts. Leaving the decision to her was correct. Pluses noted for the lemon souffle with a fresh strawberry sauce. For regulars, bread pudding remains.

Wine prices, certainly those private Greenbrier labels bottled by such noted viniferous names as Steve Girard, Robert Pecota and John Shafer, are better tableside bargains than one finds in Columbus.
The Greenbrier has to be the best, the finest. Presidents and followers call it home plate, and with good reason.
Few realize the Greenbrier could become our nation's capital should the District of Columbia be bombed into oblivion. As intelligence sources whisper, the Greenbrier is wired - all they have to do is plug in.

On Pearl Harbor Day, German, Italian and Japanese diplomats arrived here as prisoners to be exchanged. The single landing strip was site of a prisoner-of-war barracks during the rest of the big war. The hotel became Ashford Army Hospital. Many nationalities and generations rate the Greenbrier the perfect hotel and spa. As a restaurant, my rating: perfection. The Greenbrier, 310 miles via Rt. 23 south to I-64 to White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Dinner 7:30-9:45 p.m. nightly in main dining room. Reservations 1-800-624-6070.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright c The Columbus Dispatch

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