In Memoriam: Dr. h. c. Siegfried Schaber, A Chef of the Century
Dr. h. c. Siegfried Schaber, beloved industry figure and former President of Worldchefs and the German chefs’ association Verband der Köche (VKD), passed away on 14 July 2023 at the age of 88. A ‘chef of the century’, his vision and leadership defined a new era for the VKD and the global culinary scene at large.
A VKD member for nearly 70 years, Siegfried was known for his charismatic persona, eloquence, and unwavering passion for his craft. In his eight years as VKD’s Vice President and twelve years as President, he shaped the development of the German assocation, championing young talent and women in the industry. In 2020, he was surprised with a VKD Life Chief Award at IKA in Stuttgart for his lifetime achievements and enduring impact on the industry.
Siegfried completed his early training between 1950 and 1953, laying the foundation for a career that would shape the culinary landscape in Germany and beyond. Throughout his illustrious career, Schaber held key positions at renowned establishments. From his culinary excellence at the Hotel Klasen on the island of Sylt to his as a gastronomy directorship at the esteemed Palast Hotel Regina, the iconic Spatenhaus, and the renowned Restaurant Schwarzwälder in Munich, his talents were beyond compare. He served as the Director of Catering at the revered Steigenberger Hotel Management School and led the Rewe Bulk Consumer Service Center. His culinary journey extended beyond borders, with formative experiences in Sweden, France, Switzerland, and Spain. In 1976, he showcased his skill and leadership as the team chef of the German National Culinary Team at the prestigious IKA/Culinary Olympics, bringing his artistry to the world stage.
An international leader, Schaber held significant positions within the World Association of Chefs’ Societies (Worldchefs). He served as Worldchefs President for three terms, from 1989 to 2001. In 1990, he was awarded the prestigious title of Honorary Life Member, recognizing his immense contributions to the culinary world.
Schaber’s professional life was continuously marked with numerous accolades and honors, a testament to his esteemed standing in the international culinary community. He was awarded Honorary President and Honorary Senator of the VKD, the Federal Cross of Merit, and an honorary doctorate from Johnson & Wales University in the United States. In 2020, Schaber was humbled by the VKD with the Life Chief Award, further celebrating his tireless dedication to nurturing and inspiring industry professionals.
“Siegfried Schaber is a chef of the century. He carries the passion for the cooking profession out into the world and has been working on a voluntary basis for the public image of chefs for more than five decades,” said former VKD President Richard Beck of the decision to honor Schaber with the Life Chief Award. In accepting the award, Schaber exclaimed, “My job has given me everything and the world of chefs is my family.”
With his passing, the Worldchefs’ community bids farewell to a true trailblazer, a chef of the century, who shared his passion for the culinary profession worldwide. His legacy endures in the hearts and minds of those he inspired and mentored throughout his extraordinary journey. As we mourn this culinary giant, our thoughts are with his loved ones, family, friends, and colleagues. The culinary world will forever be grateful for Siegfried’s remarkable contributions, and his spirit will continue to inspire aspiring chefs for generations to come.
“A special and heartfelt goodbye to a great man, fantastic chef, great leader and heart blood culinarian, an outstanding career from A to Z who branded and molded the VKD and chefs from the German-speaking societies and countries and more then this, as well on a global level,” said Worldchefs President Thomas A. Gugler. “I knew Siegfried since my young age, and as leader of the VKD, as former President of Worldchefs and as well during my time as the coach for the German Junior National Cooking Team. Siegfried was always a warm heart, an iconic person with a great sense of humor and amazing knowledge. For chefs, he was always a role model and an amazing teacher with his own way of making the chefs’ world move closer together.”
Colleagues and friends from around the globe have also paid tribute to the legendary chef. “The VKD family loses one of the greats of our profession. Siegfried Schaber was a diplomat, conductor and pioneer. The promotion of young professionals was just as important to him as the further development of his VKD. He has shaped the history of the association like no other over the past 50 years, and his charismatic way of bringing chefs together was unique. We owe a lot to Siegfried Schaber and will sorely miss him in our ranks,” wrote VKD President Daniel Schade in the digital book of condolences.
“There goes a really big one from the stage. I only know a few who have done as much for the reputation of the cooking profession as he has,” another said.
“A great rhetorician and visionary has left us. A man with radiance… we will miss you very much!” a third commented.