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Chef Hermann

Rick Coates - March 1st, 2010
Chef Hermann Suhs:Cadillac’s Gift to Gourmet Dining
By Rick Coates
Chef Hermann Suhs of Hermann’s European Café has literally been the
“face” of the Northern Michigan culinary scene for the past 20 years.
His weekly Cooking With Chef Hermann show appeared on TV 9 &10 for 19
years.  For the past 24 years he has developed a reputation for
culinary excellence in the Cadillac and surrounding area with his
restaurant and by adding a deli, Opa’s Butcher & Wine Shop along with
Hermann’s Hotel upstairs.
Born and raised in Vienna, Chef Hermann developed an early fascination
with preparing food. That passion has
taken him around the world to Sweden, where he attained his Master
Chef credentials, to Nepal where he was the personal chef for the
King. He would work for Hilton in Thailand as an executive chef before
taking a transfer to the United States in 1978.
Chef Hermann originally started out as a pastry chef, his first
apprenticeship in Vienna as a teenager, before pursuing culinary and
beverage certifications and apprenticeships. He took a few minutes to
reflect on his career before heading to Florida for vacation.

Northern Express: What inspired you to become a chef?
Chef Hermann:  My grandmother inspired and influenced me; she was a
cook for the Russian officers. She was very adventurous in her
approach in the kitchen. We started cooking together when I was 10 or
11 and I remember baking bread with her in brick oven with fire. So at
an early age I wanted to become a chef. It was not popular at that
time to pursue such a career. In fact my parents wanted me to go to
the university instead.

NE: How did you end up in Cadillac?
Chef Hermann: I was working for the Hilton chain as an executive chef
in Thailand and had expressed interest to come to the United States.
Well I had a Green Card so they transferred me to Innisbrook in
Florida in 1978. I ended up in Traverse City shortly after that at the
Grand Traverse Resort, which was a Hilton property at the time. I went
back to Florida but some investors from Cadillac where my wife was
from said I should have my own place, so I moved to Cadillac and
opened Hermann’s.

NE: But why Cadillac and not Traverse City to open your restaurant?
Chef Hermann: Traverse City did not appeal to me at that time. There
were so many restaurants there. With my wife being from Cadillac and
there being fewer restaurants in that area I felt it was the best
place. At the time I opened in January of 1984, Cadillac was full of
professionals with Kysor corporate hedquarters located here, 4 Winns
boats headquartered here and several others. It was a perfect fit for

NE: What do you contribute your success to?
Chef Hermann:  I would say
whom, and that first would be my wife of 27 years. Without her support
none of this would be possible.
My staff has also played a major part in this success. Some have been
with me for more than 20 years, such as my executive chef Steve Gorski
who has been with me for 23 years. We can just look at each other and
know what each other is thinking. There is Adam Peterson my front of
the house manager, who speaks fluent Japanese (he has been able to use
that with our Japanese guests) and can do it all from being chef to a
server to the best bartnedar I have ever seen.
I could go on about all 30 of my team, they have made this place.
Finally, without the many customers who have supported me over the
years I would have no business.

NE: Okay you have identified ‘who’ -- now identify the ‘how’:
Chef Hermann: Staying passionate, never settling for just good but
seeking perfection with every meal and every guest. Staying up with
the trends and growing the business. Over the years I added a deli, a
butcher and wine shop and a hotel. It has been a challenge because
over the years I have had to take on another partner called the
government. When you are in business today the government is your
partner, you have no choice and that partner always comes up with new
rules and paperwork.

NE: Your Cooking With Chef Hermann show was very popular. Why did you
stop doing it last year after 19 years?
Chef Hermann:  I believed it had run its course. But there have been a
lot of requests for it so next week we will be releasing a DVD series
called the Best of Chef Hermann. I am also getting into a new venture
and getting ready to make my morel soup available at stores. I sell it
online right now at my website and now there is a call for it from
stores so I hope to have it available at stores soon.

NE: How would you describe the culinary scene in Northern Michigan?
Chef Hermann: Much improved, especially in the last 12 to 14 years.
But that said, somewhat challenged still. I see places start out with
so much potential and their flame burns bright but after a year or two
that flame extinguishes because they get away from the core values of
the business. They forget why they are in this business and who they
are serving. For me I strived to keep a consistent flame burning at
the same level and level is perfection. When that flame starts to
flicker I let my managers have it.

NE: Okay what keeps you motivated after 40 years?
Chef Hermann: Balance, I work a lot but I play a lot. I spent a lot of
time raising my children with my wife. I take vacations, I have such a
great team that I am headed off to Florida for a month. I take days
off, I work a few days till early afternoon and few days I work two
shifts but I keep balance and that is part of what keeps me motivated.
I have a passion to succeed and that flame has never burned out inside
of me. I do not accept good, only perfection. If I hear a guest say it
was just good, my managers get chewed out. I have always lived by the
motto that you are only as good as your last meal, and that goes for
anyone in any business.

For additional information on
Chef Hermann and his culinary and hospitality operations in Cadillac
go to or call him at

Chef Profile

Chef/Proprietor · Hermann’s · Cadillac, MI · Since 1984
Employees: 30 - 40 (depends on the season)
Volume: 100,000 plus served in 2009
Age: 62

Experience:  40 years professionally, plus five years apprenticeship
Hotel Anna Purna, Nepal, Executive Chef
King of Nepal, Personal Chef
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Palm Harbor, Florida, Executive Chef
Grand Traverse Resort, Acme, MI, Executive Chef
Hawk’s Cay Resort, Marathon, Florida, Executive Chef
Hermann’s European Café, Cadillac, MI, Proprietor/Executive Chef

Pastry Apprenticeship:  Vienna Konditorei Shop
Food and Beverage Apprenticeship: Hotel Sacher, Vienna

Professional Affiliations:
Lifetime Member American Culinary Federation (Former Chapter President)

Born in Vienna, moved to the United States in 1978 while working for
Hilton in Thailand. Married, 27 years to wife Martha (Mardi), two
children: Roman a Hospitality Business Major at Michigan State
University (class of 2010) Josephine, a film major at Sierra Nevada
College, Lake Tahoe. Moved to Traverse City in 2007. Enjoys spending
time with his children and being active in their lives, has been
playing tennis with the same group of guys in Cadillac for 27 years.
Loves to ski but knee replacement surgery has slowed his time on the
slopes and enjoys traveling and taking vacations.  Loves to cook at
home on Sunday afternoons creating new dishes, “I get these ideas for
certain flavor combinations and I use my Sunday cooking time at home
to experiment with them.”

Quote: “I have survived this business for 40 years because I have
never believed being good is good enough, perfection is the only
acceptable goal in this business. I believe that to be in the business
of serving others you have to strive for perfection in every aspect
and detail. You are only as great as your last meal and service.”

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