Chef to stars serves up World Cup

Gottschalk to deliver top-class cuisine at soccer showcase in Russia

Chef Ralph Gottschalk has been hired as executive chef at the stadium in St Petersburg, Russia, for the Fifa World Cup 2018
Chef Ralph Gottschalk has been hired as executive chef at the stadium in St Petersburg, Russia, for the Fifa World Cup 2018
Image: Wener Hills

Port Elizabeth and internationally acclaimed chef Ralph Gottschalk, who has served up countless plates of top-class food to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and Michael Jordan during his colourful career, will be jetting off to Russia for the 2018 Fifa World Cup.

Gottschalk will run the St Petersburg Stadium kitchen.

With his continued involvement in various Soccer World Cups and Olympic Games around the world, soccer enthusiast Gottschalk, 52, of Fern Glen, is excited about the “huge undertaking” of preparing world-class food as well as the St Petersburg experience.

Gottschalk said: “I am absolutely humbled and proud that I am able to be part of this year’s World Cup in the beautiful St Petersburg.

“It has always been a dream for me.

“I love soccer and played years ago and being given the opportunity to be a part of history and such big games is an amazing thing for me, while doing what I love.”

Speaking about one of his fondest memories, Gottschalk said: “The best day in my life, after the days my kids were born and I got married, would have to be working at the 2014 Brazil World Cup because that is like the holy grail in soccer.

“How many chefs can say they have had the opportunity to walk out onto the field at the Maracanã stadium in a chef’s jacket? It was an amazing feeling.

“I look at the pictures and can’t believe that I was actually there.”
After honing his culinary skills in kitchens around the world, Gottschalk’s CV includes running the most illustrious kitchens at the 2010 Wold Cup in South Africa, World Cup Brazil, the European Olympics in Azerbaidjan and last year’s Asian Olympic Games in Turkmenistan.

“It is a huge undertaking to be a part of but the experiences you have always makes it worth it, like when Lady Gaga walks through your kitchen and sits at the piano to sing a song.

“Sometimes it is not about the cooking but about the things you get to witness and be a part of,” he said.

“And the great thing about these World Cups is that each country has the chance to show its culture off, which brings people together.”

Having visited 124 countries for either work or pleasure, Gottschalk, a father of two teenage boys, has never been to Russia.

“No one ever told me I could travel the world and follow my passion and it is a great feeling now looking back at all the things I have accomplished, the places I have visited and people I have met.

“Russia will be different from all the other world cups because this time around we will have to produce the food in the kitchens at the stadium whereas at previous events the food was produced and packaged off site and delivered to the stadiums.

“We are also not talking about popcorn and hot-dogs, people pay big money for a seat in one of these suites and we deliver top-class meals.”

Gottschalk who grew up in a village in Hannover, Germany, and is 2.3 metres tall, said the idea of him becoming an “apron monkey” had seemed far-fetched to his peers.

“I grew up in a village and leaving school all the kids were going on to become teachers, accountants and here I was being made fun of for wanting to spend my days in a kitchen and if it was not for my supportive parents [and] my understanding wife I would not have been able to live out my dream.”