Michael's brings family recipes from Austria

St. Cloud Times
By Jake Laxen
April 21, 2015

http://www.sctimes.com/story/life/food/2015/04/21/michaels-brings-family-recipes-austria/26124039/

While attending a wedding in his native Austria, Michael's Restaurant owner Heinrich Wurdak was in search of his family's Hussaren Braten recipe.

He fondly remembered eating the onion cream gravy-smothered beef brisket with red cabbage dish at large Sunday family meals. The recipe had been passed from Wurdak's grandmother to his mother to his sister-in-law.

"Every generation has a person who is the guardian of the recipe," Wurdak said. "But my sister-in-law wouldn't give it to me right away."

After prodding — and a few glasses of wine — Wurdak got the recipe. And he added it to the Michael's menu, naming it after his grandmother, Lorle Oma.

"I'm now the American guardian of the recipe, 4,000 miles away," Wurdak said.

The dish is one of several with Austrian and European roots on the Michael's menu. Others include a breaded pork steak called Wiener Schnitzel, a grilled pork steak in a mushroom cream sauce called Jaeger Schnitzel, smoked pig's feet and sauerkraut called Schweinshaxen, and a marinated roast beef served in a sour gravy called Sauerbraten, among others.

Michael's also offers different bratwursts as entrees, and St. Joseph Meat Market-made head cheese and blood sausage as appetizers.

"I had to watch (Wurdak) cook each dish about 2-3 times to get them down," said longtime Michael's head chef Randy Meyer. "There's so many steps, we make everything to order."

Meyer, a Foley native, comes from German heritage but never had much experience with European cuisine before working at Michael's.

He previously worked in local kitchens at D.B. Searle's, Grizzly's Wood Fired Grill and La Chateau among other places.

"Randy has been fantastic," Wurdak said. "I can almost say he's better than I am. On some dishes he's definitely better."

Michael's Restaurant uses European-style unsalted butter and 100 percent cream in its dishes. Caraway and poppy seeds are also often used for additional flavor. And Meyer pounds out all of the meat by hand for each order.

"The right ingredients make all the difference," Wurdak said.

Wurdak moved to the United States in 1971 after studying the culinary arts at Hotelfachschule in Vienna.

After living on the East Coast, he bought Michael's in 1994. Wurdak kept his predecessor's steak and seafood menu options but slowly integrated the European dishes. The restaurant also does catering.

And after finally securing the family Hussaren Braten recipe, Michael's Restaurant has become the American guardian of the recipe.

"We have people tell us that the food tastes just as good as it did when they traveled to Europe," Meyer said. "That's about the best compliment I can think of."