From Vienna to HBS: A Chef’s Search for Balance and Meaning
From Vienna to HBS: A Chef’s Search for Balance and Meaning
Up Close: People have long been curious about what it’s like to be a student at Harvard Business School, and increasingly they are also interested in how the best-known school of management manages itself. This is the fourth installment of a new series called Up Close, featuring the day-to-day work of the School and the people who do it.
16 Aug 2017   Zeenat Potia

Imagine growing up in the warm glow of a popular restaurant in the heart of Vienna, learning about the art of pastry as an apprentice at the age of 16 in one of the finest Austrian cafes and then many years later, working to create thousands of mouthwatering desserts each day at Harvard Business School. Such is the life trajectory of Andreas Horava, Restaurant Associates’ Executive Pastry Chef at HBS, who runs his operation from a spacious kitchen in the basement of the new Chao Center. He is a soft-spoken, skillful, and creative presence at HBS, and we are fortunate to have him on campus. In the midst of piping meringue on a tray of luscious lemon tarts being prepared for a catering order, Horava took time out of his packed schedule to give us an Up Close look at his story.

What do you do at HBS?

ANDREAS HORAVA: I manage a team of nine people, and we run a 24-hour operation, serving the HBS community from nine outlets from breakfast to dinner, as well as fulfilling numerous catering orders. We change our menu daily, and I like to take inspiration from my staff, who are from many different nationalities. My long- standing relationship with them has enabled me to trust and know their abilities and the quality of their production. Angela Burnett, for instance, makes a new afternoon hot dessert in the Spangler Center Grill every day.

That's a lot of pastry. Dare we ask what goes into all these goodies?

AH: Our daily usage is about 30 lbs. of sugar, 40 – 50 lbs. of flour, 20 lbs. of butter, 300 eggs, 5- 12 lbs. of chocolate. We bake on average 1,000 cookies and about 1,000 assorted pastry items every day.

Who were your early influencers?

AH: I grew up with the restaurant industry deeply ingrained in my blood. My grandmother had a bustling restaurant, Das Lettner, and a wine dealership in Vienna when I was young, and my parents owned a restaurant for three years. I remember clearly the huge wooden wine barrels, eight to ten feet high, with intricate carvings, in their cellar. My grandfather would drive to the countryside to purchase the wine, bottle and cork it in the cellar with the help of machines, and then ready it for sale.

Did you always want to be a chef?

AH: It was my father’s idea. He said if I wanted to travel around the world and have a skill that allows me to do that, why not train as a chef. I loved eating pastry and so I jumped at the idea and took up an apprenticeship at one of the oldest pastry shops in Vienna, Kaffee Koulitovci Lehmann, at the age of 16. It was a wonderful time. I lived in a suburb called Grinzing, where outside my window were vineyards, and I would take the train every day into Vienna with another apprentice, who became my best friend. We are still in contact to this day.

What led you to the United States?

AH: My father had a friend from during World War II, and I visited him in Virginia when I was 10 years old for a month and fell in love with America. After my mandatory military training and service, I spent two summers working in Italy along the Adriatic Coast and then took a job with the Austrian BBC. It was big operation that fed 3,500 people daily. Austrians love pastry, so the main meal on Fridays would be pastry, such as a strudel the size of a dinner plate. In the States, after working in California and Arizona, I ended up at the Westin Copley in Boston for many years.

How long have you been at HBS?

AH: Eight and a half years. I enjoy working here, because there is a lot more flexibility than in the restaurant industry. Instead of an intense, bottom-line-focused environment, here we are customer oriented. We are driven by the needs and preferences of the community. In addition, holidays are slower, so I can spend them with my family rather than working non-stop like I would at a restaurant for Mother’s Day, for instance.

What's the favorite dessert on campus these days?

AH: Chocolate is always popular, and I would say the next big thing will be our chocolate hazelnut crunch bar. Keep an eye out for it.

What do you like to eat?

AH: I have to watch what I eat, since I’m surrounded by so much sugar, so I’m taking my doctor’s orders seriously and exercising regularly. But if we are picking favorites, it would have to be an Austrian cheese strudel with vanilla sauce.

Are you passing down your skills in any way?

AH: There are no longer any secret recipes. I am constantly learning from my staff and from recipes online, and I willingly share what I know from my training. I have two daughters. The younger one is a maternity nurse, and the older is a chemical physicist. Occasionally they call me up and ask me how to make something sweet. And then send me a photo to verify whether it came out well.

What do you appreciate about the HBS campus?

AH: I am mostly in the basement of the Chao Center, but when I do go outside, I like to take little walks in between buildings. We have a sensational campus with an amazing bounty of nature-- the trees, hawks, squirrels, and bunnies hopping around. I’m fortunate to be here.

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