Sybille Schönberger: 'A good team leader must also be a good team player!'
'Anyone who can't keep a clear head under pressure has no business leading a team.' Clear words from a high-flying woman who 'got into cooking by chance,' as Sybille Schönberger reveals with a laugh. 'I'm not really your typical chef – I was never interested in devoting my life to cooking. I also stumbled into gourmet cooking rather by accident'.
In reality, it may safely be assumed that the career of this multiple award-winning event and TV chef did not really unfold in such a haphazard and modest manner – the dainty aroma expert ultimately prevailed in this predominantly male trade with tremendous diligence, fierce discipline and an outstanding flair for harmonious presentations. At the age of 27, she became the youngest cook in Germany to win a Michelin star – no mean feat for a young woman in a man's world. Her secret is leadership qualities that combine empathy and assertiveness. 'Gourmet cooking is no easy field for a petite, feminine woman – many people didn't believe I would be up to the job on the grounds of my appearance alone. In my first week I almost broke down under the pressure. The head chef was bullying us around. But rather than quitting I prevailed with a grin-and-bear-it attitude.'
Sybille Schönberger now handles her high-pressure everyday workload with the requisite degree of nonchalance, stating that 'you get the best results overall if you can delegate work and instruct others effectively.' No mistakes are allowed in gourmet cooking: perfect choreography is of the essence to ensure dishes of the highest quality are prepared to the tightest of schedules. An effective, well-managed team is vital: 'The art is to direct others in such a manner that they can ultimately produce the same results as you. It is important to be even-handed and fair and to foster people's skills, rather than focusing solely on their mistakes. It's still the end product of their efforts that counts at the end of the day, of course.'
The fruits of her labours can be enjoyed: in TV programmes, on Lufthansa flights or in her cookery book 'Lust auf Leben'. The critics at Gault Millau are similarly enthralled by Schönberger's culinary aplomb. 'Delicate aromas, gentle contrasts, no surprising jolts or incongruities, no ballyhoo. Everything is prepared with the greatest of care, indeed with meticulous precision in some instances. (...) Such distinct aromas are rarely to be found, even in Germany's top restaurants.'
And they are rarely personified in such a winning manner – as highlighted in our video 'One Minute – One Opinion'.