The film is based on a true story. A local countryside cook in the DDR (Communist East Germany) is bored with making Schweinebraten and Semmelknödeln, dreaming of exotic dishes. He starts by making japanese food for his friends, but eventually becomes a sensation and even a diplomatic asset for DDR-Japanese relations.
One evening in the mid-1960s, Rolf Anschütz, a chef running a small restaurant in the town of Suhl in the middle of the East German province of Thuringen offers his guests a unique and exotic meal – Japanese Sukiyaki. It was intent to be a surprise for some of his best customers and it became a great success. Even the local paper wrote about it. A couple of days after the “event” a real Japanese turned up at the restaurant and demanded the same meal again. The Japanese loved Rolf Anschütz’s cooking. It snowballed from there. First diplomats, later Japanese company executives and sports delegations were sitting – naked and side by side – with government officials and the brigades of the East German working class in the water pool of Rolf’s now famous restaurant “Waffenschmied” (Gunsmith).
Rolf even received a decoration by Japan’s Imperial family.
Directed by Carsten Fiebeler
P.S. We could not find a trailer with English subtitles but one may not need “language” to understand what’s going on, here. 🙂
Film Review – The Guardian
Film celebrates East German chef who cooked up Japanese storm in cold war
Sushi in Suhl charts Rolf Anschütz’s culinary struggle which eventually led to a cult menu and decoration by Japan’s royal family
Having spent a lifetime slaving over meals of sausage, potato dumplings and beef roulade, Rolf Anschütz itched to turn his hand to something more exotic.
But living in 1960s communist East Germany, with the many restrictions imposed by its centrally planned economy, when the chef decided to try Japanese cuisine he found his options were limited. So he experimented with the few ingredients available to him.
Tinned rice pudding was transformed into sushi rice, local carp was dyed to resemble salmon, a local variant of Worcestershire sauce was used instead of soy sauce, and Hungarian tokaj wine was mixed with German corn schnapps and heated, to fool diners into thinking they were drinking sake.Even may bugs fried in batter were brought into play as Anschütz started conjuring Japanese fare in the heart of East Germany.
Before long his East German-style Japanese menu had gained cult status, and his restaurant in Suhl, Thuringia, began attracting diners from not only across the communist state, but also from West Germany and even Japan.
His story has now been turned into a film, which has been attracting large audiences across the country. Sushi in Suhl charts the rise of Anschütz’s success, his battles with the authorities, who accused him of “culinary capitalism”, the friendships he made with Japanese admirers who supplied him with foodstuffs, and his eventual invitation to visit Japan, where he was decorated by the royal family.
Just under two million diners passed through his restaurant, the Waffenschmied (the Armourer), between 1966 and 1986. Diners had to wait for up to two years to get a table and paid the equivalent of half of a month’s rent for the full four- or five-hour Japanese experience, which included a ritual cleansing bath for which guests had to disrobe.
“This was something of a mythical place in the heart of the communist east,” said Conny Günther, recalling…