Austrian-born chef Augusto Schreiner has dedicated his entire life to culinary excellence. His expertise has earned him many prestigious awards like the André Simon Award given by the Wine and Food Society of Puerto Rico, the Golden Fork Award that his restaurant, Augusto’s, won for 10 consecutive years and the Platinum Fork Award that Augusto’s received its last year in business.
After running his own restaurant for 17 years, chef Schreiner felt it was best to sell the business since the hotel in which it operated was being sold and making an investment on the property wasn’t a viable option.
Chef Schreiner trained at the Salzburg Culinary School where he graduated with honors after having won both a Gold Medal and a Jury Grand Prize at the Austrian National Apprentice Competition. Before arriving in Puerto Rico, he worked at The Grand Hotel in Paris, the Dusseldorf Hilton, Curacao Hilton and the Bogotá Hilton, where he met his wife, Claudia Pedraza. In 1974, he was transferred to the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a sous chef position. He was later promoted to executive chef where he remained until 1988 when he opened his restaurant.
Ever since Schreiner moved to Puerto Rico he has felt like a local and staying on the island ended up being a no-brainer for him.
“The Caribe Hilton offered me a very nice position, it was impossible to turn it down. Plus, I had already started my family with my wife,” he said.
Since then, he has made numerous contributions to the culinary development of the island. In 2003, the Senate of Puerto Rico presented him with Resolution #3273 for his contribution to the education and development of the culinary arts in Puerto Rico.
The chef has traveled the world representing Puerto Rico in prestigious competitions like the Culinary Contest in Jamaica, where he won a Gold Medal, and the Culinary Olympics in Germany where he was captain of the first Caribbean Culinary Team, which was created by the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA). Nowadays, Schreiner sits on the panel of judges that decides which people will form the team and represent Puerto Rico.
Along with the PRHTA, he created Saborea, an anticipated culinary extravaganza that features the work of many local chefs. The event has gained popularity every year as it continually highlights the best of what the Puerto Rican culinary scene has to offer. When Schreiner started to work with the PRHTA, he knew an event like this was imperative so that Puerto Rico’s gastronomic offerings could take center stage.
Schreiner is the current chief of operations of the ALO Demo Kitchen Theater in Saborea and as such, he organizes and puts together a demonstration of delicious bite-size creations by an array of chefs.
After closing his restaurant in 2007, Schreiner partnered with the Boutique Du Vin, a wine store in Hato Rey, and established his Art of Cooking School on their premises, where he teaches cooking lessons every Thursday to groups of up to 24 people.
Every one of his lessons has a theme or is centered around a specific topic. Some of them are about dishes endemic to specific countries and others center on seasonal dishes or products, for example.
During his classes, he strives to create a comfortable environment where adults can learn how to master cooking techniques while using utensils and materials found in an ordinary home. Schreiner buys the ingredients he uses at places like Costco, Econo, Supermax and La Hacienda. His goal is for his students to learn how to prepare wonderful dinners in their homes while also tending to their guests because he feels that much too often whoever cooks ends up trapped in the kitchen.
Next Thursday, August 15, he will be teaching a class on how to prepare salmon in three different ways: as a fresh salmon mousse, cedar wood wrapped salmon, and coulibac of salmon, a classic Russian dish of puff pastry stuffed with salmon, rice, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions and dill.
His next lesson after that, on August 22, is titled “Silk Road to Asia” and he will be teaching students how to make a Thai seafood salad, leg of lamb baked in a clay pot, Fattaoush salad and coconut tapioca pudding with mango and lime.
The classically-trained chef says he doesn’t have a specific food he enjoys cooking but does admit he is partial to European dishes.