Cover An Oktoberfest celebration in Munich (Photo: Brett Sayles/Unsplash)

KL-based chef Ludwig Gaisbauer of German Delicatessen was originally from Bavaria in Germany

Oktoberfest may have come and gone, but Tatler Dining just had a nice conversation with Ludwig Gaisbauer, a chef-entrepreneur from Bavaria now based in Malaysia, about this very traditional German celebration.

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What is the significance of Oktoberfest in Germany?

Oktoberfest is a very traditional event in Munich that is open to public. It originated in Munich and first started in 1810 with the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Hilburghausen. That's the reason why the location of where Oktoberfest is held is named Theresienwiese, which means Therese’s Lawn. The only time ever when there was no Oktoberfest was during WWII.

Today, Oktoberfest is simply referred to as just Wiesen (lawn) by native Munich people. The traditional and original Oktoberfest only happens in Munich and nowhere else is it this grand.

The land on which Oktoberfest is held is a privately owned and was given to the City of Munich for the sole purpose of Oktoberfest with the condition that no other permanent buildings will be constructed on it. To put it into perspective, the size of the land is probably as big as 20-30 football fields, if not bigger than that.

A lot of livelihoods depend on Oktoberfest. For example, I had a cousin who ran a small pretzel stand there. She was a widow with two small children so the business helped her.

Oktoberfest is also a very popular tourist attraction, generating a huge amount of business from people all over the world. It is a huge source of revenue for the breweries and small independent stalls in Oktoberfest.

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What happens during Oktoberfest in Munich?

There will be massive tents that take months to build, and then months to dismantle. There are maybe 12 massive tents housing many long wooden benches inside. Each tent can accommodate anywhere between 5,000 and 11,000 people. These tents are only given to breweries native to Munich. They don't just serve beer, but also a large variety of food.

There’s a tent called the Fischer Vroni that serves grilled mackerel or trout on a wooden stick. Another tent called Ochsenbratere grills around 100 oxen throughout the 16-day celebration.

Only Munich natives are allowed to set up a stall and there is a strict background check by the Munich city council. 

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What is Oktoberfest like in Malaysia?

There were more Oktoberfest events when I first moved to Malaysia 34 years ago. Almost every hotel had an Oktoberfest event and they were extremely popular. Bavarian bands were even flown in to play music. Back then, there were no German beers until someone brought in Paulaner. 

I don't celebrate Oktoberfest anymore and I don't drink, so the closest I get to enjoy the spirit of the celebration is by indulging in traditional German food that's usually served during Oktoberfest. 

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