Albert Uster

I leave shortly for the airport for Switzerland but before my departure I want to share with all of you who knew him or knew of him the obituary I wrote as a tribute to Albert Uster who died just a few weeks ago at the age of 75 in a glider plane accident in the alps. I love Switzerland and am thrilled to be part of the upcoming culinary press trip about which you will be hearing more in the near future. But I leave with sadness as well as this will be the first of many times I have been in Switzerland knowing that Albert is no longer with us.Some of you will have noticed that Albert was one of the very first people to post on this blog--congratulating me in his exceptionally modest manner, saying he hoped I could consider him a friend. And he was a very dear friend indeed as well as a larger than life person. For more about his life and significant contributions to America and the pastry world I encourage you to click on this link: http://www.auiswiss.com/aboutUs_uster.cfm. But the following was a little story I wrote for the Washington Post. They only had room for two short lines so here is the rest: Albert Uster There are so many stories I have to tell about Albert as we have been friends for over 25 years. Flashing through my mind are images of Albert yodeling at the slightest provocation; hosting me and a group of pastry chefs on a trip to Switzerland and asking only one thing at the end of the trip: To suggest a charitable use for his money; Albert returning late to his weekend guests in his beautiful home in Potomac and inviting me by phone to chose any wine in his wine cellar—then only getting mildly annoyed when I opened a very old Burgundy that was there just for show and undrinkable; going for a brisk morning walk with him, his daughter Jennifer, and the youngest of his sons Adam who fondly called him Poppy, the kids lovingly insisting he exercise more; me helping him chose a tux at Saks in D.C. (for a special event honoring him) which he pronounced with an exaggerated Swiss accent as ‘Sex’ causing the sales girls to giggle and him to repeat it several times; bringing me back dried black pears and schnapps from Switzerland for a Swiss pear bread I wanted to make; inviting me to Gaithersburg for the inauguration of the World War II Swiss bakery truck he had purchased; watching him make rosti potatoes at my friend Angelica’s house in Long Beach, L.I., while she made lasagna for our collaborative dinner the three of us had planned for years; but here’s my very favorite memory of all. The day we were visiting Angelica the sidewalks were iced over and slick as a frozen lake. The three of us decided to go for a walk on the nearby boardwalk. As I tentatively advanced one foot from the porch steps onto the ice, already beginning to slip and slide, Albert grasped me masterfully under one elbow and strode out with me onto the ice saying: “The way to walk on ice is with complete confidence.” I felt then that as long as Albert was holding my elbow I would never fall, which is why it breaks my heart to think that Albert had no Albert supporting him in that airplane. But if he had to go so too soon, I think this would have been his way—Albert was not a man to go quietly into that dark night—he died as he lived with verve, energy, passion, flying free and, I’m certain, with the same confidence with which he walked on ice.