It is with great sadness we announce that our beloved Eckhard Thalwitz passed away on Friday, March 10, 2023, surrounded by family and loved ones. Known for his playful and outgoing nature, he will be missed by all who knew him. With a dream and a passion for food and gemütlich hospitality, he founded the Bavarian Chef in 1974 with wife Bruni and son Jerome.
Eckhard was born in 1937 in Aschaffenburg, Germany, to Konrad and Helene Thalwitz. He was the youngest of three children, with his eldest brother Wilfried and middle sister Gisela. After Eckhard’s father died in 1951, his mother married Clemens Lenzer. Clemens was a strong influence in Eckhard’s life, teaching him responsibility and instilling a strong work ethic in him.
At age 14, Eckhard began his culinary apprenticeship at the Ritters Park Hotel in Bad Homburg and the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Munich, where he had the opportunity to work with famed chef Alfred Walterspiel. Eckhard mastered his craft in kitchens and cuisines around the world, including Vevey, Switzerland; Mandelieu-la-Napoule on the French Riviera (if you ever wondered why Steak au Poivre is on the Bavarian Chef menu, this is why!); and Morocco, in the cities of Casablanca and Tangiers, where he served as a private chef for King Mohammed V.
When Eckhard’s first season in Tangiers ended, he took a trip back to Germany to visit family. One night at dinner with friends, he met and fell head over heels in love with another guest at the party–his future wife Bruni. Eckhard was due to leave for a three-month stint around the world as a chef on the ship Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, but he promised to return. After his travels to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Panama, the United States, and England, he returned to Germany and asked Bruni to accompany him to Tangiers where he would resume his job at the Hotel Rif. Eckhard fondly recalled their time in Tangiers as a time of plenty, in contrast to his early years in Germany, which had propelled him to become a chef so that he would never be hungry again.
Eventually Eckhard and Bruni returned to Germany and ultimately emigrated to the United States. Their family joyfully grew with the addition of their son Jerome, and they spent Jerome’s childhood in Karlsruhe and Wetzlar, Germany, before landing permanently in Virginia. Eckhard’s brother Wilfried, who lived in Washington, D.C., invited Bruni and Eckhard to join him for a drive to Graves Mountain shortly after their arrival. The beautiful landscape reminded Eckhard of Germany, and he and Bruni determined that this would be a good place to look for their next restaurant. After working in so many big hotels and corporations, Eckhard looked forward to having a family-run restaurant. So on April 1, 1974, The Bavarian Chef opened its doors along a rural stretch of Route 29 in Madison County. Eckhard’s vision was to make The Bavarian Chef a gathering place where friends and neighbors could enjoy a hearty meal and warm hospitality. Guests to The Bavarian Chef were friends, not patrons, and team members were family. Eckhard remained at the helm until 1987, when he and Bruni retired to Whitestone, Virginia. He was proud for their son Jerome to continue his legacy as chef and owner of The Bavarian Chef. But retirement was not for Eckhard, so his next venture was Eckhard’s in Topping, Virginia. He spent several more years as chef and owner before retiring for good.
Eckhard filled our lives with laughter, adventure, and generosity. He enjoyed sailing, tender veal with wild mushrooms and potato dumplings, and a good cognac stinger. On the rare day off, playing chess and lingering with family around the dinner table brought Eckhard great joy.
Eckhard leaves behind his loving wife of 61 years Brunhilde (Bruni) Thalwitz, his son Jerome and daughter-in-law Christine, and his grandchildren Alexi, Jared, and Katya. He also leaves behind his sister Gisela Taylor and her husband Dell; his sister-in-law Margret Thalwitz and her children, nephew Gunnar Thalwitz and niece Dora Thalwitz, her husband Lucas Butler, and their three children.
With sorrow, we mourn his loss, and with love, we celebrate his life. Rest in peace, dear Papa and Opa.