Swiss retiree invents ‘king of all barbecues’

Some people are at a loss when they retire, but Swiss engineer and sausage lover Gabriel Strebel didn’t waste any time.

Swiss retiree invents 'king of all barbecues'

After a career spent selling industrial machines all over the world, he invested 300,000 francs and three years in developing a unique vertical grill capable of cooking hundreds of sausages an hour.

“I am too lazy to keep turning the meat over and looking if it is going black. That’s how I came up with the idea for the barbecue wheel,” Strebel told Switzerland’s Blick newspaper.

One person using the standard version of the smoke-free ‘Grillrad’ can cook up to 200 sausages an hour. These sausages turn slowly on a wheel, being cooked at 1,400C behind glass so that no heat is lost. The cooking time for each sausage is just over five minutes.

Strebel says the stainless-steel barbecue is idiot-proof: the sausages never come out black or cold, great for events where people may not have the requisite sausage savoir-faire.

It’s not just about sausages either. The barbecue can cook everything from chicken wings to bananas.

The time and effort has paid off. Some 120 of the barbecues have been sold to butchers and clubs in Switzerland and Germany, according to Swiss daily Le Matin.

Strebel hasn’t hung up his tongs yet either. He is currently putting the finishing touches to the fourth generation of his barbecue while devising a new machine for cooking meat skewers.

Meanwhile, Strebel’s cooking record to date saw him serving up 34 tonnes of sausages at the opening of the 57-kilometre long Gotthard base tunnel in 2016.

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Ragusa: How a hazelnut chocolate bar won over the Swiss

Nothing screams Switzerland more than Swiss chocolate, especially world-renowned Toblerone and Lindt. But local favourite Ragusa is a well-kept secret. Here's how the popular hazelnut bar came to be and why it's worth a bite.

Ragusa: How a hazelnut chocolate bar won over the Swiss

Swiss people living abroad often ask for souvenirs from visitors that remind them of their homeland – and if you’re a veteran Swiss, this will almost always include a few bars of Ragusa.

Today, Chocolats Camille Bloch – which produces Ragusa – is one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in Switzerland and produces some 3,700 tons of chocolate goodness annually, of which roughly 20 percent is exported.

How it began

Ragusa was first created in 1942, during the war years when raw materials – like cocoa – were in short supply.

But this didn’t stop chocolatier French citizen Camille Bloch who emigrated to Switzerland from France with his family in circa 1850. The Blochs – who had Jewish ancestry – settled in Bern where Jews had the right to remain, and Bloch went on to do an apprenticeship at Chocolat Tobler in the city.

After he became naturalised and completed his military service in Switzerland, Bloch founded his own chocolate factory, the Chocolats et Bonbons Fins Camille Bloch, later known simply as Chocolats Camille Bloch SA, in 1929.

Though cocoa was scarce during the 1940s, Bloch was determined to create his very own chocolate. In order to succeed in making his creation a commercial success, he used a mass of ground hazelnuts mixed with whole hazelnuts between two thin layers of dark chocolate to create Ragusa in 1942.

The chocolate and the mixed mass of hazelnut goodness were then poured in consecutive layers into flat moulds before being cut into rectangular bars of 50 grams, as was the initial shape of the Ragusa chocolate.

The recipe also included cocoa fat, cocoa butter, unhardened vegetable fats (no trans fats), powdered milk and sugar (both from Switzerland) and natural vanilla (from Madagascar).

READ MORE: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with Aromat?

Commercial success

Now Bloch just needed to find a name that would transcend Switzerland’s four language regions, and this was no easy feat. Luckily, he had recalled his visit to the Croatian town of Ragusa – now Dubrovnik – and found the ring of the name to be a good fit.

Next came the packaging in 1945, which initially featured the brand name – Ragusa – alongside the company name Camille Bloch and two hazelnuts. The packaging was slightly updated but remained largely the same in 1960 and received its first televised commercial – in black and white – in 1965.

Two years after the first colour television was introduced, Ragusa premiered its first colour television commercial in 1975. Five years later, in 1980, Bloch took marketing to new heights with a Ragusa-shaped hot air balloon being sent off into the sky on national TV.

More TV advertising and packaging remakes followed, and Ragusa soon became a staple in Swiss households across the country.

The essence of Ragusa itself remains largely unchanged, from the same recipe, to the same method of manufacturing with traditional confectionery quality and the rectangular chocolate shape.

Today, the grandson of Camille Bloch, Daniel Bloch, acts as managing director of the distinguished chocolate firm and has made it his mission to elevate the brand’s success and take it across the border to Germany.

In 2008, Ragusa Noir – the dark chocolate version of the chocolate bar – came onto the scene and in 2014, Ragusa fans were delighted with yet another addition: Ragusa Blond.

The latter proved particularly popular with the younger generation as did Ragusa McFlurry, which was added to McDonald’s dessert menu after the food chain reached out to Camille Block directly to collaborate.

While the traditional size of a Ragusa bar was originally 50 grams, the chocolate is now also available in 25 and 11 grams.

READ MORE: Le Parfait: How Switzerland fell in love with a pork liver spread

Ethical production

Ragusa is for the most part ethically produced using cocoa from Peru where cocoa cultivation is a tradition and infrastructure is stable.

Camille Bloch’s supplier also ensures that the cocoa is not harvested in deforested regions and that no child labour is involved in its production.

As for the almonds, Bloch sources their almonds from ethically accredited producers in the USA and their hazelnuts from producers in Turkey, who are also ethically accredited.

In the future, the company plans to cover its hazelnut requirements itself and thus began an innovative sustainable development planting programme of its own hazelnut trees in Georgia in 2021.