August Sander, chef to presidents, film stars


August Sander, a German immigrant and retired master chef who had served two U.S. presidents and a German king, died Wednesday of kidney failure at the Meridian Multi-Medical Nursing Center in Towson. He was 86.

Kaiser Wilhelm II and presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford were among the dignitaries Mr. Sander served during a career that spanned more than 40 years.

Other notables he served included Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and actress Jean Harlow.

While at the Hotel Kasten in Hanover, Germany, he served Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had been living in exile in Holland but secretly made visits to Germany.

In 1985, Mr. Sander told a reporter, "I don't remember what he ate since that was 60 years ago. I know he had to sneak into Hanover in a freight car and stay at the hotel in complete secrecy. If the Communists knew he was there, they would have killed him."

He met Jean Harlow in the United States while a chef at the old Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. She was in town to promote her latest film at the Century Theater. That night she was celebrating her 21st birthday, and Mr. Sander served turkey.

An expert in French, Italian, German and American cuisines, Mr. Sander worked at the Southern Hotel at Light and Redwood streets before joining the Emerson at Calvert and Baltimore streets, where he worked for 18 years.

Born in Bad Hersfeld, a small town near the former East-West German border, Mr. Sander was the son of a restaurateur. His family had been in the inn-keeping business for 200 years.

Before immigrating to Baltimore in 1928, he served a three-year apprenticeship at the Wein Restaurant in the City Hall of Kassel, Germany. He also worked as an assistant chef in restaurants in Weisbaden, Leipzig and Hanover.

During World War II, he worked as a welder building Liberty ships at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard.

In 1947, Mr. Sander joined Slater Food Service, which later merged with ARA Services. He worked with that firm the next 21 years in industrial cafeterias, including Koppers Co., Bendix Radio, and Crown Cork & Seal.

He retired in 1968 as regional supervising chef for the mid-Atlantic area, responsible for training young chefs and maintaining food standards.

Mr. Sander met his future wife, Bertha Prag, at the Emerson Hotel. They were introduced by her brother, Chef Herman Prag, an associate of Mr. Sander in Germany. They were married in 1932.

Mr. Sander was active in Zion Lutheran Church at City Hall Plaza, the Arion Singing Society, Germania Lodge No. 160 and the International Food Service Executives Association.

He also was active in the German Geselligkeit and the Edelweiss Club, and was involved in the German Day celebrations held each year in Baltimore.

Services were to be held at 2 p.m. today at the Leonard J. Ruck Funeral Home, 5305 Harford Road.

In addition to his wife of 62 years, he is survived by a son, Col. Thomas F. Sander of the U.S. embassy in the Netherlands; a sister, Emmy Brandt of Bad Hersfeld, Germany; two granddaughters; and many nieces and nephews.

The family suggested memorial donations to Zion Lutheran Church, City Hall Plaza, Baltimore 21202.

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