updated 04/20/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 04/20/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
Thomas Ferlesch, 24, had just been made head chef at Manhattan's Vienna '79, so he was understandably nervous last January when New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton returned to see if the Austrian restaurant still deserved its three-star ("excellent") rating. This time Sheraton was so impressed that she bestowed on Vienna '79 four stars ("extraordinary"). The Austrian-born son of a baker and a hausfrau, Ferlesch began his apprenticeship a decade ago at Gastgewer-befachschule, Vienna's answer to the Cordon Bleu. He landed his first job at 17 in the kitchen of a restaurant in Switzerland, then returned home for a year's hitch in the army, where he was lucky enough to be assigned to the officers' mess. Whipping up strudels at Demel's, the famous Vienna pastry shop, followed—but it was cooking at the Southampton Princess resort in Bermuda that led to his current job. When the maître d' at the Southampton Princess moved to Vienna '79 two years ago, Ferlesch went with him. Although the young chef is known for desserts like crepes with chestnuts, rum and chocolate sauce, he is equally meticulous about the rest of the menu. For example, Ferlesch marinates his lamb in herbs and oil for an entire week. When he isn't working 12 hours a day, the lanky bachelor catches a Broadway show or discos. His favorite food is—ach du lieber!—Italian. "I could die," he admits, "for pasta."