Der Rheinlander’s founder: ‘This is a tough business’

Der Rheinlander is shutting its doors after more than 50 years

Horst Mager founded Der Rheinlander and was Portland's original celebrity chef. (KOIN, firle photo)
Horst Mager founded Der Rheinlander and was Portland's original celebrity chef. (KOIN, firle photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Out with the old and in with the new: Portland restaurants that have served generations of families are fading into history as new restaurants stake their claim.

Among those closing is Der Rheinlander, shutting its doors after more than 50 years.

The man behind the schnitzel was Horst Mager, who many call Portland’s first celebrity chef. He hosted the “KOIN Kitchen” show in the 1970s.

The German immigrant’s Der Rheinlander on Sandy Boulevard was his first and signature restaurant. But as Portland becomes a food mecca, chefs from all over the world are opening new and trendy eateries.

Horst Mager, the man behind Der Rheinlander and Gustav's, September 29, 2016 (KOIN)
Horst Mager, the man behind Der Rheinlander and Gustav’s, September 29, 2016 (KOIN)

Mager said fine dining has become too pricey for the average person.

“The middle class used to be the backbone of the family restaurant,” Mager said.

In the 1980s, Mager started a cooking school that later became the Western Culinary Institute and now Le Cordon Bleu. But even now, he says there aren’t enough people with the skills needed to work kitchens and keep them running.

“This is a tough business,” he said. “A lot of people won’t want to go into this.”

Mager sold his company, Guten Foods, to his daughter Suzeanne in the mid 1990s. It includes several of Gustav’s locations, including one in Clackamas.

With that sale, Mager’s life work stays in the family.

“She better do good, because I’m the landlord here,” Mager said, laughing. “If she doesn’t do good here, then I’m going to raise hell.”

Mager, who is 79, is currently retired and living in Lake Oswego.

Der Rheinlander will close in early 2017. Its building will be re-developed by Portland-based Venerable Properties.