Crowded into the kitchen of the Holzschopf restaurant in Schliengen, Germany, on a cool April afternoon, a small army of cooks is hard at work prepping 180 pounds of white asparagus—known here as Spargel. One of them gently layers bundles of slender blanched spears into porcelain terrines; another watches over cauldrons of thicker stalks simmering in water seasoned with lemon juice, sugar, butter, and salt. At a wooden table just outside the kitchen, two chefs, Holzschopf's Hans-Dieter Walser and his equally talented Los Angeles-based brother-in-law Hans Rockenwagner—who are jointly responsible for this evening's Spargelfest (asparagus festival)—sit amid a mountain of peelings. Heads bowed, crisp white stalks in one hand and peelers in the other, they are intent upon removing every trace of the thin fibrous skin that covers each spear. Offers to help are declined: The job is far too important to delegate. An improperly peeled Spargel is a bitter, inedible thing, they say. To me, something seems wrong with the idea of chefs of this caliber being reduced to little more than scullions—but then, what do I know about white asparagus? Very little, it turns out.