Early on in her career, Julia Komp was confident that she was going to make waves as a chef, but even she could not have imagined just how successful she would become at such a young age. Having been awarded her first Michelin Star at the age of 27, Julia now has her eyes firmly set on the future. Julia’s new restaurant, Sahila, is inspired by her recent world tour. The tour, spanning several continents and countries, has greatly impacted the menu at Sahila.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Julia Komp to find out just how much of her experience has influenced her new dishes.
You started your career in 2008. What motivated you to train as a chef?
I have started my career with an internship in the hotel industry. I saw different areas of the hotel, but what caught my eye was the kitchen. I was really amazed at how you could make people happy with great food. After more internships in top kitchens and a delicatessen, I finally started my apprenticeship in a Michelin star restaurant.
You have many awards to your name, and rightly so! With such fantastic accomplishments and achievements at such a young age, do you feel pressured to continue achieving year after year?
From a young age, I have been participating in great contests such as the Salon Culinaire Mondial. It causes a lot of stress, but every time I received an award, I forgot about it. Soon afterwards I was participating in the next contest. After a double gold medal in the Salon Culinaire Mondial in Dubai, I decided it was enough for now. I got my first job as a Chef de Cuisine which required focus on many other things. That’s when I got my first Michelin star in 2016. Of course, this came with a lot of pressure. However, in 2019 I resisted the pressure and left my Michelin star in Cologne to take a trip around the world.
You were awarded a prestigious Michelin Star, one of just a few given out to women since the conception of the Michelin Guide in 1900! Why do you think women are underrepresented in these awards and have you noticed any improvements in the last few years?
I think many women have to choose between career and family life. It takes many years to climb the career ladder and open up a restaurant. Those might be the years when you also think about starting a family. Nevertheless, meanwhile, there are more and more women coming into the top cuisine. I know some female Chefs de Cuisine with two or three Michelin stars and many amazing sous-chefs.
What barriers did you face on your way to the top of the German chef's list?
Honestly, I was lucky and did not face too many barriers. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it to the top by age 27. I was at the right place at the right time. I was working in kitchens where you were able to convince through performance regardless of gender. However, it was tough. While my friends were partying, I was working, participating in contests and visiting food fairs.
Do you have any advice for young women who want to follow a similar path as you?
It takes power and endurance. What is most important is not to take criticism personally. And yes, you might lose some friends on your way because of the working hours and shifts, but there will be new friends in your life.
How would you define your guiding principle(s)?
I need a clear goal in mind to motivate myself. Additionally, I think you have to be thankful to the people who support you. When it comes to my guiding principles in the kitchen, I value quality food and always look out for organic options.
Can you tell us a bit about your world tour a few years ago? What encouraged you to fully immerse yourself in the culinary experience of each country you visited, and how did these experiences lead to your book?
Even though I had a Michelin star, I felt like I could learn more. So I packed my suitcase and went on a trip around the world. I wanted to get to know the taste of authentic dishes. I was writing a little blog, so my friends at home could catch up. Everyone said that I should write a cookbook. At first, I was not convinced but later on, I realized that I made some extraordinary experiences that are worth sharing. Finally, I incorporated not only recipes but also little stories and photos into my book “My World Tour in Recipes”. The book became a diary of my world tour.
You just opened your new restaurant Sahila- can you tell us more about it?
While traveling around the world, I met inspiring people, got to know new tastes and took home great recipes. At Sahila, I now want to take the guests on a trip around the world. I want them to get to know the authentic local cuisine, completely reinterpreted for the top cuisine. I also have a second restaurant. With the Mezze Bar Yu*lia, I'm trying something new: Mezze has so far been known mainly from oriental countries. Here, “sharing is caring” applies. We want to offer guests a small oasis with Mediterranean and Oriental specialities. Two concepts under one roof: For me, this is a long-time dream coming true.
With so much effort going into each dish on the menu, what feeling, memory or taste do you want your guests to take home with them after their visit to the restaurant?
Every menu in the Sahila restaurant is a world trip. I want to give the guests a time out of their daily routine. I want them to think of vacations, places they may have been to. Like ‘Oh, this reminds me of a dish I had on my vacation in Thailand’.
From what or who do you draw your greatest inspiration?
I draw my greatest inspiration from vacations. It all started when I was very young. My greatest memories are related to food, for example, in Belgium, when we went to the market to have a sausage, or in Tunisia, where my grandma always bought me ice cream. Since then, I have seen more than 40 countries.
Your work has taken you all over the world. What’s your favourite city? And what are the top 5 spots in this city you’d recommend to your best friend when he or she’s in town?
If I have to decide on one city, I would go for Marrakech. Life there is modern, but traditions are also very visible in the city. Not only the newer area of the city is lively, but also the old town is a place full of experiences and inspiration.
My top five:
- The Medina – the old part of the city with its small alleys that you can get lost in
- The Riads – there you experience silence and sometimes hear the refreshing sound of a water fountain
- Le Tanjia Restaurant, near the spice market – the view from the terrasse is amazing. I recommend going there for sunset
- The newer part of the city with its nightclubs and restaurants
- The Palmeraie, where you also find some large hotels. I love to go jogging there. It is a true oasis.