Hendrik Olfen von der Weinbar.Henne ist Gastgeber bei den Fine Food Days
One of a number of hosts at Fine Food Days Cologne: Hendrik Olfen from Weinbar.Henne Photo: Jennifer Rumbach

Fine Food Days Cologne: Hendrik Olfen on the joy of sharing

Hendrik "Henne" Olfen's Henne.Weinbar is a mix of wine bar and restaurant where guests can enjoy divine dishes in tapas-style portions without any set order.

Hendrik, let’s start with how you got where you are today. How did you become a chef?
By chance, really. When I finished school, I did a cookery course in the holidays and really enjoyed it. And the chef seemed to think I was pretty good – he asked me if I wanted to do an internship at his restaurant. I did and afterwards I started an apprenticeship with him.

What does it take to be a good chef?
Well, you need a bit of talent, obviously, and an interest in food. But that’s really only about five to ten per cent of what makes a successful chef. The rest is stamina, hard work, discipline and a love of the job. You need that with the working hours being as they are. But if you can bring all of those things to the table and stick with it, you’ll be rewarded.

So what were your rewards for sticking with it?
The first competition I won and the first good job I got without having to apply.

You used to be a product developer at the Vapiano restaurant chain but you also have experience in haute cuisine and worked as a sous-chef to Michelin star chef Hans Horberth. What did you learn in those two different worlds?
The world of haute cuisine gave me an opportunity to refine my skills and really expand my knowledge of products. You put together a creative treasure chest there that you can keep on going back to for inspiration. At a starred restaurant, there are nine people cooking for around 25 guests. At Vapiano, there are a couple of hundred guests every day. I acquired operational skills there. My job was to improve recipes and develop new things. I learned to think in terms of feasibility and not just aesthetics.

Henne.Weinbar is a mixture of a wine bar and a restaurant. What came first – your love of wine or your love of food?
My love of food. But good, open wines are also part of our concept of course. You don’t always want to have to drink a whole bottle if you want to try different wines when you’re out dining.

How did you come up with your concept? Did your inspiration come from tapas bars or more from mezze restaurants?
There were definitely some ideas that inspired our sharing concept but the key factor was my personal taste. I spend almost all my money on food and drink. When I go to a restaurant, I’d eat everything if I could. The idea behind our concept is “sharing is caring”. So, if say a group of four comes to us and they each order three dishes, everyone gets to try twelve dishes in total. It makes for a fun dining experience. On top of that, our guests can put together their own menu. There’s something for everyone – no matter what their budget is or how much time they’ve got. Even if they’re here for a business lunch and don’t want to share.

How do you go about developing new dishes?
The ideas don’t just come from me. Most of them are a team effort. There are 21 of us, nine of whom work in the kitchen. Sometimes I see a product that inspires me when I’m shopping. And then I look for things I can do with it.

You’re taking part in Fine Food Days Cologne. What attracted you to the idea?
This is my first time and I’m really looking forward to it! It’s a wonderful opportunity to put Cologne on the culinary map. Most people who visit Cologne have no idea how well you can eat here. A lot has happened on the restaurant scene just in the few years we’ve been here. You can see it straight away.

What do you think of Cologne cuisine? What do you like and what can’t you stand?
I like everything and there’s nothing I can’t stand! The food is similar to what they eat in the Lower Rhine region, where I’m originally from. It’s hearty and wholesome and I like it.

This year’s Fine Food Days is about reinterpreting Cologne dishes. What’s your take on the classic “Himmel und Ääd”?
We’re doing boudin basque – a blood sausage, seasoned with Espelette, a hot chili pepper. It’ll come with Argentinian red prawns, served warm, and onion and apple sauce.

This year will also see the first Fine Food Days Sustainability Award. Could you win it?
Obviously, we try to be sustainable and use good products. But win the Sustainability Award? No, I couldn’t.

Recipe by Hendrik Olfen:
Argentinian red prawns à la Himmel un Ääd

Ingredients for 4 people

120g boudin basque
1 large apple
1 small onion
300g butter
1tbsp chopped marjoram
12 Argentinian red prawns, cleaned, peeled and deveined
1 thyme sprig
3 garlic cloves
1tbsp pre-fried onions


Dice the apple and onion. Lightly fry the onion in 50g of butter. Add the apple and remove from heat. Add marjoram.

Heat 250g of butter with the thyme and garlic to 50°C. Season the prawns with salt and heat them in the butter to a core temperature of 40°C (approx. 5 minutes).

Melt the boudin in a small pan, stirring all the time. Pour onto a plate, arrange the prawns and apple and onion sauce on top and garnish with the fried onions.

Fancy trying the recipe for Himmel un Ääd by Jaspreet Dhaliwal-Wilmes from Der Vierte König? Then take a look here.

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