Julia Komp vom Sahila nimmt bei den Fine Food Days teil
Julia Komp is one of a number of hosts at Fine Food Days Cologne Photo: Jennifer Rumbach

Fine Food Days Cologne: Julia Komp on cuisine around the globe

Julia Komp earned her first Michelin star at the tender age of 27. Today, she has two very special restaurants of her own in Cologne: Sahila and Yu*lia. Julia is among the chefs featured at Fine Food Days Cologne.

Julia, can we start by asking what made you choose to become a chef?

When I was 14, I did a work experience placement in a hotel and spent time in several parts of the hotel. The kitchen was my favourite. The chef there saw I enjoyed cooking and supported me. I realised pretty quickly I wanted to become a chef too.

What does it take to be a good chef?

Passion, determination, ambition. With all the men in the business, female chefs have to be tough to be successful. Stamina’s important too. I knew from day one that I wanted to be a starred chef. You need endurance to achieve that.

Julia Komp und ihr Team
Julia Komp (front right) and her team Photo: Melanie Bauer Photodesign

You trained at gourmet restaurant “Zur Tant” and earned your first Michelin star at “Schloss Loersfeld”. What was the most important thing you learned in the world of haute cuisine?

Realising and knowing you have to be ready to deliver excellence every single day. To cook at least as well – if not better – than the day before. I also learned to appreciate high-quality products. A product must be perfect if you want the dish to be perfect. Of course, mishaps can happen when you’re cooking but any attempts to rescue things tend to go wrong. If you have an accident, you can’t use that product for that dish. You just have to turn it into something else and start again.

You were 27 when you were awarded your first Michelin star, making you Germany’s youngest starred chef. How important are stars to you?

That’s a difficult one. For us restaurateurs, a star is the highest accolade you can receive and a wonderful sign of recognition for the whole team. But it’s equally important that our guests like what we do. After all, we want them to keep coming back. Even though getting a star is fantastic – we don’t just cook for restaurant inspectors, we cook for our guests. They’re the ones who pay our wages at the end of the day.

You run two restaurants, which are next to each other and opened at almost the same time (Sahila in 2021 and Yu*lia at the beginning of 2022). How did you come up with the ideas for the concepts behind them?

Two restaurants is a lot of work but it just seemed a good idea at that location. We have two target groups. Sahila is geared to lovers of international gourmet cuisine. The food at Yu*lia is slightly more down-to-earth and mostly Middle Eastern.

The name “Sahila” is Indian and means “leader of the stars”. It was my first own restaurant. My international team and I take guests on a culinary journey around the globe. Sahila serves haute cuisine that combines the modern with the traditional. Yu*lia is a mezze bar with small sharing and sampling plates and Mediterranean and eastern classics. The name comes from my name, Julia, and my partner’s name, Yunus Özananar.

Our idea with Yu*lia was to create a welcoming place where people can enjoy each other’s company. It’s based on my childhood memories of my grandmother’s holiday home in Tunisia. There were dates fresh from the tree, mandarins and figs – the best I’ve ever had, by the way! Eating together had a very different significance than it does here. At certain times of the day, the streets were empty because everyone was sitting together, eating.

What inspires you?

A weekend in Holland is enough to give me inspiration. They have an incredible number of Indonesian fast food restaurants. I recently had gado gado there – an Indonesian vegetable salad with peanut sauce – which took me back to my trip to explore the food of Indonesia. I’ll be creating my own ideas from that.

My culinary journey around the globe is still a main source of inspiration. I travelled to 30 countries in 14 months, working in kitchens wherever I was and keeping a journal. I find Asia and the Middle East are particularly inspiring, with all their herbs and spices. There are quite a few countries on my list that I still haven’t finished gathering culinary ideas from.

You’re taking part in Fine Food Days. Your theme is 1001 nights. As someone who’s seen a lot of the world, what do you think of Cologne cuisine?  

I like going to brewery pubs but only to drink beer really. The food isn’t my thing, the portions are simply too big for me. If I fancy some hearty, traditional fare, I visit my family or cook it at home myself.

The theme for this year’s Fine Food Days is the Cologne classic “Himmel un Ääd”. How are you going to be interpreting it?

Himmel un Ääd isn’t an easy fit with our menu concept. But I’m going to be serving it as a small snack, combining apple, potatoes and young herring.

Recipe by Julia Komp: chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives

Tajine mit Hühnchen nach einem Rezept von Julia Komp.
Chicken tagine based on a recipe by Julia Komp. Photo: Melanie Bauer

Ingredients for two

2 corn-fed poulard legs
2 large onions
1 solo garlic
1/2 bunch parsley
A few sprigs of fresh coriander
4tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp sweet paprika
5 saffron threads
Salt and pepper
250ml chicken stock
1tsp turmeric
1tsp ras el hanout
2 floury potatoes
1 Moroccan preserved lemon
100g green olives


Soak the tagine pot for ten minutes. Rinse the poulard pieces in cold water and dab dry. Finely chop the onion, garlic, coriander and pepper.

Lightly fry the onions and garlic in olive oil on a medium heat in the base of the tagine. Add the cumin, paprika and saffron, season with salt and pepper, pour in the stock to deglaze and mix in the chopped herbs.

Season the poulard pieces with the turmeric, ras el hanout, salt and pepper and place them in the tagine. Coat them all over with the sauce and braise on a medium heat with the cover on for 40 to 60 minutes until the meat falls from the bone. Every now and again, check the level of liquid and stir.

20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, peel the potatoes and cut the preserved lemon into pieces. Add them to the poulard along with the olives and let everything finish cooking together.

This recipe is from Julia Komp’s book Meine Weltreise in Rezepten (My journey around the globe in recipes), published by Gräfe und Unzer.

Hendrik Olfen from Henne.Weinbar and Jaspreet Dhaliwal-Wilmes from Der Vierte König are also taking part in Fine Food Days Cologne and shared their tricks, favourite foods and recipes with us.

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