Born in Overath, Germany, Julia Komp fell in love with the culinary industry by way of her many trips with her grandparents, staying in hotels bedecked with high-end kitchens. At the age of 14, Komp signed up for her first internship at local one-starred Zur Tant and found her groove.
From there, Komp continued training at La Société and (the now-defunct) La Poêle d’Or before coming to the 15th century Schloss Loersfeld in Kerpen, just west of Cologne. After her predecessor’s departure at the end of 2015, she was appointed to head chef—the restaurant retained its star six months later.
Here, we catch up with the chef about her journey and her key to success.
Where did you get your passion for cooking?
I used to cook in our kitchen with my great-grandmother, she had a lot of small pots and tools to play with. We always baked cakes together. My grandmother continued this tradition, and my brother and I enjoyed a lot of special meals. We tried to eat spaghetti with chopsticks and we grilled small steaks on a table grill. I was always allowed to help her in the kitchen even though I was too small to see the kitchen counter. I used to sit on the countertop and try my best to mix the salad dressing.
When I was 10 years old, I started to value my hotel stays more and wanted to explore the “behind the scenes.” Getting exposed to the different facets of the hospitality industry, I discovered the magic place—the kitchen—where wonderful things are made to delight guests in so many different ways. So, I decided to invade the kitchen, where happiness is made. The best part of my job is bringing smiles to my guests' faces.
Who is your role model? Is there anyone in the industry in particular who has influenced you?
My idols have changed over time. I started waking up early every Saturday morning to watch Jamie Oliver for hours, as well as some German mainstream cooking shows. Today my focus lies on the unexpected harmony between taste and visual detail. André Chiang really impressed me with his fermentation—such flavors were totally unknown to me.
What spices do you use in your kitchen? What does it remind you of?
Asian spices such as baharat, ras el hanout or chile flakes. Our neighbors in Tunisia have an artisanal factory of spices—the mother dries the chilies on the roof, turning them toward the sun. When I open the tin of chile flakes in the restaurant, it reminds me of traveling to my second home on holiday, and the effort this woman invests in her spices. It makes me really happy to use such products. It's like a little aromatic getaway.
What food brings you great nostalgia and childhood memories?
The smell of grilled meat or prawns. When we went on vacation in Belgium, my highlight was steak with Béarnaise sauce—the wonderful charcoal smell and the whipped sauce with delicious fries still seduce me. My other favorite dinner is fondue, which my family typically eats for New Year’s Eve. I loved preparing all the sauces and salads. The dinner brings people together and everybody is a chef!
What is the key to your success?
Ambition and purpose! From the first day of my education I had a goal; the journey was faster than expected. But without a goal there is no incentive to move forward. And I am enjoying it to the fullest.
What do you want your guests to know about your restaurant and kitchen?
I try to explain to my guests that there is a story or journey for every dish. I put a lot of focus on the main ingredient—it has to be very special. I usually go and see where the ingredients and animals come from and how they are treated. I want the whole journey from sourcing to consumption to be perfect.
Hero image by Melanie Bauer.