Sarah Henke (b. 1982) is the chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant YOSO Aromenküche in Andernach, Germany. She’s one of Germany’s most famous female chefs, and her husband is the top chef Christian Eckhardt, who heads the kitchen at QL Hotel PURS just around the corner.
KOREA is a very personal 320-page book about the life of the celebrated German chef Sarah Henke. She sets her remarkable history against the background of her grand tour through Korea, the country where she was born, but didn’t grow up. The book is also packed with no fewer than 60 recipes, which don’t need the skills of a Michelin-starred chef to prepare. KOREA is not only Henke’s declaration of love for Korean culture and cooking, but also for the Koreans themselves.
‘My original name is Young Sun Kim, which means glorious and good natured,’ says Sarah Henke, the passionate chef at YOSO, who has lived in Germany since 1984. ‘I was left for adoption at a police station in Seoul. I’ve got wonderful adoptive parents – to me they’re actually my real parents, there should be no doubt about that. I had a happy childhood, was given every opportunity, had a good education. And now I’ve got a fantastic job and a wonderful husband, who’s also a chef. He’s in charge at the nearby restaurant PURS.’ On the table in front of her is her most recent book, KOREA, with the subtitle ‘My culinary journey to the land of many wonders. With 60 authentic recipes’.
We’re travelling along the Rhine to drop in on a number of QL Hotels, and as a great admirer of Sarah Henke, we’re thrilled to have the opportunity for a chat with one of the most inspiring chefs in Germany. She is passionate, entertaining and charming, and ranks among the culinary top.
Sarah: ‘I’ve been able to realise my dream: I run YOSO, one of the best Asian restaurants. I work with a small, dedicated team. Yoso is the Korean word for the elements: fire, earth, air and water. Fire stands for hot and peppery, earth for meat, air for all things vegetarian, and water for anything that comes out of the water. So the name YOSO actually encompasses everything we serve at our extraordinary restaurant.’
Sarah proudly shows us her latest book, which includes 60 Korean recipes, from street food to Michelin star dishes. The recipes are well explained with attractive photos, but actually they weren’t Sarah’s main reason for publishing the book. ‘I wanted to visit the country where I was born. I wanted to see, smell, feel where I come from. I’m often asked why I’ve never been there before. I must say, it’s never been much of an issue for me, it wasn’t really important. I lived and still live in the present, with my parents, my friends, my husband Christian. I also found the idea of going to Korea a bit frightening – being confronted by influences that could change my life. The trip did make a big impression on me, but I’m still happy with my life and family here in Germany.’
When she was in Korea, Sarah realised that she really had found the right name for her restaurant. In every aspect of the trip, she experienced the elements of fire, earth, air and water every day. Her journey and her life are a symbiosis of the four. The trip has left her feeling happy and content with her life. ‘Your destiny is in your own hands. You’ve got to do things for yourself. And my parents gave me a safe leg up. You get back what you put in. And if you give out positivity, you’ll be surrounded by positivity.’
YOSO AROMENKÜCHE SARAH HENKE
YOSO is a small and intimate restaurant in an atmospheric little street in the town of Andernach on the Rhine. The interior is in a warm and contemporary Asian style. Reservation is recommended. According to Michelin, the lunch menu is ‘great value for money’ – but I’d say the dinner menu is too.