Male-only teams suck’

She has travelled the world, he has wide-ranging talents, both are multiple-award-winning starred chefs: Julia Komp and Daniel Gottschlich. In the MPULSE interview, the top restaurateurs from Cologne talk about goals, ambition – and gender stereotypes.

Daniel Gottschlich

📍 Ox & Klee, Im Zollhafen 18, 50678 Köln
📍 Puls Restaurant & Bar, Bürgerstraße 2, 50667 Köln

Julia Komp and Daniel Gottschlich in a double interview

Julia Komp

📍 Sahila, Kämmergasse 18, 50676 Cologne
📍 Yu*lia Mezze Bar Kämmergasse 18, 50676 Cologne

MPULSE: You’re both at the top of your field – but Julia is de facto an exception: only 4% of starred chefs in Germany are women. Why is that?

Julia: I think there are a lot of very good female chefs cooking right behind the top names. I could name a number of examples where a male starred chef is running a restaurant and there’s a woman in his kitchen who could also start one of her own and no doubt immediately earn a star. And at least one of my female employees has got what it takes to win a star, no question. But she doesn’t want to open her own restaurant. I think there are a lot of women out there who feel that way.

Why?

Julia: Because with your own restaurant, you’re committed from morning to night – with almost no time left over for family. My workday goes from 10 a.m. to midnight. I do the purchasing, negotiate with suppliers, cook, might have to pick up the laundry, and on and on.

Daniel: But people still have that false idea in their minds. A lot of chefs dismiss the thought of having their own restaurant for exactly that reason: because they’re afraid they won’t be able to have a family if they focus on their career.

Julia: That’s understandable, because it does take a while until you’ve established yourself and reached that level as a chef. It normally takes till at least the age of 30 before you earn a star.

Daniel: That’s true. At Ox & Klee we’ve got a new employee that’s begun as a commis chef [editor’s note: position as a junior chef]. She’s got talent and realistically will need about ten years to make it to head chef – that is, until she has a chance of earning a star …

Julia: … and in those, let’s say, ten years, a lot of women might want to have a baby. We can’t just argue that away: it’s still women who get pregnant.

Daniel: Do you think having kids is the reason there are so few female starred chefs?

Julia: At least in part. And if you say, sorry honey, we can’t start a family till I’m 35, a lot of partners aren’t going to want to wait around. Not to mention that they may not have much understanding for the working hours in the restaurant business to begin with.

I don't have a fixed quota. We’re open to all comers. What does the person want to achieve? What do they contribute to the team? Those are the criteria – not their gender.

Daniel Gottschlich

That isn’t only an issue for starred chefs, though. It’s an issue for women – or even more broadly, people – in the industry generally.

Daniel: The proportion of women working for us is 30% right now: 19 men and 8 women. And thank God for them! Male-only teams suck. Even just the tone … it’s like in the men’s locker room, there’s a really strange dynamic that gets going. (laughs) But I don’t have a fixed quota or anything – it depends on the applications we get. We’re open to all comers. What does the person want to achieve? What do they contribute to the team? Those are the criteria – not their gender.

Julia: On the other hand, in restaurant work, there isn’t the problem of pay differences. Women and men earn the same. Full stop. That’s not an issue.

Daniel: Or, the idea that I wouldn’t hire a woman because she might get pregnant. That wouldn’t occur to me.

Julia: There are a lot of women in the restaurant industry overall – just not many female starred chefs. And it depends in part on the country. I’ve travelled a lot in Asia, and there are significantly more women in restaurant kitchens there. Sometimes the entire team. It’s that way in Morocco as well.

Could it be that women in some cases are just less ambitious?

Julia: I think younger women are actually more ambitious than men. At least, I see that in competitions and championships these days. Often, young women come out on top. Or, look at the national team: 70% women!

Daniel: The question is also, how do you define ambition? I don’t think there’s a blanket answer to that.

What do you think – which of the two of you is the most ambitious?

Daniel: Hmm, I think we’re ambitious in different ways. We both know, in any case, that you have to keep changing and developing. We don’t stop.

Julia: To be successful in our field, you’ve got to have goals. And you have to keep reinventing yourself.

Indeed, you’ve both reinvented yourselves a number of times. You each run two restaurants, Daniel sells kitchen utensils and furniture, Julia has her own food brand and has written a book. Do restaurateurs have to be active in so many different areas to survive these days?

Julia: Well, writing one book was enough for me! (laughs) I started my food brand because of my close connection with Tunisia. I always thought it was too bad that high-quality Tunisian olive oil rarely made it into German kitchens. During the Covid pandemic, it was good to have that as compensation when things were shut down. With the Yu*lia Mezze Bar as a complement to the Sahila restaurant, on the one hand it’s about sustainability, on the other, economy. In the restaurant, we cut blossoms out of carrots. And what do we do with the rest of the carrot? We use it in the Mezze Bar. Or, at the restaurant we serve venison tenderloin, and in the Mezze Bar we make diced kebab.

Daniel: I just think a lot of brand cooperations are fun. And they also increase our name recognition, which leads to synergies.

Julia: I always really notice that effect with local radio, for example. If we get coverage on, say, WDR 5, that gives our business a bump for a couple of months. Plus, we get more applications, so it also helps our recruiting.

Apart from the fact that it’s a great creative outlet, the kitchen is like home – in a very positive sense. You can work anywhere in the world. In the kitchen, it’s the same everywhere. Everyone knows what to do. 

Julia Komp

Apropos recruiting – it’s common knowledge that there are staff shortages everywhere. Let’s do a little promotion: what do you love about your job?

Julia: Apart from the fact that it’s a great creative outlet, the kitchen is like home – in a very positive sense. You can work anywhere in the world. In the kitchen, it’s the same everywhere. Everyone knows what to do. You work hard, and afterwards you sit down with your team for a beer. With my own restaurant and my Michelin star, I’ve realised my dream.

And what does that take?

Daniel: You need mental strength, physical strength and, not least, financial strength. Inner stability – in a holistic way. Then you’ll achieve your goals.

Speaking of goals … Julia, you already said you aren’t looking to write another book anytime soon. What would you like to do instead?

Julia: I’m definitely going after a second  star. And maybe later a signature restaurant in another country. Saudi Arabia, for example – partly to support the women there.

Daniel: I want to keep on developing my interests and skills – for me, that journey never ends. Self-realisation and ongoing development as a person.

Julia: And one thing that’s close to my heart is inspiring others. Hopefully at least a little bit.

Daniel Gottschlich

About ...  Daniel Gottschlich

A trained energy system electronics technician, musician and furniture designer, R Express customer Daniel Gottschlich, born in 1982, has a lot of irons in the fire. One of them glows especially bright: the double Michelin-star-winning Ox & Klee, which he opened in 2010 based on the ‘taste experience’ concept. Daniel additionally operates a second restaurant in Cologne’s historic city centre. As the first chef to receive an artist’s grant from the Villa Massimo, he also explores the question of whether cooking is art.


Julia Komp

About ...  Julia Komp

METRO customer Julia Komp, born in 1989, was awarded a Michelin star at 27, making her the then-youngest German  recipient of this honour. After a 14-month world trip on which she found culinary inspiration and cooked in the most remote kitchens, she wrote a book, Meine Weltreise in Rezepten (My world journey in recipes). She also sells olive oil, coffee and spices through her own online shop. She operates two restaurants in Cologne. In 2023, she earned another star – for her first restaurant, Sahila, just a year after it opened. In 2024, Falstaff named her ‘Chef of the Year’.

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