For a long time in Ghana it’s been quite unusual for men to work in the kitchen. Anthony Sarpong at eight years of age and still living in his homeland was well aware it. That’s why he secretively peered over the shoulders of his grandmother and mother when they were in the kitchen. And what was cooking in the pots in front of him was nothing short of pure magic. His grandmother often cooked for 12 or 13 children, all sitting at a long table waiting excitedly for her delicious meals. And even if the meal was devoured in just ten minutes, the cook always appeared to be satisfied. After all, the entire family had got together for it. Today, 36-year old Anthony Sarpong tries to do the same as his grandmother. He wants to bring people together with his food.
Anthony’s Kitchen is located in North Rhine-Westphalia in the town of Meerbusch. It is a restaurant and cooking school in one. Sarpong was awarded his first Michelin star for it in 2018. Arriving in Germany as a young boy, he had wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother and become a footballer. He moved with his family to Wiesbaden in the nineties. This was a culture shock at first, also when it came to the food. “Luckily, you could always find a little piece of home wherever you went. There were enough Afro shops in Germany so that was my mother was able to keep cooking Ghanaian food,” explained Sarpong smiling.
His football career didn’t get off the ground due to an injury and after school he finally followed his passion for cooking. He started his chef training at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Wiesbaden and then gained professional experience in Switzerland, Israel, France and Austria and various businesses in Germany. He finally moved to Meerbusch because of his wife and three children, and it was there that his wish to run his own restaurant finally overwhelmed him. He opened Anthony’s Kitchen in a former pub, which had already been empty for two years. It was clear to him from the beginning: The restaurant had to include a cooking school. “I’ve always enjoyed working very closely together with people and passing on my knowledge. A little bit like a magician passing on his tricks. I also wanted to give guests the feeling that they could also cook award-winning cuisine at home,” said Sarpong.
He regularly offers cooking courses for hobby cooks there, and talks about sustainability and quality criteria when selecting ingredients. There is also a master class for international aspiring chefs who want to expand their skills.
Award-winning cuisine for everyone
“Basically every guest in our restaurant trusts us with their life,” said Sarpong, referring to how seriously he takes the design of his menu. 60 percent of everything he cooks is vegetarian or vegan. The remainder of the menu takes up on themes of fish, poultry or something else and is reworked every three weeks to suit the season. Sarpong is happy to individually cater to his guests and adapts his menu to suit their needs. “When guests take a seat at a table, I take my time to observe them and try to imagine how they live, and what they expect. I look at their hands, their overall appearance and decide what I and my team will offer them this evening,” he described in his cook book ‘Anthony’s Kitchen – Sterneküche für alle’ (star cooking for everyone)”.
That’s easy to believe from the rangy and wiry chef with his inviting smile and open gestures. His conversational tone is that of a friend without the typical Prussian reserve or any evidence of shyness at all. His manner goes hand in hand with a leadership style without hierarchies. He arrived at CHEFDAYS in Berlin with the entire team in tow – from sous chef to dishwasher and celebrated with them to the pulsing rhythms of Culcha Candela into the wee hours. His team couldn’t be more international: his crew hail from the Balearic Islands, from Austria, France, Ghana and Chile and it is precisely these influences that you can taste in the food from Anthony’s Kitchen. Inspiration knowns no country borders there, which is a part of his “new dining philosophy”. Hokkai pumpkin with vadouvan, peanuts and flowers on Peruvian ceviche with turbot, corn and litchis all follow one another on a seven-course menu. After an Australian fillet of beef with sweet potato, black trumpet mushrooms and chestnut, a Scottish lobster is served with Beluga caviar, pomegranate, cocoa and mocha. The entire kitchen team is permitted and encouraged to introduce specialties from their respective countries of origin, the languages spoken are English, French, Spanish and German.
A really hot year
The practice of multiculturalism seems to have paid off: Anthony’s Kitchen was awarded a Michelin star in 2018. “I consider it to be a reward for fair and good cooking. The entire team contributed to the star,” commented Sarpong on the award. Perhaps the star has motivated the passionate chef but only when it comes to future projects: Sarpong would like to expand his cooking school into an academy in 2019. “The gastronomy sector currently has a bad reputation, nobody wants to be a chef any more. But there is so much magic behind it. I would like to give young people just this feeling. I would also like to motivate young parents to cook fresh food for their children with my cook book. Their children’s children will also feel the effects of this and it is a step in the direction of sustainability.
2019 will also be a great year for Anthony Sarpong for a different reason. The German-African cook was scouted by Netflix during CHEFDAYS Berlin and promptly contracted for the successful series Chef’s Table. The first preliminary discussions were already scheduled for Los Angeles in February. Luckily, his football career never really got off the ground.