The Michelin road is usually a long and winding one for most chefs. It usually takes years to navigate and often features more than a few twists and turns along the way. This was the path followed by Henrik Yde Andersen who is now considered to be one of the A-list culinary top chefs in the world. But of course it wasn’t always this way.
Henrik had a humble beginning in his culinary career and started his journey as a dishwasher at a restaurant when he was 14 years old. Surrounded daily by the intense atmosphere in the kitchen, this sparked Henrik’s interest to pursue a career in becoming a chef. It was not smooth sailing during the early stages of his career. He was fired just after two weeks and was told by the restaurant owner he would never have a future in the kitchen and the restaurant industry. The harsh comment did not stop the aspiring young chef to keep going. Inspired by his sister, a chef and his mother who is also an excellent cook, as a junior chef, Henrik focused and became well trained in traditional French cuisine. He worked and traveled all over Europe to master his craft and along with his passion for cooking, Henrik also pursued his love for wines and studied to become a certified sommelier.
During a holiday trip to Krabi in 2000, one of Thailand’s most famous beach destinations, Henrik had his first Thai meal ‘Kai Palo.’ A five-spice pork and egg stew from a roadside food stall. This dish left an unforgettable and remarkable taste in his mouth which led him to his desire to learn more about Thai cuisine. The acclaimed chef shared with me that during this experience, he was also shocked by Thailand’s culinary anarchism. “the dishes arrived in random order, heavy doses of sugar in the main courses, salt in the desserts, all was wrong from a French perspective.I started to cry because the food was so spicy, bottom line I loved the food, and first love never dies”. Henrik decided to switch gears after his Thai food experience and found himself traveling and living all across Thailand to learn more in-depth on what the cuisine is all about. He landed a job in a classic Thai restaurant and his two week holiday turned into five years of immersing himself not only in the cooking but also the Asian culture.
He flew home to Copenhagen and opened his first Thai restaurant in 2006, Aroii Thai offering favorite Thai dishes for take-out only before opening his flagship restaurant Kiin Kiin. Chef Henrik’s goal was to position Thai cuisine from street food level and presenting it to the fine dining world. Critics immediately recognized the chef’s passion and recognized his innovative, scientific and creative approach to Thai cuisine and was awarded his first Michelin star two years later. The now world-renowned chef incorporated the art of Western cooking into the original recipes while preserving the traditional Thai flavors and presenting them in beautifully composed dishes. During a promotional tour in Bangkok in 2009, he was approached by a world-class hotel brand, Siam Kempinski to open a restaurant in Bangkok that is something similar to the Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen. Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin was born in 2010 and is now considered one of the top restaurants in Bangkok. It just earned one Michelin star in the first Bangkok Michelin guide.
Sra Bua’s contemporary, sophisticated approach to Thai cooking and presentation has garnered a lot of attention not only in Thailand but globally. Each dish that Chef Henrik Andersen created for Sra Bua is not only presented uniquely but the entire menu also offers an explosion of flavors that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression to any guest. Located on the ground floor of the ultra-luxurious hotel, the décor is chic, elegant and inviting. The unique lotus pond right in the center of the restaurant sets the tone for this highly acclaimed restaurant that offers a 10-course set menu or a la carte options which only displays the chef’s ingenuity. Each dish is meant to wow any guest and the recipes are intended to introduce an entirely different approach to Thai street food.
Chef Henrik shared with me that the hardest part of earning a Michelin star is maintaining it. Keeping up with the standards, integrity, and values of a Michelin rated restaurant is not easy. Henrik says he never considered himself a master of Thai cuisine as there are always a lot of new things to learn. He acknowledges Thai cooking is complex and as simple as some of the dishes are like Tom Yum soup; the chef says they are also very easy to destroy if not executed properly. “My strength is that I am not Thai, I see the dish from a neutral standpoint, I don’t have a grandmother who cooked the dishes in a special way, so I am free to interpret. Kiin Kiin is not about authenticity; it is about thinking how to develop Thai cuisine in new ways. Forty years ago we had a wok and a pestle, today we have a lot more tools in the kitchen.”
Bangkok has become Henrik’s second home and he is heavily involved in promoting Thai food regionally and globally. Now Chef Henrik Andersen is known for his conceptualized interpretation of Thai cuisine and owns 11 restaurants altogether (10 in Copenhagen and 1 in Bangkok). Henrik’s empire begins to grow and believes that vegetarian and green restaurant concept is the future. As a trained sommelier, he has his hands full with other businesses which include a winery in Spain, beer brewery which he partners with Mikkeller that produces an Asian-based ingredients beer collection, coffee bean farm in Kenya and a home-made oyster and fish sauce brand. He is also a judge in the top TV programme Masterchef. For Henrik, a chef has a simple task of feeding people, and it’s about making them happy, he says he knows if he sticks to this philosophy, the possibilities are endless. I also suspect he has a few more stops to make on his long and successful Michelin journey.
Cristina Carpio is a television personality, brand and restaurant strategist as well as a passionate food and beverage expert. Travel and living life to the fullest is in her DNA. In addition to hosting Going Global, Cristina is a country ambassador for a global immersive dining platform and has a column for a noted North American food and beverage industry magazine. She has also been recognized for her work and involvement in charitable and community projects and has hosted several prestigious festivals, fashion and cultural events.