The Korea Herald


Korean-Danish chef returns to Seoul, ‘back to where it all started’

By Im Eun-byel

Published : Feb. 9, 2018 - 17:10

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On the profile section of Chef Anders Groenholm’s social media account, a simple yet loaded phrase is written -- “Back to where it all started.”

For him, Seoul is the beginning. Groenholm, a Danish national, has decided to return to the beginning, joining Millennium Seoul Hilton as its executive chef.

The chef has traveled the world, working for various hotels. But for now, he is settled in Korea, working with the upscale hotel at Namsan, in the center of Seoul. 

Chef Anders Groenholm (Millennium Seoul Hilton) Chef Anders Groenholm (Millennium Seoul Hilton)

Groenholm has a clear reason for wanting to stay in Korea: He was born here. But when he was four years old, he was found at a bus stop and soon adopted by a family in Denmark.

“My new family gave me a second chance in life. They have loved me my whole life,“ Groenholm said. “But at some point in my life, I starting thinking, ‘One day, Korea. I will come back.’”

Though the cook is relatively new to the country of his birth, he feels at home in Korea. He recalls the odd feeling he felt at the nation’s gateway. After arriving at the Incheon International Airport, the he was swept up by emotions, sensing that he belonged in the picture.

“I grew up considering myself a Dane. It was only when I looked in the mirror, I looked different,” he said. “In the hallway of the airport, I looked around and thought, ‘I fit in here.’ No one was looking at me. I looked like others.”

The chef plans to explore his birth country, especially through food. While he specializes in French cuisine and western dishes, he would like to know more about local food.

“Most of people outside Korea think that Korean food is just barbeque and kimchi,” Groenholm said. “But there is a lot more to Korean food.”

The Danish national also aims to learn Korean. “When I arrived in Denmark as a child, I spoke fluent Korean. It’s somewhere inside me,” he said. He expects that he can learn Korean with his precious little son, from his wife who is Korean.

Not forgetting his Scandinavian background, the chef would like to introduce Nordic dishes to Seoul as well. He hopes to present the menus through special sessions at the hotel.

Groenholm is aware of the possible criticism associated with hiring foreign nationals as executive chefs. The local hotel culinary scene has been criticized for hiring foreigners who cannot properly communicate with the kitchen staff.

“If I just tell them, ‘I am going to teach you how to cook,’ it would never work out,” he said. “In the long term, chefs are changing the mindset. Communication, motivation, teamwork are the keywords.”

The chef hopes that he can find his Korean roots. Groenholm spoke of his desire to find his birth parents, quoting the phrase “The blood is thicker than the water.”

By Im Eun-byel (