No olive oil, garlic, lemon, even chocolate: a new generation of Scandinavian chefs has broken the ice up North with a cuisine built around local, seasonal produce, which was long dismissed as dull or austere. One of the drivers of the Nordic food revolution, the Danish restaurant Noma was this year named the world’s best table by Britain’s Restaurant Magazine, winning plaudits for radically local dishes such as radishes in edible soil.
Noma’s young chef Rene Redzepi, who trained both at El Bulli and at the celebrated Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry, has banished the classic toolkit of gastronomy: foie gras and truffles imported from France and Italy. Instead he made way for a new palette of flavours: musk ox, dried scallops, roots and elderberries.
Many of the Nordic chefs grow their own vegetables, and gather wild produce in the forest, on the beach or in the fields. To keep eating local through the harsh winters, they dry, salt, smoke and pickle their food — just like their forebears. For sauces, the new Nordic chefs even steer clear of wine, in favour of beer or fruit vinegars.
Inside the restaurants themselves, the number of settings is kept deliberately low, with the dishes often carried out to the table by the chefs themselves.
The choice of working with the humblest produce — like carrots or cabbage — often comes as a surprise to gourmet clients.