This Danish chef with three Michelin stars was going to be an architect. However, his grandfather, a postman from Svaneke, gave him the passion for food and fresh produce.
Passion, finesse and complexity are the ingredients with which Danish chef Nicolai Norregard works on a daily basis. He this year received his second Michelin Star, for his restaurant Kadeau, in Copenhagen, the second he has run after starting his career on the island of Bornholm, where he has another Star. The latter, by the way, only opens in summer, when the weather calls a truce with Scandinavia. He bought it ten years ago with his childhood friend Rasmus Kofoed after both were struck by a radio ad announcing the sale of the site. They had both always been ambitious but had never imagined the adventure they were about to embark upon that Christmas day of 2007.
As is the case with many other chefs, Norregaard’s journey begins in childhood. His dream as a child was to be an architect or designer, but he started helping his grandfather – a postman from the small town of Svaneke (1,704 inhabitants) – in the kitchen from a very early age. He discovered the passion for cooking, a love that still endures. Although this 39-year-old chef does not have a theoretical education in catering, his name is already a must on the itineraries of the most sophisticated diners visiting the Nordic countries.
“It is important that the cuisine connects with each person’s childhood. I learned from my grandfather to cook, to fish, to recognise flavours. With him I discovered which fish was fresh, which vegetables. He had a significant impact on me. My uncle had the best smokehouse on the island. No one smoked fish better than he did. It’s impossible not to be influenced by that. Basically, every day, every time I cook, I draw on all the education they gave me as a child,” explains Norregaard, in his calm voice, on the other end of the phone line.
Danish cuisine keeps abreast with cutting-edge techniques, but that does not prevent them from remaining true to their traditions. Norregaard therefore does not hesitate for a second when we ask him about them: “I think that tradition is very important, although I have never taken a course in cooking or techniques. I come from the ‘old school’, from the old cuisine. This is something crucial for me, the path I follow, my reference point.”
Throughout his career as a chef he has always used local produce, produce from that green universe that the island of Bornholm provides him with. “Obviously now it’s in vogue. But I think that cooking with local produce, sustainably, is the future, the way,” he says.
Norregaard’s journey does not end here. “We are now working on many projects in our restaurants, rejuvenating the cuisine of the island, while always remaining faithful to fresh food. And working with local producers, of course,” concludes this quiet guy who is revolutionising Danish cuisine with the DNA of his native island.