March 4, 2017

Headlines this week:

1O8 Gains Steady Footing

New Faces at 1O8

This week felt good. It felt like we finally started to click as a section. It’s hard to say what it is, or why, or how, but services are going more smoothly, despite constant setbacks during the day. For me, at least, I think we’re simply getting better and more confident. We’re remembering that we can have good services—that things can go smoothly if we stay focused and push. We’re communicating better during service and having better nights. It’s felt really nice. Hopefully we can continue in this vein.

Spring produce is beginning to appear in the kitchen and on the menu, and the weather outside is starting to resemble something actually pleasant, as opposed to the insipid sky and dull gray world we’ve been living in for so long. It’s nice to see a bit of life around us. It’s evident in the people walking down the street, the faces of the staff, and the ingredients with which we’re cooking. Ramsons are coming in a couple times a week, foraged, and still with a few wayward snails attached. It’s an ingredient I’ve never encountered before, but have quickly fallen in love with. They’re very similar to ramps, back home, but we only use the leafy tops, which have a distinct, spicy, green garlic flavor. We grill them and make oil infusions with them. Both applications are lovely.

We’ve picked up a few new chefs over the past couple weeks. One from Italy (or should I say ANOTHER one from Italy. The kitchen is nearly half Italians. Someone joked a few weeks ago that we’ll be putting pasta on the menu before long.), one from Poland, and one from Korea, who spent 13 years in America. It’s nice to have new faces and extra hands in the kitchen, but we still need to get everyone up to speed and adjusted to the 1O8 way of life. There’s also a girl in this week from Chicago. I met her briefly yesterday, and think she’ll be working in the bakery. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see an American face from time to time.

I’ve been trying to think of how to describe to people how little the chefs sleep here. Imagine this: it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and you decide to take a nap. You turn on some golf, or whatever else you like for white noise, draw the blinds, and lie back on the couch. Now, how long did you just imagine you slept? Two hours? Three? Maybe things really got away from you and you slept for four or five. There’s your answer. Yes, really.

A few days ago, just before service. I went out to The Corner (the coffee shop attached to 1O8) to fill up my water bottle, and ran into a girl I had worked with last summer when I spent a few days at the two Michelin starred Restaurant AOC. She had been the only one to be nice to me at AOC, and had been the only one to speak English to me during my time there. We exchanged a bit of polite chit chat, and while it was nothing substantial, it was incredibly nice to see a familiar face here in Copenhagen. It felt like running into an old friend. For a few brief moments, it made me feel a little less alone here.

Another highlight: one of my dear friends, Emily, a chef in NYC, told me she recommended me to be a part of a team of chefs that would travel to Korea and cook at the Olympics next year. I don’t know many more details, but the notion itself is exciting enough.

Yesterday, I went to Sweden (it’s just 45 minutes or so by train) with one of the chefs from the cold side, and had a lovely dinner at a one-star restaurant called Bloom in the Park. The building and space was beautiful, the service was amazing, the wines were exceptionally paired, and the food was very nice. Before dinner, she told me, “You will not be picky. You will not ruin my dinner.” What she meant, is that, as a chef, you carry this curse of not being able to enjoy a meal. You’re constantly in chef mode, picking apart every little detail of the experience, from how the wines are poured, to the sound the waiter’s shoes make, to the dimming of the lights, not to mention the food. But we agreed we would turn off the chef mode for dinner, in an attempt to enjoy ourselves a bit more.

The thing that initially attracted me to Bloom, was the fact that they don’t tell you anything about what you’re going to eat. There’s no menu published, the waiters don’t describe the dishes, and you have to go online and put in a code after you leave in order to view the menu. This, in effect, creates this sense of mystery, wonder, and discovery about what you’re eating. Halfway through the meal, one of the servers asked, “any ideas about what you’ve been having?” We blazed through the textures, flavors, and preparations of the six dishes we’d eaten so far, much to the server’s obvious surprise. “So, you’re chefs,” he then stated, and we shared a laugh. 

The menu is as follows.

Amuse Bouche: Shrimp crisp; egg and malt, herbs with blueshell cream; potato and caviar; Caesar salad

Course One: Kohlrabi with scallop, lemon, capers, and enoki

Coal bread

Course two: Kale, cucumber, samphire, onion, lumpfish roe, and crème fraiche

Bull testicle slider

Course three: Alpaca, salsify, apple, chicory, black walnut

Course four: mango, mozzarella, balsamic, basil

Ginger and green tea

Course five: banana cake, lemon sorbet, pomelo, chocolate, silver flake

Petit fours: chocolate leaf, sea buckthorn, passion fruit

I’d forgot that, when you live somewhere, when you work with the same family of people, every day, for 16 hours a day, you become very close, and you leave imprints on one another. There are people here I’ve come to care for quite a bit. This week, several people told me they’d miss me when I leave. They told me they wished I could stay. I’m really not looking forward to leaving these people or this place. Just like when I lived in Australia, it was really hard to say goodbye. But I still talk to my friends from Australia. I’m sure there are relationships I’m building here that won’t go quietly, either. 

There’s a sentiment I’ve had for years. It’s actually a way I’ve thought about people since I was a child. I see people and wonder what they’ll be like in ten or twenty years. Working in Copenhagen, and having had the chance to cook in some pretty great restaurants around the world, I constantly wonder, have I already met the next great, influential chef? The next Rene Redzepi? Thomas Keller? Gordon Ramsay?

What I mean to say is, in ten years, will I tell people, “Oh yeah, I worked with ____________ before they had a star, or two, or three, or were number one on the best 50 list.” I wonder if I’ve met those people, and neither of us know it yet. I wonder if I’ll tell people, “Oh, Kristian? I knew worked for him when he only had one star.”

Speaking of, the best 50 list comes out tomorrow. It’s always interesting and exciting to see what new food and cultures make a splash on the world’s culinary landscape. 

As for progress, we’ve been thinking about it, talking about it, and planning for months. But we’re pleased to announce that our first pop-up, once I return, in June, will be at Urban Roots Farm on June 23 and 24 (barring any wild and unexpected hang ups, like me marrying a Danish girl and staying here forever). Our pop-up at Urban Roots last summer was one of our favorites we’ve done and we’re incredibly excited to be going back, and working with such amazing people, again. More details to come, of course.

Again, thank you for keeping up, the love, and the support.

DE