European Food Summit - Creating island magic - Nicolai Nørregaard

Creating island magic - Nicolai Nørregaard

Ljubljana, 12. 10. 2021

With all the boom Nordic gastronomy has seen in the past 15 years it's easy to forget the guys who were pioneers of the New Nordic cuisine are still just barely 40 years old. Which might also explain why the movement shows no signs of slowing down.

New Nordic is still just as relevant as it was 15 years ago – even though nowadays serving ants, lichen, seaweed and fermented roots isn’t considered exotic (or crazy Viking barbarian) anymore, but it has entered the mainstream of modern gastronomy.

Nordic cuisine is now a thing. Just as big as Nouvelle French used to be or Basque after it. What Rene Redzepi, Claus Meyer, Magnus Nilsson, Niklas Ekstedt and others were able to do so well was to showcase that you can become a culinary destination even with no real history of sophisticated gastronomy or even strong gastronomic history in general. 

The biggest contribution New Nordic movement has given to modern cuisine is that it showed all you have to do is open your eyes to what the surrounding environment, no matter how harsh, offers.

Back in 2004, Noma’s philosophy seemed so crazy avantgarde – or just crazy. Redzepi, the mad forager, one who would put on a plate just about anything he plucks, digs up or just finds rotten, forgotten in a root cellar. 15 years later Noma is still (or even more so) at the very top of its game and New Nordic has proven not to be the latest fad, but the very base for many young chefs that immerged from that school.      

One of those who have been part of the movement from the very beginning and helped popularize and solidify New Nordic is Nicolai Nørregaard. Born on the Danish island of Bornholm, 40-year old Nørregaard made perfect use of his beautiful, but harsh, exposed to forces of nature and almost barren Baltic island.

A self-taught chef who inherited the cooking bug from his grandfather Nørregaard first intended to study architecture, but ended up behind a kitchen counter. In building his restaurant, Kadeau (opened in 2007), he was, like many of his Scandinavian chef peers, guided almost entirely by his love for local, in his case Danish produce. Pure, untampered with, humble produce turned into masterpieces. That’s Kadeau, set inside a wind-and-sea swept wooden beach hut, overlooking the stormy Baltic sea, sandy dunes and marine shrubs stretching from restaurant’s faded deck.

Everything served here (and at its sister restaurant in Copenhagen) is a love poem to Bornholm. Every dish encapsulates the island terroir, be it cabbage from the garden, paired with mussels and whey, or oysters with sauerkraut. There’s smoked celeriac, beautifully laden with purple petals of red sorrel. North sea shrimps, served with pollen yeast and cream with lumpfish roe. Cockles with fermented wheat and urchins. There’s celeriac with caviar, red wood ants and woodruff and there’s king crab with yeasted barley and Havgus cheese.

Nørregaard’s cuisine is clean, elegant, art-form-like, precise, always focusing first on the produce. That’s why they also set up a farm on the premises where they grow all what’s needed in the kitchen, but can’t be sourced from the sea, forests or marshes. On top of that they collaborate closely with local suppliers.

The menu is very much season based – short, but generous summers offer a bounty of produce, longer, harsher winter months the team digs deep into jars of ferments and pickles and root cellars.  

“We plough, tend, harvest, pick, conserve, serve and love Bornholm”, says Nørregaard in explaining his island’s holistic culinary concept. The backbone of Kadeau’s cuisine is the island nature, but they also don’t shy away from innovations and are constantly trying to find new ways of highlighting the unexpected abundance of Bornholm’s produce.

And the menu seems to change not only with the seasons, but with changing climate, weather, the wind, the tide and the inspirations Nørregaard soaks from all around the world. 

Written by: Kaja Sajovic

Photo: Marie Louise Munke