New Nordic cuisine is so hot right now.

You may know that best restaurant in the world according to San Pellegrino’s World 50 Best Restaurants is Noma, in Copenhagen. The chef of Noma, Rene Redzepi, has been instrumental in building a movement to reinvent Nordic cuisine using local, oft-forgotten ingredients. In 2004 some of the greatest chefs in the Nordic region, including Redzepi and his co-founder Claus Meyer, created the Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen. The New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto dictates, amongst other things:

  • To base our cooking on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly excellent in our climates, landscapes and waters.
  • To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.
  • To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.

Thorsten Schmidt is part of the vanguard of these New Nordic cuisine chefs and he’s in Melbourne at the moment for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. His restaurant in Aarhus, Malling & Schmidt (named after his wife and himself) follows the same principles of only using local, seasonal ingredients.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a reception for Thorsten hosted by Denmark House, which has been bringing Nordic chefs to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for the last 3 years. Over delicious and beautifully presented Nordic-inspired canapes by Denmark House’s DANSK restaurant, Thorsten said a few words about his food philosophy.

When he first wanted to start a fine dining restaurant he found it really difficult to construct a menu which did not include traditional fine-dining ingredients (and inevitably of French origin) – red wine, black olives, foie gras, truffles. But Thorsten said that with the restrictions of the manifesto blossomed a great creativity. Now his staff literally go out to forage for ingredients, he uses 184 local herbs (and is always searching and experimenting) and he uses all life cycles of a plant for different textures and flavours, from the leaves to the root to the fruit to the stalk.

Further, he feels that using Nordic ingredients is an important part of maintaining the region’s cultural heritage. He describes his food as providing a ‘frame for stories’ –  the flavours and aromas of his food has the ability to transport diners back to childhood memories and enable friends and family to share past experiences.

Thorsten will be appearing as part of the Langham Melbourne Masterclass this Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, his segment is already sold out :–(

If you want to sample some New Nordic cuisine without getting on a plane, the chef of DANSK restaurant, Bente Grysbæk, subscribes to the principles of the manifesto in developing the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. I’m keen to try their Saturday traditional smorgasbord which is held on the first Saturday of every month and costs $48. I’ve also been told that the breakfast porridge is so good it’ll make you cry!

  • Thorsten Schmidt event, Denmark House, Level 3, 428 Little Bourke St, Melbourne +61 3 9600 4477