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How Denmark created a world-class food scene in a country the size of Ireland

Food trailblazer Kevin Powell explains what Ireland’s restaurants could learn from the Danes.

KEVIN POWELL’S PACKING LIST for Copenhagen contains something a little unexpected – ingredients that he’s foraged from Dublin city and fermented over the last two years.

The self-taught food trailblazer (the mind behind Gruel Guerilla and some of Ireland’s most exciting restaurants including Dublin 8 spot Meet Me In The Morning), is one of four Irish personalities taking part in ‘The Danish Experiment’.

NO FEE CARSLBERG THE DANISH WAY JB3 Source: Julien Behal Photography

The web series created by Carlsberg will see Powell, street artist Maser, stylist Jo Linehan and Kodaline bassist Jay Boland discover what they can learn from Copenhagen to take to their creative careers back home. It will follow the group as they explore the Danish way of living, learning what makes them so different to their European counterparts.

They’ll travel to Copenhagen for four days and be paired with a local creative, exploring how the Danes could influence their approach to interior design, art, music and food.

And this is where the fermented ingredients foraged from Dublin city come in.

Copenhagen alone has claim to 19 Michelin stars, awarded to 15 restaurants. It’s a city in which restaurants like Noma are creating seasonal, ‘super-focused’ menus that only include say fish, or vegetables. And Powell is loving it.

Here he explains how the Danes have quickly become a culinary powerhouse.

1. They’re embracing street food

shutterstock_516896983 Source: Shutterstock/Josep Suria

With the openings of food markets across the city, street food in Dublin is echoing the huge street food scene in Copenhagen, and Powell is really excited about its potential: “I think we could have amazing street food in our future – there are so many people doing such interesting things so once they get out and about to do it, it’s going to be great.”

But what does Powell recommend ordering at Copenhagen’s street food markets? “They love their waffles – they’re not too sweet but just really rich and tasty and enjoyable. Their most popular street food is their hot dogs so go for one with a little crispy onion and a few gherkins.”

2. Meal times are always a social occasion

“I think we can learn from the fact they respect what they eat and they’re really interested in it. They’ve this real good habit of eating as a family”, says Powell, who says that meal times are also a huge opportunity for friends to get together:

“People eat out together, they’re very social people when it comes to food, they love organising to meet up. Whenever I’ve been over there, you’ll see somebody and everyone will be like ‘oh yeah that’s that guy, you’re gonna meet him later and we’ll hang out’, they take the time to eat together which I love.”

3. They’re creating a new style of eating

shutterstock_645738562 Source: Shutterstock/Prostock-studio

So, what’s so great about Copenhagen’s dining scene and places like Noma? They zone in on one ingredient each season and just really get it right, explains Powell:”So now they’re doing super-focused menus – like the first one was all seafood, now the next one is all vegetables, which I thought was super-cool. ”

And some of the talent from their most famous restaurants has already spread home, explains Powell: “There are amazing Irish chefs in Copenhagen. Like all Irish people, we tend to come home at some stage, so we’re going to bring that way of life back here. You see it in Irish kitchens already that are taking on this provenance-focused, real interesting food.”

Away from the Michelin star restaurants, the Danes are creating alternative dining options in places like Copenhagen Street Food beside the harbour, which offers an outdoor option for those looking to get great food or grab a beer.

4. They make the most of their coastline

shutterstock_1090912337 Source: Shutterstock

“The Danes focus on their coasts a lot and on their fish. As an island, we’ve always been a bit funny about fish but we’ve got all this amazing sea around us and seaweed and stuff like that.” Powell reckons that the Danes’ love of coastal living would remind Irish people to embrace our own high quality seafood.

And what should we order? “I love pickled herring and they do amazing pickled herring but that will kind of split opinions. For me, it’s amazing and the different flavours they can get into the fish is just amazing, you have to try it and you have to risk it.”

5. They’re all about provenance and local ingredients

“That’s my favourite thing about them, they just do what they want with local food and that’s what I’m into here in Ireland” says Powell. In fact, we’ve already seen the impact of that on the Irish restaurant scene:

“I think the Irish restaurant scene has been influenced by Scandinavian eating. We have lots of similarities in what we grow and what we produce and stuff like that, and I think provenance is becoming a big thing for Irish people.”

6. Their chefs are bringing international experience to the table

In fact, we’ll see even more of a growth of provenance in Ireland when our best chefs working in Copenhagen inevitably come home: “We have this real history of Irish chefs going out of Ireland and doing amazing things. There are amazing Irish chefs in Copenhagen.”

“Like all Irish people, we tend to come home at some stage so we’re going to bring that way of life back here and you kind of see it in kitchens already taking on this provenance-focused, real interesting food.”

Want to find out what makes Denmark one of the happiest places in the world? Keep an eye out for the first episode of The Danish Experiment, which will be unveiled on TheJournal on June 14th. Follow Carlsberg Ireland on Facebook and Instagram to tune in to the series and for behind-the-scenes edits . Enjoy Carlsberg sensibly, visit drinkaware.ie.

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