My first workshop during SDG 2012 was entitled ‘The Nordic Food Lab: Back to the Future’. It claimed to be a workshop ‘influenced by the scientific, academic and culinary worlds’. Even after an hour or so of internet research, I was still grasping at straws trying to figure out what it was all about.
I attended without expectations and ready for whatever was to be discussed. Within the first 10 minutes I was already itching to visit Copenhagen. Hosted by a few young men that seemed to genuinely be enjoying themselves, the tone of the class was playful.
Ben Reade was the main orator and an intense one at that. As head of the culinary research department and a background in culinary arts, Ben had a lot to say. His charming accent, innate quirkiness and humble passion made him incredibly likeable. He struck me as a giant child who gets to play in lieu of work…
The samples given throughout the Nordic Food Lab workshop were numerous and flavorsome:
- Kelp crisps
- Samphire powder
- Sweet clover
- Quince vinegar
- Koji cake
- Grasshopper Garum
- Iced Sheep Yogurt with Lightning Struck Spruce Resin
The audience laughed at assurances that the powdered substances we were given were not drugs, a few uneasy giggles sparked upon learning that one of the preparations was made from real grasshoppers, amazing balsamic like flavors danced on my taste buds thanks to skillful processes used on quince fruits…
Each new flavor was accompanied by an anecdote, words such as exoskeleton flowed rapidly from Ben’s lips with fascinating ease, information was not shared but bombarded… All of this though came back to one single simple principle and goal: Deliciousness.
The Nordic Food Lab is a culinary think tank where the team tries tirelessly until reaching their goal (if 1 out of 30 attempts is successful, they walk away content). Modern approaches are used to salvage old traditions. Unusual ingredients are processed to create new products with a familiar flavor. Ben Reade is an inquisitive chef that spends his time climbing trees and foraging plants in his surroundings.
The spell cast by the Nordic Food Lab representative was lingering as the resin I tasted from their spruce tree. Upon approaching Ben at the end of the workshop and inquiring about visitation possibilities and such, his only response was: “What idea do you want to develop?”
I’m still working on an answer…