Interviews with six of the creators of the manifesto for the New Nordic Cuisine

Leif Sørensen

By Karsten Thurfjell. karsten.thurfjell@sverigesradio.se

Leif Sørensen

The New Nordic food culture is here to stay
Early in my career, the Nordic Cuisine and local Faroe dishes were not considered good enough for fine dining. Today, Nordic chefs are aware of the quality of our produce, and we continue to win Bocuse d´Or medals. The New Nordic food culture is here to stay, because the knowledge grows rapidly also among consumers, seeking out better and better products. I wish to see a new governmental program for the New Nordic Cuisine. The Ministry Conference should have a food department, because it´s very important to keep a regional institution, supporting us across the borders to develop both our local agriculture and food culture, states chef Leif Sørensen, Faroe Islands.

Early in my career, I worked in a restaurant were we got our deliveries from France and Italy, because the produce was supposed to be ‘fine’. Then we started this manifesto project and entered into long discussions. I remember Erwin Lauterbach was already focused on working with Danish produce, but others were not so sure. I began to think about my supply back home. Was there enough local produce to create great food? I had my doubts, and I also had no idea of what would happen after the signing of the manifesto. But I must say we succeeded very well. It really developed in the way we hoped it would, and since then it has been a fascinating journey. A lot of great things have really happened, not least to myself. The discussions were very inspiring for me and, when we had signed the manifesto, I felt obliged to do my duty.

I had been touring around earlier, working in top French and Danish restaurants, and when I returned home to the Faroe Islands, I started up with French-Danish cuisine. I thought the locals were fed up with their own food and wanted something new but, increasingly, foreign tourists started to ask for local dishes: “Don´t you have any typical Faroe specialties?” After the symposium in Copenhagen, I realised that it was stupid to serve French food in the Faroe Islands, so I developed my style into Nordic. I started a new restaurant, and then another, now working as if there was a Faroe cuisine, trying to express the tradition in a modern way. Today, there’s no longer a discussion about using local products. First, I was a bit extreme, refusing to use produce that you can´t grow here, like tomatoes. But today I feel freer, the manifesto is not a dogma, and sometimes I do use an occasional tomato. I would say that Torshamn´s five top restaurants are all into local Faroe cuisine, and during the last few years, more and more tourists have become familiar with the New Nordic concept.

When I was in Paris, there were more pasta restaurants than French! It was a bit strange to see. When people travel to other countries, they want to eat local cuisine. Food is an experience in itself, and we are now rediscovering the way it can express cultural identity and heritage.

The focus on Nordic products has meant a lot for us, being more conscious of what quality in a product really means. It took some time to recognise the very high quality in our products. In the Faroe Islands, fish is an everyday commodity that we’ve always taken for granted, but we didn´t understand that we have the best fish in the world! So why source your fish from some other place? It´s just a matter of thinking.

In the Nordic countries, I see an interesting development where small, local producers are starting to compete with the food industry, but in the Faroe Islands it´s not that easy. I work hard all the time to get farmers to raise their ambitions, especially with vegetables, because there are not so many around here. I even arranged a conference, trying to inspire them into developing indigenous products, but we’re only 50,000 people here, and such a small market can be risky.

We´ve had sheep here since time immemorial, but commercial lamb production was not allowed until five years ago, and the quality is fantastic. We’re also developing fowl farming with good results, but there’s always a lot of red tape. We’re moving very slowly along the road and, in five years, I think we should be approaching the same level as the other Nordic countries.

Today, Nordic chefs are aware of the quality of our produce, and we continue to win Bocuse d´Or medals. I think the New Nordic culture is here to stay, because awareness is also growing rapidly among consumers, and they’re seeking out better and better products.

So the future looks good, but I’d like to see a new governmental programme for the New Nordic Cuisine, now that they’re winding down the first one. The Ministerial Conference should have a food department, because it´s very important to keep a regional institution, supporting us across the borders to develop both our local agriculture and food culture.

New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto
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“Today, there’s no longer a discussion about using local products”

“I think the New Nordic culture is here to stay, because awareness is also growing rapidly among consumers, and they’re seeking out better and better products.”

leif soerensen