During Lockdown I had the wonderful opportunity to interview (for the Daily Maverick) three Chefs I greatly admire. I’ve met them all and, lucky me, have eaten their sublime cuisine. They are Vladimir Mukhin of The White Rabbit in Moscow, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen of JAN and MARIA in Nice, and Rasmus Kofoed from Geranium in Copenhagen. Today (23 Sept 2020), Rasmus posted on Instagram that the restaurant (in Fælledparken) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. What a milestone and it goes without saying that I’m delighted that Geranium has come out of the pandemic shut down both fortified and as inspired as ever. Geranium- “where thoughtfulness can be tasted.”
This is first post of the three interviews*
RASMUS KOFOED, 46 – Head Chef & Co-owner, Restaurant Geranium in Copenhagen
February 2020 was a particularly stellar month for Rasmus Kofoed and his team. Michelin named him Winner of the Nordic Countries Chef Mentor Award and he simultaneously learnt that Geranium in Copenhagen had retained the prestigious Guide’s three star status, the only fine dining restaurant with that accolade in Denmark, a country that boasts no less than sixteen Michelin-starred eateries. Elevated above the treetops on the 8th floor of the Telia Parken Stadium, dining at Geranium is by all accounts an enduring experience, where Rasmus presents cuisine that is fastidiously considered, down to the minutest detail, and exquisite in both appearance and taste. The restaurant currently sits in 5th position on the World’s Best 50 Restaurant list, a swift acceleration from 19th place in 2018, and Rasmus is the only chef in the world to have graced all three medal podiums at the most arduous and prestigious cooking competition du monde, the Bocuse d’Or. Geranium is also #23 out of 100 in the Best Vegetables Restaurants list for 2020.
Rasmus and Co-Owner Søren Ledet – who is also the wine director and general manager of Geranium -made the call to shut shop on March 14, ahead of the official Lockdown date in Denmark. While everyone’s safety was the motivation, they also felt that social-distance-dining was at odds with the convivial Geranium experience where patrons have the unique opportunity to observe Chef and his kitchen teams in close proximity in the open plan environment. Time spent at Geranium is designed to be a personable, intimate affair. “We run it with energy and care,” explained Kofoed, “and we need to be able to welcome our guests with open arms.”
Rasmus spent the first few weeks of confinement on the idyllic Danish island of Samsø in the Kattergat Sea. He was with his wife and three young children and he savoured every minute. “We could discover the day, cook together and get out in nature where I would teach my kids how to forage for wild plants and learn about the night sky.” As a boy he would follow his mother on her forages into the forest and today he’ s known for having a deep bond with the land. It’s in his DNA and his connection to the earth plays a key role in life and work, constantly influencing his creative processes. Geranium offers a seasonal tasting menu of approximately seventeen courses, food with an earthly narrative that transports and accommodates all palates.
When schools re-opened for a few hours a day, he and the family returned to Copenhagen. Work-wise, he remained focused on his team. Luckily for them all, the Danish government stepped up immediately to assist businesses across the board, enabling Geranium staff to remain on salary. “Although we are all very affected by this situation” he said at the time, “there are a lot more people around the world having a way harder time than those of us here in Denmark.”
For Rasmus, confinement was a time to press pause and reflect “about life, my choices and future plans, and about ways for Geranium to be even more sustainable as we evolve and develop creatively.” Aside from connecting with colleagues and chefs from around the world, he touched base regularly with all those in the company via group chats and on Facebook, another platform the restaurant utilises extensively to reach and engage with customers. He also challenged some of the staff to submit a vegetarian recipe every day, a dish from their home countries to Share on the Geranium social media platforms. It proved to be an excellent way to introduce the chefs, sommeliers and managers to patrons and online Followers, breaking down simple, healthy recipes that anyone could attempt at home.
On May 16, the restaurant announced that Geranium, like all restaurants in the country, would be re-opening in the first week of June. On his Instagram page, a fabulous source of info for me I might add, Rasmus, with a glass of red wine held aloft and a look on his face that can only be described as unadulterated joy and relief, posted – “Dear Friends, I am excited to tell you that the team and I are back….you will find asparagus, forest herbs & rhubarb among some of the ingredients in the Geranium Summer Universe Menu. Hope to welcome you soon.”
We know that times have changed, perhaps irreversibly, and the ‘new normal’ remains to be seen and felt. “The world needs to make some serious changes and hopefully I can be a part of the driving force that makes a positive impact. As a chef, being responsible and caring for the earth has always been important to me. Something has definitely shifted globally down the line we may see some positive outcomes as we take more care of nature.”
One thing most people don’t know about Rasmus: “I love rap music – always have, since I was 13 years old.”
@restaurant_geranium on Instagram – 94,6k Followers | www.geranium.dk
(All images extracted from Geranium’s official Insta page)