THE NORDIC WAVES-SCANDINAVIAN CHEFS: JAKOB MIELCKE
The Danish gastronomic scene is now on the map for food enthusiasts from around the world thanks to René Redzepi and Noma. We now know very well the wild herbs, malt soil, wood sorrel, berries, mackerel etc. and this aesthetic is so close to nature. But beyond Noma, there are Danish chefs who make creative and unique cuisine, a fine cuisine bases Danish and French with the best products from around the world and an aesthetic resolutely close to Nature. The chef Jakob Mielcke is as such a leader of this cuisine.
Jakob Mielcke is born at Aarhus (Denmark) in 1977. It debuted at the restaurant Under Klippen before heading later to do an internship at Pierre Gagnaire (Paris), one chef that he greatly influenced. Moreover, in 2002, he lead the kitchen of the Pierre Gagnaire restaurant (Sketch) in London before returning to Denmark. Then, with his partner Jan Hurtigkarl, he opened Mielcke and Hurtigkarl, a restaurant who has the opportunity and privilege of being located in the Royal Danish Garden in Frederiksberg. This environment certainly helps the chef Mielcke create dishes very organic and inspired by nature. Beyond the great influence of nature in his dishes and his aesthetics, the cuisine of Jakob Mielcke perhaps cataloged world cuisine with strong foundations in Denmark. It uses the best of his travels to make good and beautiful compositions often complex.
Q+A WITH JAKOB MIELCKE ( http://www.mielcke-hurtigkarl.dk ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?
JMielcke- Food is a way for me to communicate emotions. To reaching people by being funny, surprising, provoking, intellectual, conceptual etc. Sometimes it’s technical or powerful, but that only works when vulnerability is there as well. I guess you can say that honesty is important to me. Tastefulness in it self is not everything. On the contrary, showing people around the palate is more interesting than just pleasing them. To me, pleasing has to do with sugar and fat content. Moving people involves more than that.
An important characteristic of my cuisine is the obsession with nature. This came about when we established our restaurant in 2007 and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by nature – although in a cultivated form – in The Royal Danish Garden Society’s garden. It became essential to me to pull as much organic wilderness as possible into the restaurant, which was dominated by very classical architecture and design at the time. I wanted to create the frame before deciding what exactly to fill in it, and after almost a year of rebuilding and decorating the restaurant in collaboration with a number of young designers and artists the style of our food somehow became self evident. It became organic and playful – in the moment, looking towards the future, respectful of the past.
2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
JMielcke- I have many! In general, my childhood memories are attached to the smells and tastes. When I get an idea for a dish like ’forest floor’ I am very much based in the present, but subconsciously I can’t ignore the fact that the birch tree (ingredient in the dish) has always been my favorite tree. Or that I used to eat the very first beech leaves (the sorbet of the dish) as a child when walking home from school.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
JMielcke- There are a number of produce that sticks with me. Seaweed would be an obvious one. That addiction led about doing a seaweed book with a professor in biochemistry a few years ago.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
JMielcke- When I started cooking the Danish scene wasn’t that inspiring. So like many successful Danish chefs in my generation I went abroad for a few years. And two years with Pierre Gagnaire changed my life. He taught me how to move my own limits and he inspired me with his approach to cooking. He remains a source of inspiration.
5-(Scoffier) Do you are part of the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto? If yes, are you as strict (just local products) that René Redzepi in your recipes?
JMielcke- No, I am not a part of it. I have my own ‘dogme’. I support the manifesto but I don’t see myself fitting into it. Like many of my Scandinavian colleagues we have always been gathering wild herbs, berries from the forest and beaches. This is not a new thing. To me this tradition of foraging with the chefs and supporting the local producers is obvious. But it’s important to remember that there is a family in Kyoto producing the most wonderful miso. Or a guy on Vancouver Island responsible for some of the most delicate seaweed I have ever met. These products and the continuing search for new ones is essential to me.
6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu at Mielcke & Hurtigkarl?
JMielcke- I think I have already answered the first part of your question above. When it comes to constructing the menus and developing new dishes, I have to mention Kim Agersten who’s been working with me for 7 years. Kim has become an indispensable actor in the creative process. Over the years my need to bounce off ideas with someone has given me a unique collaboration with Kim. I wouldn’t dream of putting a dish on the menu without running it by him first. Besides running the kitchen on a daily basis he’s good at keeping both feet on the ground in all aspects of our work. That helps me perform some of my more extreme ideas.
7-(Scoffier) I know that you are closed of January to March for research and travel. Where you travel and what inspires you in this process?
JMielcke- I couldn’t imagine not having seen and tasted Japan, Vietnam and India just to mention a few. I guess it’s been defining for me to travel and get inspired by produce, nature and people around the world. And we will continue doing this – traveling, exploring of the world of tastes – at Mielcke & Hurtigkarl. Having said that it has also been difficult to miss out on some of the seasons in our cooking. So we might plan things a little bit different in the future, but that’s all I can say for now.
8-(Scoffier) The chef Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) take a lot of time choosing and picking his produces at the market. Do you spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces?
JMielcke- No, not really – and yes, of course! I spend a lot of time choosing my producers and suppliers and I put a lot of effort into it. When I came back to Denmark I was struggling to find fresh fish for example. It took years to find a producer and I had to go across the country. And today I’m sad to conclude that Copenhagen doesn’t offer fresh fish that can meet our standards. This is embarrassing when you think of Denmark being a quite small place surrounded by ocean.
9-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?
JMielcke- We use a wide range of techniques and we take just as much pride in our oldest and most classic techniques as we do in the most cutting edge contemporary ones. In fact we always try to go about solving a problem as ‘naturally’ as possible. I detest pouring white powder in things. To me the only thing from ‘molecular gastronomy’ worth bringing with me was the approach of the modern chef. Instead of hear-say it’s important to know as much as possible about how and why products react the way they do. Being precise is what counts.
10-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Jakob Mielcke and Mielcke & Hurtigkarl?
JMieclke- Recipe: Forest Floor
11-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Also, Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?
JMielcke- My ambition is to continuously develop this restaurant. There is no goal. Like a metamorphosis we had our starting point and from there on everything is in motion. It’s almost like a creature that you can affect in its directions but not entirely control. Remaining focused and remaining able to evolve and change is a personal ambition for me. If I get lazy and begin to think that everything is just fine as it is I hope that someone will kick me out of the way.
RECIPE: Forest Floor
Beech leaf sorbet:
-1 l. water
-200 g. sugar
-100 g. glucoses
-7 g. salt
-2 leafs. Gelatine
-120 g. Freshly picked beech leaves (only first week of bloom)
1. Make a sirup of water, sugar, glucoses and salt. Add hydreted gelatine and suficient lemon juice. Cool it down blitz with the leaves. Freeze with nitrogen.
-500 g. 45% milk chocolate
-125 g. Birch bark oil.
1. Birtch bark oil is made by frying granulated birtch bark at low heat untill it goes light brown. Mix with tasteless oil and leave for a few days to gain taste.
2. Mix chocolate and oil over low heat while stirring. When hogenous, cool to 35 degrees c. And put it in a siphon bottle. Add gas and sprey out in a tall plastic container and freeze. Breake into pjeces befor using.
-6 dl. fir oil
-2 dl. milk
-100 g. sugar
-2 leaves gelatine
1. Fir oil is made by blitzing freshly picked fir needles with a tasteless oil. Blitz untill the oil starts to get hot. Strain in a sieve. Heat milk, sugar and gelatine. Add the oil to the milk base while mixing with a hand blender. Consistensy should be like a majonæse
–1 l. cream
-150 g. White chocolate (Askanoisi)
-2 spoonful. Woodroof powder. (dried leaves)
1. Heat the cream with woodroof powder and pass it through a sieve, pouring it over the chocolate. Be careful it doesnt separate while cooling down. Put in a siphon bottle .
Crumble of black walnuts:
-200 g. Black walnuts
-100 g. hazelnuts
-1 spoonful. dark malt
-2 spoonful. cocoa nibs.
-1 spsk. Birch bark ashes
-4 spsk. Biodynamic caster sugar from Venezuela
1. Chop walnuts and hazelnuts. Fry them of in a big pot at low heat with the vanilla. Cool of and add the remaining ingredience.
-3 spoonful. Dried yoghurt
-240 g. Yoghurt
-4 spsk. Isomalt
-85 g. Icing sugar
-10 g. Malto
-A little citras
1. mix in the thermomix at 95 degrees c. For 5 minutes. Cool down the paste and spread it in leaf shapes on a silpat. Season with dried woodroof powder and leave to dry at 65 degrees c. For 24 hours. When they have finished, gently shape them under a sugarlamp.
-Dark milk 62% fra Askinosie
1. Melt the chocolate and put it in a very small pastry bag. Spread the powder on a tray and shape the wedges on top.
-Wood sorrel and purple woodroof flower.
-Mielcke and Hurtigkarl/Chef Jakob Mielcke (Partner Jan Hurtigkarl)
Frederiksberg Runddel 1,
1. Pleasure, August 22, 2008, http://pleasure.dk/gourmet/artikel/138606/
2. Spiseliv (Review), http://www.spiseliv.dk/mielckehurtigkarl
1. Mielcke and Hurtigkartl Tour, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvuiGg6kmY0
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