Head chef Jamie Lee
When visiting Copenhagen, Denmark, trying out their different restaurants and café’s is one of the many highlights from this colourful city. When going, a visit to Kødbyen, the Meatpacking District, is definitely necessary because there you’ll find one of Nordique’s favourite Danish restaurants, Fiskebaren, where Jamie Lee works as the head chef. It is a sustainable fish restaurant not serving any endangered fish or shellfish, they re-use the heat from the stoves to heat the restaurants and they source their products locally to avoid transport pollution. Also, the athmosphere is always on point. More restaurants like this please!
We are grateful that Jamie took some time off to answer a few of Nordique’s questions.
When and how did your passion for cooking start?
My passion really started when I was around 14 and I was in need of gaining some extra pocket money. I saw a weekend job going in a local bakery and decided to give it a go. I had to get up in the early hours of the morning and being a typical teenager to be honest I didn’t think it was going to last for long. But I was fascinated by the whole process of making bread and seeing all these raw materials get changed into this wonderful tasty product. I ended up staying for a few years.
How important do you feel formal training as a chef is?
I think this is very important to really learn the basics and to get as much training and knowledge as you can when you are young. You need to get the basics right to have something to build on later in your career with management and also creativity.
Do you have a signature dish?
We have had a few dishes on the menu at Fiskebaren that people might say are our signature dishes such as the squid with fermented garlic, blueberry and pine and we always have our take on the classic fish’n’chips on the menu. However, we don’t really leave dishes on the menu long enough. We are constantly looking for ways to improve and as we change our food seasonally it's quite hard to leave things on the menu for a longer period of time.
What makes the Danish food culture stand out?
The Danish food culture stands out because people are sincerely very interested in the food, where the produce comes from and how it is made. People care about the fundamentals of the Nordic cuisine. Sustainability is important to them and the fact that we source the produce from local producers, have close relationships with all our suppliers and can tell the stories behind e.g. how Alexander has picked the wood sorrel and why he has chosen these exact leaves to some other.
Is there anything we have to try when visiting Denmark?
I would really take advantage of all the amazing food in Copenhagen. We have had a boom of some fantastic new restaurants here with some of the most cutting edge constellations of new Nordic cuisine. Some of the best new chefs in the world are here now for what I dare call a food revolution and they have brought the best from their own worlds. You’ll find restaurants serving everything from Michelin starred tasting menus to street food and it’s all worth tucking into.
Do you also cook a lot at home?
Yeah I love to cook at home it’s more relaxed. I really like it when family or friends come over and we all sit around the table for hours and hours. When we bought our house some years ago it was my biggest priority to make an open kitchen so that I can cook for people and still have conversation with our dinner guests. That way you are not isolated in the kitchen and the cooking becomes more of a shared experienced.
What are your kitchen ‘must haves’?
My most important kitchen must have is a really sharp knife. In a fish restaurant you need the precision of a high quality sharp knife.
Your profession can be quite stressful at times. What do you do to relax on your time off?
I spend it with my family. I have a young son so we are often going for day trips to the forest, beach or just the local parks. Going to Copenhagen’s food markets is also a good day out for us. We have had a few new markets within the last couple of years with some excellent products both raw produce and cooked dishes. You can tell there is a lot of passion for food behind these.
If you weren’t a chef and could pick any other profession, what would you be?
I would probably have been something to do with sound engineering. I have a passion for electronic music and have always been a bit of a bedroom DJ. But fact is that the chef profession is not one that leaves you with much time for hobbies. It’s a lifestyle.
Where are your favourite spots in Denmark?
Some of my favourite parts of Denmark are up on the north coast of Sealand. You have a lot of old fishing villages where some of Fiskebaren’s own produce also comes from. To sit on the harbour in the summer and enjoy a plate of old school freshly caught fish with home baked rye bread is high on the list.