“Welcome to the brotherhood”.
When a bearded Dane utters these words (as he ties an apron around your waist and hands you a big-ass carving knife), it’s a food memory that you know is going to stick with you. Probably forever.
Add to the surreal setting the fact that David Chang and Chris Ying (Lucky Peach Editor in Chief) are at the table next to you and you might get a feel for what a special night it was. But not without a few nervous moments.
But let’s take a step back. I was hanging out in Copenhagen for the MAD Symposium – arguably the greatest food festival in the world – and I had left the three day affair with a book full of notes and a head full of ideas. The festival itself is ridiculous. It would be too easy to call it inspiring. It was so much more. Held in a circus tent, it is two days packed with some of the biggest names in the food world. Neil Perry, Fergus Henderson, Margot Henderson, Sean Brock, Rene Redzepi, Barbara Lynch, Christian Puglisi, Alain Ducasse, Roy Choi, Dario Cecchini, Alex Atala, David Chang, The Voltaggio brothers. And a whole lot more. The audience? People from all over the world; united with a basic, simple love of food. A common geekiness for food. A need to know more about it and the people behind it. A thirst for more. It is a rock concert for food nerds. It’s electric and contagious and awesome.
The theme for the event was GUTS and you can imagine how various speakers interpreted it. Sure, there were guts – literally cut and displayed on stage. But what struck home for me was to hear these household names talking about courage in their industry. To hear them speak about taking risks and to hear them speak about blazing a new trail for themselves, instead of following the rules. The common theme of self doubt was addressed and the common theme of perseverance seemed to emerge as an answer. In a world where “follow your passion” can be an empty cliche, to hear some of the greatest food minds on the planet echoing exactly that sentiment was comforting.
Anyway, fast forward a few days days and my wife and I were ready for a week of eating and drinking in one of the coolest food cities in the world. She hadn’t been lucky enough to attend the event and – although she wouldn’t admit it – I think she was pretty sick and tired of my gushing, as I tried to explain how great the whole thing is/was. She was just looking for a chilled dinner. Instead, what followed was us arriving to the restaurant and literally bumping into Chang & co. I managed not to go too fan boy. Then we were seated next to their table. And then came the announcement to the restaurant that “a South African butcher is in the house”. That’s when the apron and the knife came out. By now people were beginning to wonder what was going on. People were definitely staring. Chang was staring. And I was sweating bullets.
The wine I was throwing back didn’t help much as my mind started racing. These Danes are fucking crazy. Everyone knows that. The staff in this place look like extras from Vikings. Who knows what they’re going to make me to?! Am I going to have to break down a carcass for the restaurant? Am I going to have to debone something for Chang’s table? Are they going to bring a live pig out here for me to slaughter?
The eventual scenario was tame in comparison. A roasted pig head brought to the table on a wooden board. Just for us. Relief. Then a few more aprons and a second head for Chang’s entourage. I’m not sure if it was the crisis that had been avoided, or the wine eventually doing its job, but that pig head was one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. It formed part of a tasting menu filled with soul and personality. Blackened catfish. Pike with grilled cucumbers. Chicken wings and kelp. Buttermilk with currants. It was all laughably simple. I don’t remember seeing more than three ingredients on a plate. But every bite was perfectly executed. It was real, tasty food and it was presented with some of the most unusual and interesting wine you can imagine. In fact, the wine is reason enough to visit BROR. Billed as stuff they are “enjoying at the moment”, it is wine that encourages questions and conversation. It is not easy-drinking wine, but it is delicious wine. (Mind you, when the sommelier pulls up a seat and puts his arm around you while he talks about ” the joy of cloudy wine” everything seems to taste better.)
I will eat at BROR if I’m ever lucky enough to be in Copenhagen again. I will visit MAD Symposium if I am ever lucky enough to be in Copenhagen again. I will make sure I am lucky enough to be in Copenhagen again.
Go forth and eat,