Eat local, know your farmer. Copenhagen on its way to food-sustainable city

Not only for consumers but for chefs the sustainability is a hot topic in Denmark´s capital


By Birk Heijkants and Eliška Mainclová


More Danes consider sustainability as one of the key factors when not only buying food, but eating in restaurants. Together with Danish trend of food waste´s reduction challenging sustainability becomes something that restaurants pay attention to. Especially when Nordic cuisine is sensed as inspiring for other countries across the Europe. Compared to 2016 when it was every fourth Dane, by the end of last year over half of people bore sustainability in their mind.


Kadeau is one of the restaurants who recently got a michelin star, their second. It is a restaurant originally from Bornholm, an island closer to Poland and Sweden but part of Denmark. They’ve opened their second restaurant in Copenhagen in 2011.


From kitchen with respect

Jord Coree, a Dutch cook at Héron in Utrecht, was overwhelmed at his visit to Kadeau: ‘Their beautiful philosophy was really inspiring. They get all of their products from Bornholm, which is relatively so close.’


Coree says the restaurant didn’t really communicated about the sustainability. ‘But for me is the idea of using local products a form of sustainability. As well is foraging, harvesting and conserving, because that is a way of being independent and that’s also a way of being sustainable on a smaller scale.’


For Jord Coree it was remarkable that there was so little meat and fish in the menu: ‘In sixteen servings four of them contained fish and only one of them contained meat. They got their meat in an honest way and prepared it respectful.’


The inspiration the Dutch cook gets from this way of cooking in his own kitchen is especially from the way Kadeau reduces their food waste by using all the rest products, not only of meat and fish but of vegetables as well. ‘But also the way they’ve made this small dishes and optimized everything which was in there. For me that’s a way of transparency because you can’t hide any taste from another and in that way you, as a cook, get closer to the guests.  After visit in Kadeau Coree got excited to try out a new dish in Utrecht. ‘I made the dish from anise, yellow beetroot and watermint. No fuss, just pure flavours.’


As local as possible

One of the restaurants which tries to work on sustainability is Spisehuset, a restaurant in one of the trendiest areas in Copenhagen, the meatpacking district. Niclas Gronhoj Moller, one of the chef’s of the restaurant puts a lot of effort in the way he gets his products: ‘All the fish is fished in the Danish sea. All meat is ecologic or biodynamic. And we work as closely with the farms as we can.’


The Dutch cook and the Danish chef  are not the only ones who perceive using local products from the nearest farmers as more sustainable. In last year´s survey of The Danish Agriculture & Food Council 3 out of 4 Danish consumers considered long-distance transport beyond sustainability. Using locally produced food is among others one principle of Danes´ definition more sustainable consumption, together with eating seasonally, buying organic food and avoiding food waste.  


For Niclas it does not even stop at the Danish products. He gets his coffee from a friend in a city nearby, ‘he is also very active working on good connections with the coffee farmers and works directly with them.’ The wine is coming from France, Germany and some other European countries and is also biodynamic or ecological. Niclas tries to visit all the winemakers where he has wine from on the shelf: ‘But we’re also running a restaurant and that’s not a business you get rich from.’


Want to know how Niclas Gronhoj Moller and Spisehuset handle sustainability? Watch the video:


People´s interest comes with transparency

Johan Dal, leader of Slow Food Copenhagen, an organization once started against fast food, thinks there should happen a lot in the way food is produced and consumed: ‘There should be a lot more transparency and information, I think that’s where it all starts.’ He believes the structural change of consumers´ habits is the mean on the way to the consumers´ engagement. ‘It´s a shame we don´t think more about from where the things we put into our body come from and how they´re produced.’


Dal mentions an example: ‘When you see local shrimps in a supermarket. One bag of unpeeled shrimps, another with peeled shrimps, the price does not differ much, people are likely to buy the peeled ones. Not knowing they traveled to Morocco by truck to be peeled and travell back. If people would know that, they should be more likely to buy the unpeeled ones.’ The responsibility for transparent information should be layed on producers too, the leader of Slow Food Copenhagen adds.


However, the price still remains one out of the first things people look at in supermarket and the main reason why they drop out buying the most organic or eco-friendly food. According to Dal, in terms of sustainability, the price must be fair for producers. ‘But still, environmentally friendly products should cost less than one that is not sustainable,’ he argues.


This story is written for Dutch audience could be published in Volkskrant Magazine