Odense, Denmark (currently: Bilbao, Spain)
One of the cool parts of my stage at Nerua is the people I meet. We’re from all over the world – Spain, Italy, Denmark, Senegal, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, USA. I’m la Americana. And Kasper is our local Dane.
I love asking my fellow stagiaires about their backgrounds – what they did before coming to Nerua and on which restaurants they have their sights set next. Each one of us brings our own unique culinary education and skills to the kitchen and somehow, together, we form a well-oiled machine, and manage to roll out dishes such as artichokes confit injected with almond praline and served in a juice of jamón with aromatic herbs, and avocado cream with grapefruit “tears” and coconut ice cream.
Kasper’s culinary roots run deep. For over twenty years his parents ran a restaurant in Odense, Denmark – Restaurant Kvægtorvet, where Kasper began his culinary training. Restaurant Kvægtorvet closed last year to make way for a restaurant project even closer to the family’s heart, STYRBÆKS (like Kasper’s surname), where the primary focuses are quality and source of ingredients, gastronomic research and culinary innovation, and where Kasper plans to return once he finishes his stage at Nerua.
Coffee or tea?
At home, my mother brought me coffee each morning since I was very small, but it depends. I think I’m mostly a coffee person, but when I want to enjoy, I like a cup of tea with a lot of sugar. That’s the good thing about tea – it’s sweet. Coffee I drink without sugar or milk or anything (Danish style).
Beer or wine?
Depends on what I’m doing and what the weather’s like. On normal days, Monday to Friday, I’m a beer guy because it’s easy to have at home. I have to have a beer each day after work because that’s the only way you can sleep after being ON all day long. But if I’m eating a good steak or meat or if I’m cooking, wine is the way to go. The taste of wine, the preparation of wine – someone put more love into it, you know? A good wine is better than a good beer. There’s more handcraft in wine. Of course, you can get different kinds of beer too. (Pause.) I’m in the middle, it depends on the situation.
Describe your typical breakfast.
I don’t usually eat breakfast but when I do, I always eat like I do in the evening – I think it’s called “dinner” in English? Some people think it’s weird that I’m eating something like lasagna in the morning. But I guess if I want to have breakfast breakfast, my favorite is scrambled eggs and bacon. I usually eat it on a rye bread, maybe it’s a Danish thing? Because the Danish rye bread is just grains and it’s very dark with malt. I toast the rye bread, put some butter, cheese, the scrambled eggs and then the best bacon. Sometimes we make the bacon at home – we have a smoking oven. I toast the bacon on top and that’s it.
What is your earliest food-related memory?
It’s not one meal, it’s a lot of meals that are basically the same. My family has a summer house on a small island south of where I live, Lyø. It’s very deserted – there are only like 50 people living there. We are so lucky to have our summer house there. It’s really a perfect place. We went fishing all the time when I was younger – we would put our nets out over night and in the morning I never wanted to get up, but my father would say “Come on, Kasper! We’re going to check the nets.” Then we would take the boat out in the morning, with wind and water spraying in our faces, and it would be completely silent. My father would pull up a net and when you can see the white bottom of the fish in the water and you know they’re coming out [of the water], it’s the best feeling ever. Sometimes we would catch 30 or more of these flatfish, skrubber (a type of cod). Skrubbe (singular for skrubber) is not a really fine fish in Denmark, but the skrubber from Lyø are the best in the world. During the day, my father would take off the skin and in the evening, my mother would prepare the fish with potatoes grown in the farm surrounding our house and we would make a classic sauce called Persillesovs. It’s made from parsley grown in our backyard, flour, butter and milk. Then we sit in front of the house to eat and have the best view ever.
Describe your ideal sandwich.
I like the classic club sandwich, you know, with chicken, bacon, curried mayonnaise, but no pineapples. (B2S: pineapples???) Yes, all over Denmark when you order a club sandwich, they put pineapples from a can on it! It’s shit! I would have a good, hard cheese, chicken, bacon and Danish mayonnaise. Here (Spain), they don’t put anything in mayonnaise, it’s just oil, but in Denmark we put vinegar, a lot of mustard and of course oil and egg yolks, salt and pepper, then you whip it up like a normal mayonnaise emulsion. If you get the mix correct, it’s the best thing in the whole world. I can eat it on everything, so of course it’s going to be on my sandwich. Iceberg lettuce and raw onions too, that’s perfect.
Where would you travel to eat?
I would travel home to eat. Either at Lyø or our house in Denmark because the food at home is always the best. Mama’s or father’s food. (B2S subquestion: what’s a typical meal at home?) We have no typical meal because we make sure to vary our eating because we’re all cooks. We’re all in the business so we like a lot of different things. But the most classic thing I like to eat at home is a steak – côte de boeuf – with Béarnaise sauce and really good french fries, you know, when you take the potato, bake it in the oven, cut it and then fry it two or three times in duck fat, it’s the best. And the french fries are served with my homemade mayonnaise. That’s the most classic, classic dish, and it really is happiness.
Name 5 people you would like to have at a dinner party.
It’s going to be a bit more than 5 – my father, my mother, my big brother, my girlfriend, my grandfather, my grandmother, my grandfather on the other side and his wife, and of course, my grandmother if she were still alive, and my uncle.
What are you in the mood to eat right now?
Right now, I think I’m in the mood to eat my sandwich (laughs), or that côte de boeuf.