René Redzepi: 'If I wanted milk, my aunt went out and milked a cow'

 

I came to cooking randomly My best friend entered chef school and as I didn't know what to do, I followed him. I'd never cooked in my life until then. But when the teacher asked us to cook a plate of food, rather than thinking about girls, I started thinking, what is food to me, why do I like to eat? It was my first adult thought and I fell in love with cooking.

I grew up in rural Macedonia watching adults working hard in fields and seeing things go from seed to ingredient to food on the plate. I went to the mountains to pick chestnuts with my father; if I wanted milk, my aunt milked a cow, and that's an amazing process to be part of.

There's something of the zeitgeist about Noma [Redzepi's restaurant, which has topped the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list for the past two years]. I think it's because we have not only embraced the idea of cooking with ingredients sourced nearby but have tried to take the sum of the [Nordic] people, their history and ingredients and put it on to a plate.

There is no absolute truth to things I have a Muslim upbringing while my wife has a Jewish background, and it's important to me that my two children grow up with these different ideas and the different ways of being.

To cook the food you see on TV shows, you need a lot of training The whole idea that it's easy to cook wonderful food in 20 minutes might be true, but for me, with 19 years of training, I still spend an hour cooking a meal for my family, to make it delicious.

You don't have to go to a fancy restaurant to eat well A simple carrot cooked right can mean eating extremely well. Imagine it's a piece of the most expensive meat in the shop; roast it slowly in a pan, keep basting and turning it until the skin has a leathery, crunchy texture and inside is almost like a purée, and it is transformed into something so flavoursome it need be accompanied by nothing more than a simple vinaigrette.

Working all the time is my worst habit I wake up at 7am and come home between midnight and 2am five days a week. I see it as an amazing opportunity to shape food culture; it makes me happy.

René Redzepi, 33, is the chef and co-owner of the two-Michelin-starred Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark (noma.dk)

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