Alchemist: Is this the world’s most creative restaurant?

Alchemist: Is it the most creative restaurant in the world?

(Image credit: Claes Bech Poulsen)

The Alchemist's Flavor Wall (Credit: Claes Bech Poulsen)

In a former theater decoration workshop, chef Rasmus Munk and his team offer Michelin-starred dishes made from food waste, drinks made from rabbit ears and a new way of looking at food.


From the moment the heavy bronze doors open, inviting you from a rough, post-industrial street into a dark space filled with wonder, stepping into Copenhagen’s two Michelin-starred Alchemist restaurant is like falling down a rabbit hole.

In the luxurious lounge where the first courses are served to guests, a window to the kitchen-laboratory illuminates the jars of ingredients on the back wall. Then you’re whisked into a domed space where plastic bags dance like jellyfish in the “ocean” above you, and about 40 more head-scratching mouthfuls of food arrive.

A buttery lobster claw that lingers on the palate. The herbs are composed in the profile of the Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, which dissolves when the soup is poured over them. A wonderfully round snowball that tastes like a ripe tomato when you bite into it. A silicone tongue-shaped spoon that you have to lick to discover the taste of gooseberries and pumpkin seeds. Raw Faroese sea urchin mixed with foie gras for a silky texture.

When a drink containing jellyfish-derived bioluminescence is served, the lights are dimmed, allowing it to glow.

Beyond creating a surreal experience for those privileged enough to dine here – the menu costs DKK 4,600 (£538) per person excluding drinks and tickets sold out three months in advance – head chef Rasmus Munk can fry bigger fish. It’s not enough for him to create a Michelin-starred restaurant listed among the world’s 50 best restaurants; he wants to change the way we think about food.

The Alchemist is located in the former workshops of the Royal Danish Theater buildings Søren Gammelmark

The Alchemist is located in the former workshops of the Royal Danish Theater buildings Søren Gammelmark

“It’s about changing the world through gastronomy and using gastronomy as a platform,” he said. “We want the work we do to have a bigger impact on people, so we really care about storytelling and presentation.”

Dishes include “starvation,” where thin silver ribs are topped with spare rabbit meat that leaves its well-heeled diners squirming in their seats at the thought of starvation; a drop of blood-shaped ice cream served with a QR code referring to the organ donor scheme and a chicken foot in a cage give the exact proportions of a factory-raised hen’s cage, while a video of metal cages fills the domed ceiling. teetering on top of each other.

Also Read :  What really happened to Nika Shahkarami? Witnesses to her final hours cast doubt on Iran's story

Other dishes touch on sustainability and biodiversity: Faroese sea urchins are an invasive species that strip away underwater vegetation, so eating them is an environmental act; nettle butterfly dish was created after a research team realized the potential of growing protein-rich insects. It’s more than a theater: from 2020 almost 13,000 guests used the organ donation QR code (without access to the final websites, the restaurant cannot estimate how many actually signed up).

"Hunger"thin silver ribs topped with sustainable rabbit (Credit: Claes Bech Poulsen)

Alkis, thin silver ribs topped with lean rabbit (Credit: Claes Bech Poulsen)

The idea of ​​a fine dining restaurant that goes far beyond the classic constellation of white tablecloths, waiters, diners and chefs began when Rasmus was a chef in Jutland. His culinary career led him down a more conventional path until a volunteer project gave him an epiphany.

“One year I created a Christmas dinner for a group of underprivileged children,” he said. “It made me think: There’s more to food than making it taste great.”

in 2015 he founded the first restaurant Alchemikas in another part of Copenhagen and quickly established himself as a chef who thinks outside the box, serving dishes including an edible ash tray inspired by lung cancer. While other chefs in the region at this level followed the established New Nordic model, he wanted to incorporate art, science and society into an approach he calls “holistic cuisine,” encompassing everything from how you treat your staff and suppliers to restaurant design. .

Chef Rasmus Munk wants to change the way we think about food Søren Gammelmark

Chef Rasmus Munk wants to change the way we think about food Søren Gammelmark

That means his staff work 48 hours a week, which is unheard of in the fine dining business, with weekends and a four-day work week; they also get a pension plan and health care. A composer, performance artists and 3D animators work in the restaurant together with the chefs; completing the holistic approach, diners are greeted by actors and dancers and exit through a ball pit.

Rasmus’ creative thinking caught the attention of billionaire financier Lars Seier Christensen, allowing him to open his current restaurant in 2019 in the former workshop of the Royal Danish Theater building. Seven months later, he was awarded two Michelin stars. When legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià visited, he described it as one of the most memorable meals he had eaten in the last 10 years.

Also Read :  Why Don DeLillo is America's greatest living writer

Precise focus combined with an open mind encourages this thinking. In addition to the main kitchen, where 24 chefs are grilling chicken legs, preparing rich miniature bao buns and preparing the restaurant for evening service, a team of researchers led by Diego Prado is developing new ingredients and experimental food for the future.

"Burnt chicken"chicken foot presented in a cage (credit: Søren Gammelmark)

Burnout Chicken, a chicken foot presented in a cage Søren Gammelmark

“We make the building blocks so that the test kitchen can produce interesting and new dishes,” said Diego. “And that means finding new ingredients, new techniques, and making it all possible in a test kitchen.”

More recently, this has meant refining silkworm silk to create a protein that can be spun into a light meringue. affects their taste.

In addition to Diego, Nabila Rodriguez Valerón, Ph.D., is working on a project to remove the bitterness of vegetables inspired by the Japanese sense of taste. kokumi.

Kombucha Flower on the Alchemist's Flavor Wall (Credit: Søren Gammelmark)

Kombucha Flower on the Alchemist’s Flavor Wall (Credit: Søren Gammelmark)

“It’s very exciting to create such a variety of products and foods,” she said. “I think it’s a good way to promote healthy eating, especially for kids, as a way to get vegetables into their diet. Because nobody really likes steamed broccoli, do they?”

Other collaborations with scientists at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) focus on creating sustainable food from seaweed and fungi, breaking down different materials to create something new.

“We’re pushing the limits of what people can eat a lot. These things can get into the dish, but that’s not the goal,” said Diego. “And right now we’re also working more and more on projects that aren’t really restaurant-related.”

One of these projects was a collaboration with an MIT Media Lab researcher on space food, where teams experimented with lunar soil and sent miso into space to test fermentation as a possible process to help feed future space dwellers.

Alchemist's research team develops new ingredients and experimental foods of the future Claes Bech Poulsen

Alchemist’s research team develops new ingredients and experimental foods of the future Claes Bech Poulsen

Diego also talks to suppliers and farmers about the parts of their produce that they don’t use or sell, in order to make food from what would otherwise be waste. This method has led to many dishes to this day and a cocktail called the Fur Martini, whose ingredients include rabbit ears.

Also Read :  Pope sends letter to Fr. James Martin on homosexuality and sin

Perhaps the most interesting output from the kitchen is not on the plate at all, but in using her knowledge and holistic approach to food to help society. During the pandemic, Rasmus used Alchemist’s kitchens to feed Copenhagen’s homeless through his non-profit organization JunkFood. The alchemist also collaborated with the children’s department of the local Rigshospitalet hospital, helping children in the cancer department.

The restaurant has created an app to help choose food, introduced new food technology in a hospital kitchen, created protein-rich ice cream for children recovering from cancer whenever they want to eat. They are currently contributing to the future Mary Elizabeth Hospital experience as specialist advisors where, subject to funding, a pilot project will focus on developing world-class hospital food.

In the Alchemist's main kitchen, chefs prepare meals for evening services (Credit: Søren Gammelmark)

In the Alchemist’s main kitchen, chefs prepare meals for evening services (Credit: Søren Gammelmark)

As Emilie Vagner, an anthropologist and project manager for Mary Elizabeth’s consumer experience team, explains, Rasmus’ unique holistic approach to food is what makes it work.

“That’s why we wanted to work with him: it’s not just about the taste and the food, it’s about the environment. We have kids with no appetite, so it’s important to motivate them to eat. His holistic approach understands that.”

“We believe this will change everything: there are so many side effects,” Rasmus said. “Less medicine, less time in the ward and of course more happiness. And then in five years we will be able to achieve results and hopefully spread this to more hospitals in Denmark and maybe around the world.”

“It’s about making an impact beyond the plate. I’m thinking, what’s the next step to really make an impact? That’s what we’re going to continue to do.” World table “breaks the kitchen ceiling”, changing the way the world thinks about food through the past, present and future.

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us Facebookor follow us Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly features newsletter called the “Essential List”. A curated selection of stories from BBC Futures, Culture, Work and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button