Cooking with an Accent

Chef Jens Fisker - DENMARK

By Christophe Avril

The table in the middle of the large and cozy dining room is made of thick wood. Almost everything is, in fact, except for the six metal and leather chairs that contrast with the rest of the furniture. There are big windows to let the light of the sun in, which is rare during the short days of winter in Denmark. On the wooden table, lunch has been prepared. Today, it will be the traditional smørrebrød; an open sandwich. Not only one sort is presented, but several, to please the taste of each member of the family. Prepared and decorated with a variety of fine ingredients such as salmon, curried eggs, fresh potatoes or small shrimp, rainbow trout, smoked herring fillets topped with egg yolk, radish and chives, smoked eel fillets with scrambled eggs, slices of roast pork with red cabbage, apples and prunes, liver pâté – these are but a few of the options available. They are accompanied by slices of pickled cucumber or gherkins. All of them are nicely presented on fine slices of rye bread, and it is impossible to choose just one. Since it is Saturday and nobody has to work, some beer and fruit wine will round out the lunch, as well as some Acquavit, also called the Nordic Spirit. Before the spirit, dessert will be served: Danish Angel cake with chantilly and fresh raspberries, marzipan ring cake (Kransekage) and Æbleskiver, which is a kind of pancake.

Denmark, with its borders to Germany in the south and a very small border with Sweden via the Oresund Bridge, is surrounded by the North and Baltic Seas. This helps explain the importance of the fishing industry, not only for trade but also for daily consumption. They have cod, plaice, herring, or sole and turbo. And as a product of deep-water fishing, they also have lobster, prawns and mussels. Aquaculture is becoming progressively present, but under very specific organic labeling. The main species farmed in Denmark is the rainbow trout. It represents more than 90% of the total production. Besides this, the Danish also farm Atlantic salmon, European eel, turbot and pike-perch.

Denmark has an agricultural production amount which is three times superior to its needs. It is the largest exporter of pork within the European Union. As imports and new technologies have erased seasonal differences, most products are generally available throughout the year. At the same time, many exotic products such as eggplant, avocado, fresh pineapple, baby-corn, zucchini, Chinese shrimp, kiwi and sweet pepper are now part of the daily life of the Danish. Before the industrial era, the traditional Danish diet was far more restricted. They had rye for bread, barley for beer, split peas, salted and smoked pork and fish. All they needed to prepare the traditional cuisine is some of the following: “øllebrød,” porridge made of rye bread with beer; “vangrød,” porridge made of barley; “gule ætrt,” split pea soup; “æbleflæsk,” a sort of fried potatoes with bacon; Klipfisk,” dried cod; and the “blodpølse,” black pudding. Since 1960, with increased prosperity and the internationalization of commerce and tourism, the Danish started to be influenced more and more by their European neighbors and also by the United States.

Two chefs, one being Jan Hurtigkarl, who counts among his accomplishments being named 2011 Chef of the Year and having received two Michelin stars; and the other, Erwin Lauterbach, an established cookbook author who received the Champagne Prize (the biggest Danish prize in the world of gastronomy), created an original cuisine based on vegetables and fish, taking advantage of the excellent quality of local product. In 2004, Chefs René Redzepi and Claus Meyer together with ten other chefs, wrote a New Nordic Food Manifesto. The goal was to use local agriculture and other ingredients such as fish and meat, using adapted older techniques to create a modern Nordic Cuisine. Also, the use of organic product was part of this project, in order to revive the palate with the purity and freshness of the products.

Who would have thought fifty years ago that a country like Denmark, so far up north with such a cold climate, would have produced Cabernet wine? The two main grapes used for the production are the Cabernet Cortis and the Cabernet Cantor. Those two grapes are hybrids, and were created by the Frieburg Institute of Wine in Germany. They are mild, spicy and rich in color: Those two wines have the typical style of a classic Cabernet or a Merlot. The wine production in Denmark was essentially possible because of global warming, which led the country to legalize wine production in 1999. The vineyards are located in the region of Lolland, Jutland, Funen and the Northern Zealand. Around 40,000 bottles of wine are produced per year. But there is also a sparkling white from Jylland, the Dons Cuvee, that has must be mentioned. Made with Orion, Solaris and Madleine Sylvaner grapes, this alternative to a champagne received the gold medal for Best Wine of the Year in 2015 and the silver medal from Effevescents du Monde 2015 for its Don’s Rosé Brut 2014. Additionally, it also received the international bronze medal, International Sparkling Awards, EXPO, Milan 2015 and Gold Medal and “Best Wine of the Year Grapes” at the International Food Contest 2015 for the Don’s Cuvée brut 2014. But there is one drink that was first produced in the 16th century, the aforementioned Aquavit. From the Latin Aqua Vitae, this name means water of life. It is made from distilled grain or potatoes and is usually flavored with herbs and spices. With its 40% alcohol by volume, be careful and do not take too much.

In 1995, an enterprising and ambitious young man named Jens Fisker came all the way from Copenhagen, Denmark to Bald Head Island, North Carolina to help very good friends of his in their quest to open a bed and breakfast. This little island, north-east of Myrtle Beach, can only be accessed by boat and has around 100 permanent residents year-round and more than 8,000 during the summer. He was helping with large-scale events at the country club. Before the end of his first season, he became the executive Chef at the club and became known as Chef Jens Fisker. With a business administration degree from the Danish Hotel and Restaurant University in Copenhagen and a chef certification from the Danish Culinary Institute, his qualifications were well-suited for this position. As time progressed, his culinary proficiences expanded to a point where the Ocean Ridge Plantation hired him to direct the Food and Beverage Department in the capacity of management with a collection of not one, but three separate country clubs. Forging ahead with a disciplined work ethic and determination to acquire as much experience as possible, he left the region to go to the Midwest and started to work at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest as F&B director where he was in charge of two restaurants, a lounge bar, catering and in-room dining. Returning to North Carolina after three years on his tour de force of gastronomy, he eagerly joined the highly-esteemed Marriott brand once again.  A year later, Chef Fisker secured the highest position of General Manager at the Shoals Club on Bald Head Island for a succeeding six years. Thereafter his coveted career path lead him to managing a very well-known dining establishment called the Café Deluxe in Washington, D.C. One day, while he was looking for some information on the Danish Embassy website, he saw that they were looking for a Chef for the new Ambassador, and since he missed working in a kitchen, he applied and was hired for the position. With a resume like his, it seems obvious that he was the right man for the job. Since taking on this new role, he regularly cooks for two to six hundred guests; which I might add, is an achievement of great proportions and not easily done! 

Enjoy and bon appetit!

Salmon Cru

Loin of Lamb

Danish Chocolate Mousse

Download Recipes
FREE Digital Edition
See and read Diplomatic Connections Magazine
View Archived Digital Editions