René Redzepi is Head Chef and co-owner of noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was recently named the world’s best restaurant. Peter Sisseck owns Dominio de Pingus in Ribera del Duero, Spain and makes Pingus – one of the most celebrated wines in the world!
Both are remarkably good looking, intellectual, famous and youngish Danish men who share a surprisingly similar philosophy towards their respective arts.
Redzepi sees it as “a personal challenge to help bring about a revival of Nordic cuisine and let its distinctive flavours and particular regional character brighten up the world.” (The Kitchen, noma) Noma’s starter of crunchy baby carrots from the fertile Lammefjorden region of Denmark is probably the closest food comes to ‘an expression of terroir’. It is served with edible “soil” made from malt, hazelnuts and beer with a cream herb emulsion beneath!
While Sisseck’s adopted homeland is Spain, he is equally as passionate as Redzepi about bringing out the distinctive flavours and regional character of Ribera del Duoro’s tinto fino (tempranillo). The grapes for his flagship Pingus, for example, are from very old vines that are cared for using only biodynamic methods of agriculture. Sisseck is in fact so passionate in his belief that biodynamic and organic viticulture is the best way to restore micorbial life back into the soils and improve grape quality that he is teaching the fundamentals of the practice to local growers in the region. (Peter Sisseck’s Ψ : Psi Using Power for Good by Mannie Berk, Rare Wine Co. Blog, 18 August 2009)
Redzepi recently said in an interview, “If you work with me you will often be starting your day in the forest or on the shore because I believe foraging will shape you as a chef. I know it has shaped me. If you see how a plant grows and you taste it in situ you have a perfect example of how it should taste on the plate. But it’s more than that. When you get close to the raw materials and taste them at the moment they let go of the soil, you learn to respect them.” (Interview: René Redzepi: René Redzepi, acclaimed head chef at Noma in Copenhagen, tells Jay Rayner why he likes his staff to get down and dirty by Jay Rayner, The Observer, 18 April 2010)
Sisseck also believes in getting as close as possible to his precious raw materials. The grapes for the Pingus are individually inspected and sorted by hand on the vine and then again at picking time. Sisseck told wine writer Charles Ferro that he crushes the grapes with his bare feet, because “I can feel the grapes better.” (World’s Finest Wine by Charles Ferro, Scanorama, July/August 2003)
While both masters have an enormous respect for nature and centuries old traditions, neither shies away from innovation. Redzepi uses state-of-the-art kitchen appliances and techniques at noma, because “we are just as concerned with the textures of our food as any other world-class restaurant.” Sisseck created a process he calls “200 percent oak” to develop and enhance the unique character of his Pingus. This involves starting with a new oaken barrel and racking (pouring) the wine into another barrel later in the process.
Given their achievements, both men seem remarkably humble and believe in giving something back. Redzepi was was selected as New Nordic Food ambassador because of his ongoing efforts to advance and promote the knowledge of Nordic cuisine. Sisseck has launched Ψ (Psi), a relatively inexpensive wine that he is making in collaboration with the local growers in order to help them improve the management of their vineyards and learn how to make better quality wines!
Photo Credit: Rene Redzepi, noma. His recently released book, Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine is published by Phaidon.
Peter Sisseck, elmundovino.com