René, the Nordic Food Lab & Identità

An important collaboration begins between us and the research centre directed by Ben Reade

31-10-2012
The Nordic Food Lab, directed by 28 year old Scots

The Nordic Food Lab, directed by 28 year old Scotsman Ben Reade, from Edinburg, a graduate from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Piedmont, is located in Copenhagen, inside a boat that is in fact a houseboat, anchored a few steps from Noma, René Redzepi's restaurant.

This is an important day for us at Identità: we’re about to add a brick to the construction of a website (and therefore of a project) that has the ambition of going beyond our national borders, without barricading ourselves while trying to defend who knows what positions. We have always been moved by curiosity and the desire to experience – as well as, we hope, to understand – what exists outside Italy.

There’s no doubt that for very many reasons we are a country of fine food, certainly a beautiful nation and full of taste. But we’re also a country of missed opportunities, of corruption, a country lacking the research and networking skills on which the success of many of our competitors is based. This week, the consultancy firm FutureBrand published its 2012-13 Country Brand Index, which assesses the value of a country as a worldwide brand, a list that suggests where it’s best to live and invest. Italy totally failed and is out of the top 10, a vertical drop that landed on the 15th place, after the sixth position held in 2009 and the tenth last year. On the podium were three continents, thanks to Switzerland, Canada and Japan, followed by Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.

Ben Reade, 28 years old

Ben Reade, 28 years old

I won’t go on, as it is clear that we need to change our minds, our political establishment and our pace, and I’ll go straight to the heart of this new column: we’re opening, in fact, our space to Ben Reade and the Nordic Food Lab which he directs in Copenhagen, the laboratory at the base of the work of René Redzepi and of Noma, the restaurant with which it shares the same dock on the canals of the Danish capital. Noma is on 93 Strandgade, on the ground floor of a stone building, while the Nordic Food Lab is held, instead, on an anchored boat, next to a few houseboats. Upcoming, moreover, there’s the opening of a new bridge, accessible on foot or on bike, no motor vehicles allowed, all in view of an important planning investment that will change the appearance of the entire neighbourhood. All this with little joy for Redzepi, who is already the object of a pilgrimage for the classic souvenir photo.

Every month, Ben will introduce to us a precise aspect of his work, a window overlooking Northern Europe, a territory that goes beyond blueberries, beets and reindeers. When I visited this 28 year old Scottish young man, he had behind him a map of Scandinavia. At one point he asked me what had surprised me the most of the lunch at Noma: “Sea urchins, sea urchins far away from the Mediterranean Sea”. He smiled, stood up and pointed to the map: “They caught them here”. And by “here” he meant a Norwegian fiord beyond the Artic Circle.

On the left: Noma. On the right: Nordic Food Lab

On the left: Noma. On the right: Nordic Food Lab

I mention this to stress that as Italians we have no monopoly over what’s good, beautiful or right by a divine law, we need to conquest, on a daily basis, our respect and space in a crowded world, full of people who are often hungrier and better organised than us. And in this sense, it is important to point out that Ben Reade was educated also at Slow Food’s University in Pollenzo, with young people who come from all over the world to study and then either stay here to work, or they go abroad.

And over to Ben so he can introduce himself: “My Name is Ben Reade, I’m a chef from Edinburgh, Scotland, I have an BSc from The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. For my final thesis, I came to Nordic Food Lab to research many subjects where my varied interests inerlaced with those of the Lab - since then I have become the Head of Culinary Research and Development here at the Lab. Being from Edinburgh I was inspired to come to Copenhagen as many of the ingredients available in Denmark are similar to those I have grown up with in Scotland.

I am a sensory person and spend my time navigating the world through my nose and mouth. I have worked in kitchens since I was 15 years old, and have, since I was a child, have always been fascinated by cooking. I recognize cooking food as a creative occupation, but at the same time one which occupies space in the scientific sphere.” So this is why he stepped from the kitchen to the lab. A job that we’ll have the chance to understand well over time.

Paolo Marchi and René Redzepi in front of  Noma

Paolo Marchi and René Redzepi in front of Noma

A final, tiny note: for him, for Ben Reade, for those who, like him, are involved in the Nordic Food Lab and for Redzepi, this collaboration with Identità Golose is important in order to spread the information behind the work of many chefs and artisans, also because many Italian chefs don’t speak English.

How nice it will be when in Italy everyone will understand that English needs to be a second mother tongue.


Sections

Nordic Food Lab

The most interesting experiments held in the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, housed, since 2009, in a boat moored in front of René Redezpi’s Noma