Since June 2016 Jonathan Tam, from Edmonton in Canada, has been the head chef at Christian Puglisi’s Relae. Born in 1986, he’s not the first Canadian chef elbowing his way in Denmark – think of Ben Ing, head chef at Noma, or Daniel Burns, pastry chef who opened and closed Luksus in New York. «For us Copenhagen is a fantastic place», he confirms, «seasons and products are very similar to those of our country. So what we learn in Scandinavia we can then apply some day at home».
The liaison between Tam and Puglisi has been going on for almost a decade: «We met in November 2007 when Christian was sous chef at Noma. I was there for an internship and he was the first to greet me».
Redzepi’s school made them so close that in 2010 they made their solo leap together at Nørrebro, in the northwest suburbs of the city.
At the time, Jægersborggade was populated by pushers and lowlife. In the space of five years it became a highly desired food street with small and large high quality restaurants. This was thanks to Relæ, a tow-restaurant that soon received wide consensus also thanks to its separating itself from the Noma paradigm, with Italian raw materials («why was I to give up on olive oil?» was one of Puglisi’s historic statements) and an approach which, though the dish presentation was seemingly simple, hid the intention to penetrate ingredients deep. And to focus more and more on sustainability.
Seven years and a Michelin star later, the aim hasn’t changed a bit: «Now I’m head chef, I do not want to find a new way forRelæ but to continue building on what Christian created – to make this possible we both have to be on the same page all the time. Christian and I work even closer together than before. We are constantly evaluating Relæ to see how we can continue to evolve the cuisine but still hold on to the same philosophy as when we started back in 2010». Utter faith.
The novelty in terms of continuity is the Farm of Ideas, bought a few months back in Abbetved, a 40-minute drive from town: it supplies the restaurant with an increasing amount of vegetables and milk and dairy products from 8 Jersey cows. A domain to be extended in the future, both in size and influence on the menus of the Puglisi group. An influence it already has: «Our main inspiration at Relæ», confirms Tam, «comes from our farm. We had our first harvest of vegetables last spring. This has led us to a new direction. It is our close day-to-day relationships with farmers that predicts what goes on to the menu».
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.
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David Gelb, born in 1985, author, director and executive producer of "Chef's Table", the acclaimed series available on Netflix (photo by Mathieu Young for Netflix)
Christian Puglisi (34) and Jonathan Tam (30), patron-chef and head chef at restaurant Relæ in Copenhagen, Denmark, one Michelin star. They’ll hold a lesson on Sunday the 5th March in the Auditorium Hall at Identità Milano, at 2.15 pm