The Nordic Food Lab and I /1

Interview with Sardinian Roberto Flore, the new head chef at the research outpost in Copenhagen

A few weeks ago, Roberto Flore, 31, became the hea

A few weeks ago, Roberto Flore, 31, became the head chef at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, the experimental outpost founded in 2009 by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer, dedicated to open-source research on the deliciousness of food

Since last June, the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen speaks with a strong and proud Italian accent. With a Sardinian inflection, to be precise, belonging to Roberto Flore, born in 1982 in Seneghe, a small village in the mountains of Montiferru, in the province of Oristano. This guy, already the chef at Antica Dimora del Gruccione in Santu Lissurgiu, was summoned to succeed in the important role of head chef to Scotsman Ben Reade, who in the past wrote for us various posts on his pioneering work. "Even though", Flore points out, "when compared to when Ben was here we have changed the way we operate".

Flore, or Robbè as they call him, will manage the work inside the famous boat moored in front of Renè Redzepi’sNoma. The latter founded the NFL in 2009 with his ex partner Claus Meyer. Totally dedicated to open-source research on the deliciousness of food, guys coming from different universities, from Pollenzo to Copenhagen, to Yale work at the Lab. We have contacted Flore, beaming for this job. He told us many interesting things that we will publish in an interview in two episodes.

What are the precise tasks inside the Nordic Food Lab?
Mainly, our team plans all the future steps of the lab. On a daily basis, we work with food, we test, coordinate the operations in the kitchen, maintain the relations with producers, visit their farms and constantly map the territory.

Renè Redzepi of the Nordic Food Lab, Noma’s true creative outpost (photo credits parlafood)

Renè Redzepi of the Nordic Food Lab, Noma’s true creative outpost (photo credits parlafood)

How many are you?
Four are permanent while 5 collaborators rotate as interns. These are guys coming from all over the world. They work with us on the on-going researches, or they present their own projects.

How was the official assignment?
It all happened in a very informal context, a short while before I left for my holidays in Sardinia, in June. I was already the temporary head chef. To be confirmed as long term head chef meant a lot to me. Back from the holidays, Redzepi welcomed me with a high five, his good luck wish.

How did your relation with the Lab begin?
I came into contact with them because of one of the most delicious Sardinian products, namely Casu Marzu, a cheese made with sheep, cow or goat milk that was banned from the tables. A fly called phiophila inoculates the worms and the cheese, which has a high content of bacteria, ferments breaking its crust. In October 2013, I spent an intense weekend with two guys from the Lab in Seneghe, my home town. We visited shepherds and breeders who live in Montiferru, tasted and created recipes with different varieties of Casu Marzu. It is then that the occasion arrived for me to do an internship of a few months in Copenhagen. For years, from afar, I had been following the successes of Noma with fascination. I thought something great was happening in that part of the world. As soon as I put foot on the boat I fell in love. A dream was coming true.

Once young chefs were attracted by France, and then Spain. Now everyone is looking for experience in the Great North. Why do you think it is so?
It’s hard to answer. There is, however, an undeniable fact: in these times, the North offers great opportunities not only from a gastronomic point of view. You notice it as soon as you land in Copenhagen: as soon as you arrive at the airport, you find a huge poster saying ‘welcome to the happiest country in the world’. The Nordic Food Lab is a young, lively and pulsating place. It stimulates creativity and team spirit. You’re welcomed wonderfully and think: great!

Roberto Flore, Sardinian from Montiferru

Roberto Flore, Sardinian from Montiferru

Then the work begins.
Yes, you meet chefs coming from all over the place. You start to implement and share your knowledge. To personally meet local producers and their excellent products. You understand how much importance and awareness was generated by the concept of the New Nordic Cuisine, especially in towns, but also in the countryside.

For example?
Outside Copenhagen, there are more and more farms run by young people. They cultivate themselves, following the principles of biodynamic agriculture. They give space to the production of local ingredients and raw materials that are often now hard to find, perhaps considered as having little commercial value until a few years ago. Meanwhile, in town, there’s an increasing number of consumers interested in a lifestyle that includes a closer contact with nature, looking for high quality products.

1. to be continued

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Gabriele Zanatta

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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