I don’t think I could have picked a better progression of stages, if I do say so myself.
In de Wulf, now that I look back at it, had a very refined way of doing inherently rustic food, with an obvious connection with the land and area around it. AOC concerned itself a little more with the theatrics, aesthetics, and ideas that go along with pure flavor along with a fierce attention to detail and technique.
Geranium is both.
And after my first day in the kitchen, I could see why. It was early this month as I trudged, bleary-eyed up to the 8th floor of the football (and by football, I mean soccer) stadium for my first day of my stage (yes, the restaurant is in the stadium.) By the end of the day, I not only witnessed a whole host of farmers and fishmongers dropping off their products for Chef Kofoed and his staff to turn into delicious, yet imaginative food, but also saw the complete intensity of training that Chef was doing for the Bocuse D’or. It was literally like watching an athlete train for the Olympics. Everything was measured and composed, looking for a way not to waste any movement or spare second.
But in the main kitchen that serves the dining room, it was amazing to see the two styles of food blending together: the modern hominess and wholesomeness of the chefs that are very much connected to their surroundings but are in touch with the world of modern cooking, yet the strict, straight, rigid lines, circles, and corners that is very much attributed to competition-style food. The food at Geranium is a seamless blend of both. It’s vibrant and exciting, but not so far off in flavors that it would alienate most people. Above all what I’m most excited about is that even after working with these dishes going on now for three weeks, I still don’t find them dull. It’s fun to see food that really makes sense — and in an exciting way.
I wish I could photograph all of this for you guys to see, but I just don’t think it’s that type of kitchen. Heck, we’re even to wear toques during service. I haven’t worn a toque since culinary school. When we go to plate at the pass during service, it’s definitely one of those “go-go-go!” kitchens, there wouldn’t be a second to snap a shot.
This is Chef Kofoed’s Bocuse video though, where you can really see the illustration between the competition and “natural” food. Most of the food in here is from the restaurant, and served at the restaurant, like the monkfish dish with the broken green sauce, but all the footage of them cooking is of Chef and his commis, Frede, practicing for the Bocuse. Yes, everything is timed. Yes, everything is portioned to the exact gram. Yes, it does carry over into our everyday lives at Geranium.
I wish I could say the intensity was only because of the music, but yeah, Chef’s pretty serious about this Bocuse thing.
When I first came to Europe, I was very curious as to see how the food blended simplicity and the whole “natural” food movement and still made it exciting, interesting, and delicious. At Geranium, there isn’t very many things that make it on to the plate, but every little thing, from the size of a garnish, to the sauces, to the proteins, have a lot of steps, and processes, and layers upon layers of flavors that go into it. From what I’ve seen, that’s been a mainstay among these really serious kitchens. Yes, there is simplicity, but it’s the way you achieve the simplicity that matters. As an example: to use the roots and stems that are normally discarded from when you pick herbs is a great idea and a great ideal, but the way you clean it, the way you hold it, and the fact that you don’t cover up that root and stem flavor when you compose the plate? That matters. You don’t just stop at foraging, which has become the big whipping boy (or whooping call, depending on who you ask) of this style of cooking nowadays, but you make a dish that accents the greens that you forage and don’t just let it stand alone as a garnish. To do otherwise would be a waste of the diners’ time, but most of all, your time.
But it’s pretty hard to really describe the kitchen as a whole. Oddly enough, they do play music during the day, which is pretty fun to hear “like a G6” going on in the background while watching the cooks stencil out batter in the shape of a branch for one of the amuses and measuring straight lines with rulers. But they’re a very friendly, rambunctious bunch. Though they do get pretty serious during service. Most of all, I feel as if I’m having a great time while learning a lot. It really hits to the core of why I originally wanted to stage in the first place.
I really wish I’d come a different month though. The three sous chefs, Jesper, Lars, and Nanna do more than an adequate job of teaching, tasking, and encouraging, but it would have been really interesting to have been there while Chef was in the kitchen. Maybe one day I’ll come back.
Hopefully during summer when it’s a little less cold.