Monthly Archives: June 2013

Expectations, Expectations…

We have officially been open for reservations for just over a week. There is one question that I have been asked more than any other and that is “what does it feel like to have pressure on you to deliver?”  I can honestly say that the pressure has always been there from the beginning, but when you see the first reservations start to come in and they are from Brazil, Mexico, Australia, The States, etc. it changes something inside of you. The thoughts of all the critics and bloggers coming to visit you quickly disappears and is replaced by this feeling of being humbled by people traveling to Copenhagen to eat. Of course we are one of many restaurants that people are traveling to this city to experience. But with this comes certain responsibilities. The first is making these guests feel like they are entering our home. Making them feel comfortable and happy. The next is a responsibility to our colleagues. Everyone is working so hard to make this city a place that people want to travel to eat. It takes everyone working together to accomplish that. That is why I love this city. All the Chefs and restaurateurs realize that it is a special time. Everyone is really putting his or her selves out there. You feel like you are part of something bigger.

Enough with the romanticism. We are officially 4 weeks from opening. The dining room is very close to being move-in ready. The kitchen is getting a new floor this week, followed by the installation of all the large equipment. The garden is bursting to the point that we actually had to pull some of the vegetables and eat them. They were ready now. We have planted new stuff that will be ready for the opening. I spoke with Søren Wiuff last week and told him about our premature harvest. He just laughed and called us amateurs. He will be paying us a visit later on this summer. He says that autumn is his favorite time of the year, not spring. So that should ensure us of the latter part of the year being quite fruitful.

This year is really going to be an experiment in not only the garden, but in all aspects of the restaurant. Through all of our experiences we have a good idea of how to run a restaurant, but all of those experiences are drawn from running restaurants in different settings, with different logistics, and with different guests. I don’t think you can ever be 100% ready and set when you open a new restaurant. You have to have the mindset that you will be making changes and you have to embrace those opportunities when they come.

I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Peter, Rene, and Lau form Noma this week and pick their brains. I am truly lucky to have this wealth of knowledge to draw on. We went through every aspect of the restaurant and they did not hold back in their opinions and thoughts. It is amazing how different people can interpret the same scenario in completely different ways. I guess what I am trying to say is that you should never assume that anyone will act in a certain way when presented with a choice. I am making a reference with regards to how the guests will enter the restaurant. You will see when you come and eat.

To that end, I thought that this blog, which is actually the uncensored mental vomit of thoughts going through my head while trying to open my own place, would stop when we finally opened the restaurant. But the more I thought about it, there’s more than one definition of being “open.” And as far as we’re concerned, that is what we are all about – and what we will continue to be because that is how we got here in the first place.

On Piss Patrol…

 

There ain't no party like a Distortion party. (Photo Credit: Amass)

There ain’t no party like a Distortion party. (Photo Credit: Amass)

So we survived the weekend with Distortion at our backdoor.

Sometimes you gotta make do with what you have..thus, the ghetto barrier. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Sometimes you gotta make do with what you have..thus, the ghetto barrier. (Photo Credit: Amass)

The actual festival was about a half-kilometer from the restaurant. At first we thought that we would be just guiding people past the garden to the festival. The reality was that the situation was going to be much more intense.

 

 

 

And the masses start piling in... (Photo Credit: Amass)

And the masses start piling in… (Photo Credit: Amass)

It started off pretty chill with groups of about 50 coming in with the harbor taxi. Then unbeknownst to the organizers of Distortion, some individuals took it upon themselves to pull a flatbed truck with a massive sound system right next to the restaurant and start their own party…to the tune of seven-to-eight thousand people partying 50 meters from our garden.  But this is not to suggest I was Mr. Grumpy – I’ve been to plenty of music festivals in my lifetime and if it weren’t for the fact it was MY restaurant I was guarding, I would have been right there with them. I can tell you now that I will not be venturing out into the field that surrounds the garden until there is a proper down pour to wash it all away. At one point we started warning people that were venturing out into the field to relieve themselves that they might want to think twice about it due to the high amount of urine that they would be wading through. It didn’t seem to bother most of them. But it took about 12 volunteers from various walks of life helping to defend the beds from saturation.

Don't let the baby face fool you. Casper was our muscle in defending Fort Amass. (Photo Credit: Amass)

Don’t let the baby face fool you. Casper was our muscle in defending Fort Amass. (Photo Credit: Amass)

 

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to do battle and to those who literally put themselves in the line of fire. And most importantly, our little seedlings thank you. Their lives depended on your help.

 

 

Day two was a bit more calm. There were half the amount of people on the island – so we were dealing with 20,000 not 45,000 people. But in defense of the masses that showed up literally in our backyard, I have to say all in all people were very considerate. As soon as any of us spoke up about their choice of spots to potentially pee, they immediately said that they were very sorry and moved off into the field. At about 11 PM, we decided that it was calm enough to abandon the post. I had a wristband that had been burning a hole in my pocket all day. Julie and Jacquie went home. I was a bit worried about 4:00 when the party started to fizzle out and what might happen when people started to leave. I had a few hours to kill so I went to the party to listen to some tunes and headed back to the garden around 4:00. I sat in the garden for 45 minutes and watched the zombies stumble by. No one had it in them at that point to do anything that required extra energy so I headed home.

What makes it worth it

And this is what makes it worth it all. (Photo Credit: Amass)

All in all it wasn’t as bad as it might sound. It was quite entertaining to watch so many people having fun. It is not often that you get to be a part of such a large gathering of people. The energy was great. We decide next year that it will be impossible to open the restaurant on these dates. Instead of fighting the party like we did this year we are going to embrace it. We will close the restaurant and set up a proper barrier around the garden and at the mouth of that barrier put up a BBQ area and sell really good sandwiches and beers. So look out for the Amass at Distortion next year. But mind you…we’ll still be on piss patrol.

Bring Out the Barricades!!!

The stuff dreams are made of - minus the TV. (Photo credit: Amass)

The stuff dreams are made of – minus the TV. (Photo credit: Amass)

It's all about perspective...(Photo Credit: Amass)

It’s all about perspective…(Photo Credit: Amass)

I know I constantly talk about how things seem as if they are not moving fast enough. Of course I want everything to be finished now and if you are there everyday checking up on things it obviously seems like the changes are not as drastic as they really are. I decided to take a step back and look at the pictures I took 10 days ago and then look at the pictures I took today. After that little exercise, I feel a lot better about how everything is progressing.

Keep your grubby little paws of the paint! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Keep your grubby little paws of the wall! (Photo Credit: Amass)

The stripping is finished and the raw walls have been sealed with limewater. The painting has begun and you can really start to get a feel for the room. That is not to say that there haven’t been some challenges along the way. Rooms being painted the wrong color, delays on certain pieces of machinery, and music festivals that close the roads down to make it inaccessible to the builders.

Must...protect...garden... (Photo Credit: Amass)

Must…protect…garden… (Photo Credit: Amass)

This weekend there will be a music festival out on the island that will bring thousands of people to the area. I, along with a few other soldiers, will be camping out in the garden to protect it against feisty festival guests. When you write it, it actually sounds like it will be a good time (And Josh, we are just warming the spot up for you to camp in during MAD).

It's alive, Dr. Frankenstein...IT'S ALIVE!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

It’s alive, Dr. Frankenstein…IT’S ALIVE!!! (Photo Credit: Amass)

Speaking of the garden, it is really starting to come to life. We have 60-plus planters and we have set it up so we can double its size over the next year. I think that this year will really be one of trial and error. We need to figure out what will grow the best in this wind-swept landscape. The temperature fluctuates pretty drastically from day to night. We are really exposed to the elements out here, but I guess that what comes with such an amazing view.

 

I have really started to take dialogue with the purveyors lately. The last few months have been so intense relating to everything but cooking. My escape from the madness has been to shut off my phone, sit with a pad and pencil, and explore the kind of food that we will be cooking at Amass. I decided early on that the focus of the kitchen should be to cook as spontaneously as possible, but still being very calculated in our decisions. In order to do this, it will take a lot of work and a solid line of communication between our purveyors, farmers and the dining room. I have been whispering in the ears of the purveyors that I want them to tell me what to cook based on the products coming in that contain the most flavor and are at the height of their season. I cannot tell you how happy I was when Jesper stopped me on the street yesterday and said “I am working on some amazing King Mackerel for you for the opening. It will be at the height of the season and I have already put the word out to the fisherman.” I walked away from that conversation with the biggest grin on my face. I feel as if it is a complete cycle and that we are working together as opposed to them working for me. I am sure some scum-bag will take advantage of the situation someday, but he will know exactly what he did and will have to live with it.

You know who you are!!!!!!!!

I have loads of ideas written on paper and in my phone, but it is just recently that I actually started sketching them out. I don’t have a kitchen to test them yet so this is the closest I can get. I did a few test dinners last month. A dish and a few good ideas came out of them. There are so many old techniques that you don’t want to let go of, yet there are new flavor profiles that you are always searching for. Why not apply some of those older techniques in a completely different context and with different flavors? It is always a struggle with chefs, because you are always searching for the newest thing but you don’t want to neglect the past for fear of losing its tradition. I’m rambling a bit here, but the point is that I think it’s a hard spot for any chef to be in – how do you do something new and old at the same time? In the meanwhile, I think we’ll try our best to be cooking new and exciting cuisine always with a little reminder that we will never forget where we came from.