If you were to think of the world’s most ambitious kitchens, Alchemist must surely be among them. It’s the type of place where you might be served a cryo frozen cloud of apple-and-marigold aromas, the taste of which you can chase but never quite attain (it fades as soon as the spoon passes your lips). It’s somewhere where you’re ushered into a pitch black room before following a spotlight leading to a violinist who wouldn’t look out of place on an haute couture runway. Then, projected onto a planetarium-style domed roof are animated scenes of a throbbing circulatory system or a flock of caged poultry — the latter a comment on the treatment of animals.
Dinner as theatre isn’t a new concept, yet at Alchemist, chef Rasmus Munk’s Copenhagen restaurant, it’s taken to a new level. He aims to meld the arts, social commentary and global influenced cuisine into a coherent whole.
Munk, 30, grew up in Randers, Jutland, in a family that wasn’t food-focused, and in contrast to the restaurant he’d later establish, meals weren’t particularly creative. He, however, was. He did the arduous, physically taxing work, enrolling at culinary school, peeling piles of veg at a canteen and taking on unpaid apprenticeships across Denmark. Having worked his way up in various kitchens, garnering accolades in the process, Munk eventually landed a head chef role at fine dining restaurant Treetop, just south of his home city, in 2013.
Here, he found his sense of direction changed. The restaurant received awards, but, Munk says, it was “the classic recipe [for] making a good restaurant”: a set tasting menu of approachable flavors and foraged foods, served on locally made ceramics. “It was such a boring thing, to tap into a reality that wasn’t original — or mine,” he says. He quit after two years to calculate his next move.
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