Have you ever tried to use wild ingredients in your recipes? Do you know the secret of bringing deliciousness (I love the word!) to your dish with unusual wild ingredients? Have you ever heard of Nordic Food Lab and do you know what they do?
Well, on Monday night, the “Tout Montreal” gathered to hear Michael Bom Frøst, director of the Nordic Food Lab answers those questions: Mousseau, a famous Montreal chef, many students from ITHQ, Quebec cooking school, a start-up food producer who makes pasta with insects (adventurous, no!?), my son, a local chef and jazz entrepreneur, myself and many more… In a dark Montreal downtown concert hall, on this cold night of February, we were all there to hear Dr. Frøst, PhD, who had come from Copenhagen especially for the conference.
OK… we might not all be ready to add roasted bee larvae to your morning granola (Dr Frøst says they develop Maillard reactions and are delicious – I take his words for it!) or ready to freeze some wood ants, to destroy the parasite they may carry, and then to add them in a colorful appetizer or soup, but there is a lot to learn from the food experiments his team, his students, his interns and himself have conducted over the past 10 years.
First of all, the Nordic Food Lab has a great premise for its work: it’s all about deliciousness of food.
As he said: “sustainability is not possible unless we create nice flavors (deliciousness) from the wild ingredients we use.” The Nordic Food Lab thrives to use raw ingredients of the Nordic regions, in a subtle but important balance of novelty and familiarity, and as a way for all of us to connect (or reconnect) with nature.
So, with lots of trials and errors, they created – among many things – a faux foie-gras made of fermented grains and vegetables, a chanterelle lager (Jacobsen, a Carlsberg’s company), or are proposing us a dessert of “water mint ice cream with wild flowers, spruce shoots, and wood ants” (our photo). Boy, those wood ants again!
And if their excursions to the forest or their painfully-long and tenuous lab work is important, Dr Frøst also talked about the innovative educational work they do in partnership with schools: the creation of games to teach kids how to recognize various scents, for instance.
But how did it all start? And why is the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen?
You may have guessed by now. If you have ever heard about Nordic cuisine, you know about Rene Redzepi and his 2-Michelin-star restaurant NOMA, in Copenhagen. (And if you heard that the restaurant was closed, you may be glad to hear that it JUST reopened – you need to make reservations about 3 months ahead).
Rene Redzepi is obviously famous for having introduced a “new Nordic cuisine”, innovative and using local ingredients, to the world. But he is also the founder of Nordic Food Lab!
And because of his initiative, and the hard work made at the Nordic Food Lab, we are closer today to bring deliciousness to the raw ingredients we can forage in our fields and forests!
For more information about:
- The Nordic Food Lab’s experiments, visit its website at: Nordic Food Lab. It is not the most user-friendly website, but you can read about 200 blog posts with photos on their successful tests!
- Rene Redzepi and his food, watch the long-feature documentary called NOMA: My Perfect Storm, or a number of his interviews on YouTube, or read his book simply called NOMA.