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Experts: Better education, not star chef-academy and gastro task force, will improve food quality nationwide


Article The Danish government plans to send a gastronomical task force to the provinces, establish a gastro academy with internationally reknowned chefs, and strengthen “the gastronomical story” of Denmark. However, a broader effort to advance Danish gastronomy is needed, if everyone should benefit, say several Taste for Life experts.

Tourists visiting the Danish provinces should not settle for fries with remoulade but rather go on oyster safari, beer tasting and foraging in nature, aided by a gastronomical task force. Chefs should supplement their education and qualifications with a so-called gastro-academy in the international major league, and the promotion of Denmark as a culinary stronghold should be tremendously improved.

These are some of the main points in the Danish government’s new 56 million DKK “Gastro 2025” plan.

One of the goals is to make Denmark, and not only Copenhagen, “the place where tourists and star chefs wants to go”. 

Mouritsen: Stardust not likely to strengthen chef education
The most expensive post in the budget – 25.2 million DKK over three years – is the gastro academy with star chef René Redzepi as one of the prime forces. The academy is meant to offer talent development and education to chefs, communication, lectures and much more. In addition to 

gastronomy and the chef profession, the academy will also deal with e.g. business development and management, sustainability, economy, and activities directed to the public. 

However, professor Ole G. Mouritsen, head of Taste for Life and President of the Danish Gastronomical Academy, doubts that the academy will be able to benefit Danish chefs in general: 

“There is a need to strengthen the chef education in Denmark. Yet, it does not seem evident that the proposed gastro academy with stardust from Copenhagen and foreign countries will be able to solve the problem - then it would have happened a long time ago. Instead, we need a different, long lasting, and nationwide movement, which begins in the public schools and vocational educations”, Mouritsen explains. 

Chef and restaurateur Klavs Styrbæk has a similar concern. He has contributed to the report to the government that lay ground for the initiatives:

“We should not hide our country behind a small group of world-famous restaurants. Everyone agrees that the academy should be a boost to the entire industry, so that our one-day gastro tourism can develop into larger tours for people to know the many qualities and local experiences in Denmark. My concern is, whether the initiatives can be created in a way that they work nationwide and as a true resource for development, knowledge and learning for everybody – including foreign star chefs”, says Klavs Styrbæk.

Chef’s teacher: Young Danish chefs are world-class – but only when internships are good Simon Sørensen, chef’s teacher at TechCollege, Aalborg, and coach for the school’s competition class, believes the plan for making Denmark a global hub for gastronomy is fantastic. But he also points to the fact that reaching this goal calls for a broader effort: 

“I hope that the pivotal part will be remembered: Chefs’ education. An education that, when it works at its best, is famous worldwide for providing some of the best new chefs in the world. I have experienced it on Michelin-restaurants in Spain, Italy and Sweden, where kitchen managers praise the Danish chef trainees. But it is also an education with a big challenge which occur, when students end up in an internship that should not have been approved for students – and for that reason the students do not get the opportunity to train their basic cooking skills”, says Simon Sørensen. 

“The way our vocational educations have been set up with an interplay between school and internships is sublime when both the school and the internship meet their educational responsibilities. If not, we produce too many chef students, who have not had the possibility of proper training during their internships”, he says. 

Taske force to improve food in the provinces 
In the Gastro 2025 plan, resources have also been allocated to promote Denmark as a country where tourists can get great food experiences. “Culinary diplomacy” is needed to improve “the gastronomic story” of Denmark. 

Besides, a gastronomic task force is supposed to help the provinces improve the quality of the food that tourists encounter. The Minister of Food, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen (V), calls for a battle against “fries with remoulade” on the bistros at the Danish harbours, and says that the task force should give local restaurants “inspiration to healthier dishes with local ingredients, so that you can taste Denmark’s nature on your plate”. 

Anthropologist Susanne Højlund, expert in taste and communities, and restaurant owner in Aarhus, congratulates the funding, but remains critical towards the staging of the task force and the provinces as a gastronomical nowhere: 

“Remember that the fresh ingredients come from the so-called provinces – together with all the interesting products developed by the many culinary entrepreneurs, whom you can also find out there in the provinces creating the foundation for ‘good food’. When the task force is set out to “help the provinces” then don’t forget to bring some of these on the trip”, she says.

Fine chefs also want to work with foreribs, fish, lamb and pork in their full
Chef teacher Simon Sørensen adds: 

“I doubt that a gastronomic task force can correct the issues concerning lack of training in the chefs’ education, but let’s give it a chance. I encourage them to discuss whether we can produce better chefs by rethinking our education”, he says. 

“It might be a win-win situation. Most Copenhagen-based “fine” chefs I meet in Northern Jutland are very pleased to come to the provinces and experience foreribs, lambs or pigs in their entirety – and actually carve them themselves,” Sørensen says. 

“At the same time, they can save our remoulade and fries,” he adds with a smile. 

The provinces’ conditions differ from those of Copenhagen 
Klavs Styrbæk who runs an innovation-kitchen and restaurant in the northern part of Odense is positive about the governmental funding. He also notes that restaurants in the capital work under other conditions than restaurants in the rest of the country. 

“What is really nice about the seven initiatives from the government, is the acknowledgement that gastronomy can do much more than make people full. And the gastronomic task force and the culinary development funding is probably the closest we can come to an improvement in the provinces. But the slightly contemptuous approach to the provinces hurts – as if all you find here are fries and remoulade – knowing that there are plenty of restaurants in Copenhagen that would never survive in the provinces, because of the lack of daily tourists. Like in the rest of the country , lots of restaurants in Copenhagen compete more on price than quality, and there is rarely far between the restaurants in our capital, where you look through the windows thinking “poor you”,” he says. 

Mentioned in the article

Head of center, professor, DSc, University of Copenhagen

Dr Ole G. Mouritsen is the head of centre in Taste for Life and head of the Gastrophysics focus area. He is a professor in Gastrophysics and Food Innovation at the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen.

He is an expert in bio- and gastrophysics with a special focus on mediation of the natural sciences to the general population through knowledge about food and taste.

Head chef

Klavs Styrbæk is the head chef and manager of STYRBÆKS, running a restaurant, cooking classes, meeting facilities and food innovation.

With his wife Pia, he has developed learning materials on several topics, i.e. food culture, sustainability and food waste.

Teacher, chef

Teacher, chef, Tech College, Aalborg.

Simon N. Sørensen is a chef's teacher at Tech College and part of the management of Taste for Life. He is the coordinator of Taste for Life's engagement with Danish vocational schools.