Hand-to-mouth recipes for Michelin success

Sat Dec 26, 2009 7:29pm EST
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By Emma Graham-Harrison

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Michelin-starred Danish cook Rene Redzepi puts his life on the line in search of the local flavors that have catapulted his "Nordic cuisine" into the international spotlight.

Nothing that is not native to Scandinavia, and seasonal, can be spotted on his menus. And some of the more exotic ingredients have been discovered in the forests and along the shorelines of his home, by an unusual but time-honored method.

"We just eat things. If you work a lot with products you can see what looks succulent, if you just put it in your mouth and you bite a little bit, usually nothing happens," he said, before admitting that maybe it is a technique best not used at home.

"I have tried many times choking," he added, launching into a wheezy imitation of someone struggling for breath after sampling a poisonous berry.

"But if you don't swallow, you just put it in your mouth and let your tongue taste it, nothing really bad can happen. You can have an unpleasant 10 minutes, but that is it," he says.

Redzepi has scooped up international plaudits by being as rigorous about his cooking as he is cavalier about his health.

When he started Noma restaurant -- the name comes from the Danish words for Nordic and food -- six years ago, it was derided by locals, who thought it would be a flash-in-the-pan and joked about cooking gourmet whale blubber and seals.

Instead, he has soared through the rankings of Restaurant magazine's list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants to secure third place behind contemporary legends El Bulli and The Fat Duck -- and Redzepi himself was this year voted "Chef's chef" by those who run the other 49 top eateries.   Continued...

<p>Chef Rene Redzepi (L) poses in the kitchen of his Noma restaurant in Copenhagen December 12, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Charisius</p>