And here she is, at Lola, in Copenhagen. Having weathered a pandemic and three false starts, she's finally understood that her passion for the industry, and its ability to do good, is relentless and permanent.
Lola is Seidler’s debut restaurant as an owner, which she opened in 2019 in the heart of Christianshavn. "A worldly kitchen," as Seidler describes it, which has risen from the depths of the pandemic with an even clearer idea of what it is; operated by a flat-structured team with a globally influenced menu and a passion for hospitality, hung on a framework of social gastronomy.
Seidler's kitchen doesn’t have space for egos. Instead, the menu is a collaborative and creative melting pot, giving each of the chefs a voice. “Part of the philosophy when we started Lola was to make sure that we emphasised that it was a team effort and that everyone brings something to the table, everyone has some kind of grandma recipe, some kind of tradition and a kind of cultural aspect, and we wanted all that on the plate. It's a bit of a mix of cultures, and everything is based on organic Danish products."
David, an Indian chef, makes a “damn tasty” mussel moilee dish of blue mussels, coconut and curry. Renata, her sous chef from Gustu in La Paz, combines Thai flavours that sing with a Latin spin. Meanwhile, Kristina, her third chef, from Denmark, has a strong passion for Asian desserts and has created a fine black sticky rice coconut dessert.
Another of the most poignant reasons for creating Lola, and a philosophy shared bySeidler’s like-minded partners, was “a common idea of not giving back, but taking responsibility as a company”.
In addition to Lola, there are two seasonal food trucks, with Indian and Mexican-inspired food. They are mainly run by energetic young people who are trained with a skill set to make them more employable. "I think everybody in the world should start with a job in the service industry," says Seidler.
The experience also makes her restaurant team more patient and rounded. “It always makes you better, teaching someone else. I learnt that you're never going to learn everything and that’s also one of the fascinating things about cooking, is that you never stop learning."
Following five years as head chef at social enterprise restaurant Gustu, in La Paz, Seidler leaves her legacy behind her, empowering women in an industry and in a country where they were once overlooked. “I don’t think it really hit me until Bolivia, and some of the guest’s feedback on me being female," she remembers. "They’d ask to speak to the chef, and then I’d come out, and they’d be like, 'oh, you’re a woman', not even trying to be discreet about it.”
Winning Latin America's Best Female Chef in 2016 helped her to further improve the visibility of women in the industry. Many of the women - who had such low self-esteem when they began that they wouldn't make eye contact - have since gone on to become successful business owners, opening their own wedding cake companies, pastry shops, coffee shops and businesses. Particularly inspiring is the fact that a single mother from a somewhat difficult background is now judge on MasterChef Bolivia.
“It really shows that you can change the world through food, as Claus Meyer said. It's a great example of, you don’t have that much, we give you a little inspiration, now go and get it. And they went and got it.”
It’s this ability of food to connect cultures and overcome barriers that's one of the many great advantages and opportunities of being a chef, according to Seidler. “I’ve cooked in the most unconventional places in the world, and I’ve only been met with open arms and interest, and this colleague-to-colleague kind of vibe. Maybe there’s trouble in the world around us, but at least we’re connecting over food, and I think that’s really fascinating. I think the best description is that cooking is a language on its own.”
Seidler remains a strong supporter and defender of the industry, and aims to convince people that cooking is a valid career option. “I think that one of our biggest tasks right now is to tell the good stories of this industry, because it has so much to offer. What's more, there’s space for a lot of different people. It’s not just something you do to pay your rent, it can become a career, and that can drive you. You can have so many great experiences and that definitely needs to be in the picture."
Back home, she also remains a strong advocate for gender parity and teamwork, and is very pragmatic in her approach. "This battle to behave nicely, it’s not even a man-woman thing, it’s just being a good human being when you go to work - stop being an asshole." As a judge in the Nordic competition of S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy, she was keen to see young chefs demonstrating their capacity to be good colleagues, with the extra energy to smile at the chef in the next kitchen and go that extra mile.
For now, Seidler has become the sum of her parts. Thinking globally and acting locally, being a leader and a team player. But also being ready to teach as much as learn, and give back to the industry as much as it offers, ultimately encouraging a new generation to discover the gifts of cooking as a career.
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