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Into the wild of a Baltic island: Cooking at Kadeau

Into the wild of a Baltic island: Cooking at Kadeau

What's cooking and working at the Research and Development Kitchen of 'Kadeau' restaurant, on the island of Bornholm, Denmark?

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At One-Michelin-Star Kadeau restaurant on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, less than 100 km off the southeast coast of Sweden, almost everything is local – except the chief of research and development Kyumin Hahn.

Chef Hahn was born in Canada and grew up in California before moving back to Canada and starting his culinary career. He combined his culinary training and love of the outdoors when he moved to St. John’s, NL to help open Raymonds, which was voted #1 restaurant in Canada by enRoute Magazine in 2007. There, with restaurant co-owner and one of his best friends, Jeremy Charles, he spent four years hunting and fishing for salmon and brown trout. “We only hunted for what we ate – ducks, ptarmigan, snipe, turr, rabbits and moose,” he says.

His move to Kadeau came after visiting Scandinavia, loving it and deciding to hunt – figuratively this time – for work there. He first worked at Two-Michelin-Star Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden and then came to Kadeau. What attracted him to Kadeau was the ability to grow his own vegetables and forage. “I love being outdoors and at Kadeau we have the perfect mix of cooking and working outside.”

Nature's Inspiration

He couldn’t have come to a better place; the restaurant on Bornholm defines itself as a restaurant based on the wild and cultivated nature of the island. Opened in 2007 by a trio of island-born friends, it now has a second location in Copenhagen, which also holds a Michelin Star.

A big part of the restaurant’s success comes from the experimentation with local ingredients that originates in Hahn’s Research and Development Kitchen. “We don't have a specific test kitchen, so the cooking and creating of new dishes always involves the whole team,” says Hahn. That means that chefs are encouraged to explore their interests, including baking bread, making beer, miso, garum (fish sauce) and vinegars.

“One of our chefs is also working on a small soap project using rendered fats from the kitchen and wood ash from our fireplace,” he says. “We get very excited when new things come into season, especially when spring is coming into bloom. The young shoots and seeds like elm seeds, spruce shoots, nobilis pine cones, young angelica root, flowering current buds and wood have a short period when they’re so perfect and tasty – it’s the only time we use them fresh.”

The Art of Preserves

These seasonal side projects show up regularly on the restaurant’s eight- to 15-course tasting menus, which feature dishes like fire-baked kohlrabi with peas, woodruff and blue cheese; fried Baltic prawns with cep mushrooms, figs and flowers; lamb, black garlic, plum and bone marrow; and pumpkin, rosehip, white asparagus and wood ants (they catch the ants on Bornholm with a stick and then freeze them and either powder them or serve them whole). For dessert, they’ve recently been serving variations on fermented raspberries with crème fraiche and walnut schnapps.

The master of preserves and pickles at Kadeau is Nicolai Norregaard, one of the founders. He makes garlic mustard tea, ferments lilac honey from the restaurant’s own hives and pours fresh honey over elderflowers, black currant leaves, sweet cicely, meadowsweet, berries and other seasonal fruits.

“Nicolai has been working on recipes and techniques for over 10 years,” says Hahn. “Sometimes we figure out better ways to preserve our favourite flavours, but it’s also exciting when we can finally say that the same technique we’ve been doing for 10 years is still the best.”

The innovative use of Nordic ingredients

Despite inspiration for new dishes coming from other cultures, says Hahn, what makes a meal so memorable at the restaurant is the innovative use of Nordic ingredients. In addition to a wine pairing option, it offers a juice pairing from a local company on the isolated Baltic island. Guests can also occasionally try newly released seasonal beers and ciders that Hahn and a colleague make. “The apples for the cider were picked in Bornholm. We picked fresh juniper for the beer and also hay from our neighbour’s fields in Bornholm,” he says. That hay gets infused into the cream for the layered tart with rose and rhubarb – a sweet end to a sumptuous meal.

With a new season ever on the horizon, Hahn is constantly working on new dishes and new ideas. But thanks to the four-day work week at Kadeau, there’s enough downtime for creativity and to enjoy the natural beauty of Bornholm. “Stress levels are lower and you just find more space to be creative,” he says.

And while guests can eat the fruits of Hahn and his colleagues’ labour in the urban setting of Copenhagen, the pilgrimage to Bornholm offers a unique escape. Seeing where the honey comes from, visiting the gardens and feeling the salty island air becomes part of the experience. “I think anywhere you are, whether urban or countryside, you can dig deeper and get stronger connections to your environment,” says Hahn.

On Bornholm, perhaps the shoveling is just a little easier.

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