Recently, Redscout sat down with Claus Meyer, world-renowned culinary entrepreneur and founding father of the New Nordic Cuisine Movement. In part two of our series, we interview Claus to get his unique perspective on the New York culinary scene, based on his newest ventures. We even gathered a few of his favorite local restaurants.
Check out Part 1 here
Redscout: In the 90s and early 2000s we saw a lot of fusion restaurants opening. Now it seems like there are more restaurants celebrating a single culture or origin. Do you attribute any reason for that shift?
Claus: I think Nordic cuisine was part of it, because we proved that even if you are a food desert and have no tradition to lean on, you can - out of nowhere - build a very strong, coherent story that makes you become unique in the world. There is also this whole idea of lost identities. Instead of being absorbed by the global washing machine, in an increasingly global world, you want to hang on to who you are and where you come from, and what the traditions of that place are. You don't want to lose that forever.
Redscout: We see that people today tend to crave “authentic” culinary experiences – what does authenticity in food culture mean to you?
Claus: It's difficult to explain it in a meaningful way out of context. If you are a carrot farmer in Uttenheim, what does authenticity mean? It’s the opposite of calculated or over-staged. It’s something that has some element of genuineness. It's as close to transparency and honesty as possible. In the culinary world, it’s about being true to what you are and who you are, and not getting to a place where you can't really say that anymore because you are overstating your legacy or where you come from.
Authentic can also be about being unique. To have an authentic voice means that you have invented something - a very genuine tone of voice, or storyline, or idea. And then you are true to that down the road.
Redscout: Many chefs have lamented the impact smartphones and social media platforms have had on restaurant culture, with every aspect of a meal now being snapped, reviewed and shared. How do you think authenticity plays into this?
Claus: I can only see it as positive. As a craftsperson, I have to be open to public critique. How can you be against the concept of people taking an interest in what you do and spreading the word to many people? The current way may not be perfect, but you cannot have anything against hundreds of thousands of foodies talking about what's going on.
Redscout: Are there any other new attitudes or behaviors of the modern foodie that interest you?
Claus: Street food and informal food. The reason that we are building all these food halls is because you can actually make an affordable meal that’s pretty tasty - very tasty if you cut away all the classical luxury of it. You don't have to be working in a Michelin Star restaurant to come out with a great dish. So the fact that so many different people have now accessed the food scene is democratizing access to people's palates, and expanding this business.
Redscout: What would be your advice to an entrepreneur launching a new food enterprise that represents a culture not particularly well known in the U.S.?
Claus: Start small, and keep volume low. You don't need a big footprint to get a story out. Have the money to back it up, especially in New York City, where everything takes more time and is more expensive than you expect.
Redscout: What’s your favorite restaurant in New York?
Claus: I rarely go to the same one twice, and I don’t play favorites, because It changes all the time. Lately, Ippudo Ramen, and Win Son in Brooklyn. I've had a few very wonderful meals there. But, if you had asked me half a year ago it was Wildair, and it may be again at some point. It’s complicated because you only have so many evenings where you can go out and eat, right?