I’m 34 years old
Living In Aarhus, DK
Living with my girlfriend Iben – no kids yet.
Creative head chef at Restaurant Substans (one *)
Captain and Coach for the Culinary team of Denmark
Follow me at @nicolas_substans or @restaurantsubstans
Can you tell me about your day at work?
When is season, I start my day by going to the forest or beach to see what`s happened since last week. Our surroundings is a key stone in our kitchen, and it is essential for me to feel that we show our guests what defines us as Danes…
We start at 12.00 am with staff meeting and coffee.. always start with good organic coffee. Then we prep the mise en place until 16.00 and then we eat a well prepped family meal (often with some wine) to relax and talk together before service. I feel it is deeply important, and very much in our spirit at Substans, to be connected as a team and friends. We´re only 6 employees, all included, so we kind of need to get along…. And we do!! Because we all help each other, chefs present the food and waiters help garnish the food…. That´s what a team is all about. Service is from 18.00 until midnight and then we often go for a drink before we go home.. we´re open 4 days a week so I can spend a day with the boys, seeking new ingredients and produce as well… I love that part.
What was the first dish that you’ve done as a chef?
My first time as a chef I experienced a lot with making food looking as other things. I created a hot gel from smoked bone marrow béchamel in the shape of a bone. Then I filled it with braised veal shank and hot reduces red wine sauce, crispy and creamy gremolata and confit au lemon… the dish was called a “modern osso bucco”. Nowadays I am less keen on the “it has to look like something else” food… now I like the pureness of the ingredient and clean flavors.
Who is the model for you to follow?
A lot of chefs are good and show others, as myself every day, how to be unique and progressing. For me “being unique” is not about doing things others have not done yet, but to be able to show your guest exactly who you are with as few props as possible… Nicolai Nørregaard from Kadeau and Christian Puglisi are really good at this. Mixing old and new to create something unique. A lot of others are great too and I mix my inspiration with the whole world, even Polish places like Metamorfoza in Gdańsk gets my attention once in a while…
Do you have your dream place where would you like to work?
I know this sounds like a pink dream, but I LOVE to work at Substans. Here I create the food and I was here when we got the star. We only work around 45-50 hours and we all get along – sure I could always wish to make it bigger, wilder or more creative, but I could never give this away for something else. Not many feel this way so I feel lucky.
Do you cook at home?
Yes, I cook often at home because I madly love cooking. I never feel like taking a day off from cooking because cooking is a part of me… when I am off, I am having a break from business and cooking just for me and my girlfriend…. She´s also a great cook which I love.
What would you prepared for me in 10 minutes … i mean some food 😉 ?
Salad or risotto… something easy and cheap. I like the cheap cuts of meat and lots of veggies over sirloins and foie gras every day…
What would like to have as last meal in life?
A meal made with love and passion. Other from that I don´t care.. the day after i’ll be dead anyway.
What flavours you are most faithful?
I often fall back on fresh and crunchy flavors added a small amount of richness and fat. Grilled carrots with a lot of herbs added a little buttermilk whey and brown butter is all the time special at Substans.
What do you think about current trends in gastronomy?
If we can agree that the trends are back to nature and awareness about what you eat I love it… the whole use 100 hours to create stage/light and sounds for the guests I don´t feel as much. The best food and wine in my life I´ve eaten in humble settings…. Again. I´m ALL about flavours.
What was the most important moment in Your professional chefs life?
When I started to find my inner “cooking voice” which is when you no longer have to try to be the same as all the others… I still find inspirations all over the world, but we try every day to create a personal meal for us as well as for our guests
I also felt happy when we got the Michelin star the first year they came to Aarhus… That was a huge kadeau to the way we do things.
Do you want to make your children have gone in Your footsteps / chefsteps?
I don´t care… it depends on how they are going to be. I´m a relaxed person so I work my way to view cooking and life as it comes giving me time to experience and taking care of myself. This line of work can defiantly kill you if you don´t remember to hold back once in a while. But I´ll sure hope they learn to appreciate good food and ingredients no matter what.
Private lives there? How it looks like?
Of course running a kitchen as ours and being a captain of a culinary team takes a lot of hours. I don’t try to tell people I only think of work when I’m at Substans, but I also try to take my mind to other places when I’m off… keeping myself fit, going to museums and being a good boyfriend is important for me. My girlfriend is a huge support for me every day, so I want to be there for her… it goes both ways.
What was the funniest situation at the kitchen, is it some fun there?
The funniest time is when service is going smooth and there is time for smile and laughter among the staff. We all come in every day to create and tell a story to the customer, and when they all get it and feel it, I’m in heaven.. that’s the essence of cooking and what I’m going to remember years from now.
What advice do you have for young cooks?
Find out who you are… until then you can´t cook from the heart and be true… it sounds cheesy, but finding a personal space is the hardest thing to do as a young person in general… I´ve become a much much better cook in my 30´s and believe to be even better later on.
In which country is, in Your opinion, the most beautiful/interesting kitchen?
Right now Denmark without doubt.. I like all the “old” countries such as Japan, French and Italy as well, but right now, we in Denmark are a huge part of creating a new Nordic kitchen and I love to be a part of this. Some say the new Nordic kitchen is on its way out, but they don´t know.. just because the “world-elite” in lack if better therms, don´t feel it any more… it dosn’t mean it is dead, right.
Photos on your instagram, are so beautiful. Are you doing it? Is it a long preparation?
Yes, I do all my own pictures and editing myself. I do it along the way and all on my phone. I have always loved to take pictures and I guess I comes pretty easy for me, but I also don’t use too much time on it. I make – shoot – edit on phone and post.. 5 min max… it’s more real this way.