Christian Francesco Puglisi arrived to Denmark from his birthplace in Sicily, Italy, when he was 7 years old, and at seventeen started his career as a cook apprentice. He eventually moved to France and worked at Le Taillevent, later locating in Spain and collaborate with Ferren Adrià in the emblematic El Bulli. Later he would return to Denmark and join René Redzepi in NOMA. In this moment, the great story of one of the most relevant chefs in Europe.
Amidst the Nørrebro district in the Danish capital, the organic restaurant praised with one Michelin star, Relæ, opened its doors in 2010 shortly after Christian F. Puglisi left NOMA. The number 41 of Jægersborggade Street houses the project, which came to life after Christian partnered with Kim Rossen and features unique characteristics. No clutter, no excess, no complications, Relæ shows its bare bones to concentrate in the flavour and value inherent to the ingredients themselves.
Ecology and sustainability are key to Puglisi, which led him to create the Farm of Ideas, aimed to widen the limits of sustainable production, and create better products along the way. He also tries to initiate a direct dialogue between chefs and farmers in this place where gastronomy, agriculture, urban and rural environments unite. It represents the first link in the production chain, the Farm of Ideas produces all the ingredients for the restaurants at the Relæ community.
“We want to offer a gastronomic experience that is sustainable, from planting the seed to the food on the plate. Each and every interaction needs to be examined and judged to be responsible.”
A black and white space where light illuminates certain sober industrial touches, the decoration is sober and without much visual distraction. Passion and discipline can be readily seen with their open kitchen concept, letting diners be involved in the process for every plate. Just to walk into the dinning area, one must traverse the space where creativity and aroma transform into new creations.
Wooden planks and tables for two, water filtered into glasses, sourdough bread, and olive oil vials receive the visitor. The silverware and the menu are, however, well hidden in a small cabinet on the table’s corner awaiting to be discovered by the costumer.
Christian F Puglisi lets the creative proposal be handled by Jonathan Tam, Canadian chef who arrived at Denmark to work at NOMA. He soon moved to Relæ and in 2016 he became the kitchen chief, offering a distinct synergy with a unique style, always keeping in mind Puglisi’s original proposal, based on the raw power of vegetables as a main ingredient, potentializing and exposing their flavours.
Their menu is made up of ten different courses, a complex and singular experience in flavour lacking any complicated preparations: foams, spheres and liquid nitrogen, all so heavily featured in most avant-garde restaurants are nowhere to be seen, since at Relæ the most important element is the ingredients themselves. Vegetables are the stars of every course, meat and seafood only present in one of them, with a simple presentation, with no excess decoration or baroque additions. While visually simple, the food is cooked with increasingly specialized techniques, allowing the flavours to pop immediately. Pairing is also available from a selection of biodynamic wines produced under the strictest of sustainable requirements.
The Relæ experience is unparalleled, visually unusual and enveloped in natural flavours and textures easy to recognize and remember. The journey through the organic and sustainable world is especially noticeable, given the importance of a green lifestyle in the modern context. Decoration and theatricality take a step back in favour of the knowledge of the origin of every ingredient, from their production up to the moment they are served, securing an environmentally-friendly and fair production.
Photos: P. A. Jørgensen