Studio & Friends are special events at restaurant Studio in Copenhagen, where head chef Torsten Vildgaard invites other Michelin-starred chefs to Copenhagen to cook with him. It’s called a four-hands-dinner, and the idea is to make internationally acclaimed restaurants available for a Danish audience in Denmark. At the very first Studio & Friends-event, the second pair of hands belonged to Gert de Mangeleer from restaurant Hertog Jan in Belgium. I traveled from Oslo to Copenhagen in the evening, and back again dead early the next morning, just to catch this unique happening at the Standard in April.
A Four-Hands-Dinner with Hertog Jan
Last summer was my first visit to Studio, and I was struck by the beautiful presentations and high level of cooking at this one star Michelin restaurant. I think they are well on their way to get two stars next year. Hell, many of the dishes were already improved heavily in just half a year. So here I was again, and this time I was invited by chef Torsten Vildgaard himself. What an honor! In addition, I got to meet Gert de Mangeleer – the head chef of three Michelin-starred restaurant Hertog Jan in Belgium.
Gert de Mangeleer of Hertog Jan has an impressive record. Together with his sommelier colleague and partner Joachim Boudens, he achieved three Michelin stars in the French guide just five years after they opened. The first star in 2007, the second star in 2010, and the third star in the 2012 guide. The average age of their chefs is 22 years old, which makes them the youngest three Michlin-star-team in the world. I really hope to eat there one day!
Studio at the Standard has such a unique location. The art deco building is very idyllic at the waterfront, and the eye to details in the restaurant interior is just amazing. Inside the open kitchen, all the chefs were gathered for mental preparations before the dinner while I snuck around and shot some pictures and video. Once Torsten Vildgaard did his war cry, everyone made as much noise as they could muster, and the hard work ahead could commence. Later on, Torsten welcomed all the guests to this special evening. He told us how he recalls his time back at Noma, which lies just across the canal from Studio, with his boss René Redzepi in charge. Furthermore, he said he admires Gert for being such a young chef decorated with three stars.
– Now, I am a proud head chef myself, and can finally do exciting events like Studio & Friends, he concluded and officially started the dinner.
This evening I shared a table with some fantastic people. I met my friend, freelance journalist, and fellow food blogger Rasmus Palsgård who shares his recipes and experiences at Feinschmeckeren. Recently he got a strong third place in the Danish Masterchef show. At my table was also Mikkel Bækgaard – a freelance journalist and food blogger. You should read his coverage from Studio & Friends as well. Next to me sat the restaurant editor of AOK – Rasmus Kramer Schou and on my left side was the lovely Hanna Johansson from Visit Flandern.
We got every other dish from Studio and Hertog Jan. Starting off with a total of eight snacks, followed by six main courses and two desserts and ending with petit four and coffee. I had seen a few of Torsten Vilgaard’s dishes before, but they all looked and tasted even better this time. The cooking of Gert de Mangeleer is not far from the new Nordic style either. A lot of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are used, and he cares deeply about regional and seasonal food – just like Danish chefs. His style is very modern with some crazy combos of ingredients that make it really interesting.
On this magnificent evening with Studio & Friends, we got some incredible snacks from both Torsten Vildgaard and Gert de Mangeleer. Studio’s crispy potato discs filled with smoked cod roe was the first bite and one of the highlights. The dish was already beautiful last summer, but now it had an extra element with a consistency that makes it stand out even more. Hertog Jan demonstrated how much flavor their homegrown tomatoes have, both in the avocado dish with dried tomato dust and in the clear tomato water poured over the bell peppers with goat cheese.
I loved that Torsten served the traditional Danish puffed pancakes called “æbleskiver” as a savory snack. The spreading was a sort of lumpfish roe en surprise, possibly inspired by Søllerød Kro. That wasn’t even the main bread serving, which came later on as two types: A rare black malted flatbread shaped like an envelope, and the most wonderful, crispy, and soft sourdough bread. Gert continued his impressive snack servings with combinations like potato and vanilla, foie gras and Coca-Cola, and caviar and yuzu.
I often find that the main courses are the most traditional and boring part of a meal, but in this case, the show just continued at a highly creative level. Chef Vildgaard’s spectacular looking dish with witch carre had such a rich taste and incredibly soft texture. One of chef de Mangeleer’s dishes stood out as clearly Asian-inspired: a lovely dim sum serving with langoustine, butternut, and mango.
The fact that the presentation of the duck dish reminded me of the classic Oops! I dropped the lemon tart from Osteria Francescana in Modena, which probably says more about the visual power of Netflix’s Chef’s Table than the inspiration of Hertog Jan. A superb dish in any case! Studio’s restaurant manager Alexander Berntsen poured the wines and guided us through the meal from start to finish. A great find of a guy, whom I believe will complement Torsten Vildgaard well. I can’t wait to go back and have the full meal at Studio again, and I have definitely put Hertog Jan on my must-visit map. Hopefully this year!
Who would you like to see next at Studio & Friends? Please share in a comment below.