Cultures in the mix at Aarhus People’s Kitchen

The idea of a people’s kitchen, or Folkekøkken, is not unheard of in Denmark. Copenhagen is full of them. Aarhus, on the other hand, has only one, and it’s unlike any other: it doesn’t cost any money.

Cultures in the mix at Aarhus People's Kitchen
Volunteers cook using unsold fruit and vegetables from local farmers. Photo: Jutland Station

“It’s very low budget,” says David Francois Rey, a business student who came up with the idea for the event five years ago. 

Rey explained how he made an agreement with local farmers for them to donate their unsold fruit and vegetables after the weekly farmer’s markets on Ingerslev Boulevard.

Volunteers with bicycle trailers pick up the goods each week, and other ingredients like beans, oil and spices are obtained through shop donations or dumpster diving.

French native David Francois Rey started the People's Kitchen in Aarhus five years ago. He now lives in Copenhagen. Photo: Jutland Station

The events take place in the Trøjborg Beboerhus, where the group does not need to pay rent. This means there are basically no costs. 

The unofficial theme of the most recent People’s Kitchen on Sunday evening was apples. The farmers had donated a huge box of fresh apples, so participants cooked them in every way they could think of: they diced them and sprinkled cinnamon on top, they ate them raw as snacks before the food was ready, and they baked them into pies and crumbles. 

A handful of participants showed up at around 4pm to start cooking, and by the time it was ready to eat, around 30 had showed up. Many were international students, but there were a number of Danes and middle-aged people as well.

Peter Larndorfer, an international student, pours a homemade dressing over a green salad. Photo: Jutland Station

“The type of people going there are not necessarily people in need. Some people come and are on really low incomes, or homeless, some people are retired and don’t get so much money as pension,” Rey said. 

“There’s a big mix of many different types of people, cultures and backgrounds.”

The final dinner featured food that was mostly green – a bright green beverage made from kale and citrus fruits, two different green salads with rocket and spinach and green soup. There was some international food as well.

Regular participant Ramona August, who also made a short documentary about the initiative (see below) made a white bean paste that resembled hummus, and an African student made a traditional flat bread. 

New foods were invented, such as fried kale with peanut butter, and classics were resurrected, like roasted carrots with herbs. All of the dishes were vegetarian, and most were vegan as well.

Rey, who is originally from France, became interested in reducing food waste when a friend who worked at a supermarket showed him how much food gets thrown away.

Participants chop kale. Photo: Jutland Station

“I think it’s very sad that some people are starving in one place and then others are throwing out tons of food,” Rey said.

He was then introduced to dumpster diving, or ‘reclaiming food’ as he calls it. Eventually he decided to go straight to the source of the food, and talk to the farmers themselves.

“I thought, rather than going in the back [of supermarkets], at night, it’s much more friendly to actually include people,” Rey said.

A volunteer at the People's Kitchen. Photo: Jutland Station

Rey used techniques taught to him at the business school in order to present his proposal in a convincing way. His logic was that there is a high correlation between poverty and hunger and violence and crime, so solving one problem would fix the other.

“I think it’s good to address problems, but we often look at the symptoms … and we are missing the root cause of the system,” Rey said. “When it comes to food waste, the root cause is within the current market monetary structure.”

Originally from Marseille, a city with high rates of crime, Rey had seen firsthand the effects of hunger on individuals.

“If we don’t get food within three days, our behavior will change,” he says. “It was really easy for me to use empathy and understand that, okay, if I had a family to feed and I had no access to money for the necessities of life, then I would be very tempted to … steal food.”

The farmer met Rey’s proposal with optimism, and the People’s Kitchen has been meeting regularly for five years since.

By Alison Haywood

The People’s Kitchen meets every Sunday at the Trøjborg Beboerhus in Aarhus around 4pm. Anyone is welcome to participate. 

Alison Haywood is an editor at the English-language online magazine Jutland Station, located in Aarhus, Denmark. This piece is also set to appear in Jutland Station.


Nordic chef sets up world’s northernmost Michelin restaurant in Greenland

You can only get there by boat or helicopter, but Michelin-starred chef Poul Andrias Ziska hopes his restaurant in remote Greenland, far above the Arctic Circle, is worth the journey.

Nordic chef sets up world's northernmost Michelin restaurant in Greenland

The 30-year-old chef relocated his restaurant KOKS from the Faroe Islands in mid-June, leaving behind his relatively accessible address for Ilimanaq, a
hamlet of 50 inhabitants hidden behind icebergs on the 69th parallel north.

Housed in a narrow black wooden house, one of the oldest in Greenland, the restaurant can only accommodate about 20 people per service, and experiments with local produce, including whale and seaweed, with fresh produce almost impossible to find in the harsh climate.

“We try to focus on as much Greenlandic products as possible, so everything from Greenland halibut to snow crabs to musk ox to Ptarmigan, different herbs and different berries,” the tousled-haired, bearded chef tells AFP.

Double-Michelin-starred Faroese chef of KOKS restaurant Poul Andrias Ziska is photographed outside the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland on 28th June 2022

Double-Michelin-starred Faroese chef of KOKS restaurant Poul Andrias Ziska is photographed outside the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland on 28th June 2022. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

The young chef previously ran KOKS at home in the remote Faroe Islands, where he won his first star in 2017, his second in 2019, and the title of the
world’s most isolated Michelin restaurant. 

He plans to return there for a permanent installation, but explains he had always wanted to stretch his gastronomical legs in another territory in the
far north, like Iceland, Greenland or even Svalbard.

He finally chose Ilimanaq, located an hour’s boat trip from Ilulissat, the third-largest town in Greenland and famous for its huge glacier.

Greenland, the world’s largest island, is an autonomous Danish dependent territory.

Local products

“We just found it more suitable, more fun to do something completely different before we move back in our permanent restaurant,” he tells AFP from
his kitchen, set up in a trailer outside the house with the dining area.

With 20 courses, the extensive tasting menu will delight the taste buds for some 2,100 kroner ($280), excluding wine and drinks.

“The menu is exquisite and sends you to the far north and back,” Devid Gualandris, a charmed visitor, tells AFP.

“From the whale bites to the wines, from the freshly caught fish and shellfish to the curated desserts, everything is bursting with flavour.”

While whale meat is a staple food in Greenland and Ziska’s native Faroe Islands, whaling is banned in most of the world and activists have called for
an end to the practice.

A KOKS chef prepares food at the kitchen of the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland, on 28th June 2022.

A KOKS chef prepares food at the kitchen of the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland, on 28th June 2022. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

An unlikely locale for a gourmet restaurant, Ilimanaq — Greenlandic for “place of hope” — is home to a small community living in picturesque wooden
houses, next to hiking trails and more fittingly a luxury hotel, making it an ideal stopover for wealthy tourists seeking to explore new frontiers.

For Ziska, the customers in Greenland are different.

“There are a lot of people for which the number one priority is to visit Greenland and then they come to our restaurant,” he says.

“In the Faroe Islands we had mainly people interested in coming and eating at our restaurant and then obviously also visiting the Faroe Islands,” the
chef explains.

In addition to the adventurers who have already been lured by the Arctic landscape, the Greenlandic Tourist Board hopes the restaurant will also help
attract gourmet travellers.   

People get seated in a restaurant overlooking Disko Bay in Ilulissat, western Greenland, on 30th June, 2022.

People get seated in a restaurant overlooking Disko Bay in Ilulissat, western Greenland, on 30th June, 2022. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

“The unique combination of high-level gastronomy, the inherent sustainability of the North Atlantic cuisine and the characteristic nature and resources of the Disko Bay, speaks to all our senses,” Visit Greenland’s director, Hjortur Smarason, said when announcing the arrival of KOKS.

Accommodation at the Ilimanaq Lodge, the current home of the KOKS restaurant in Ilimanaq, Greenland, where guests can watch whales and floating icebergs in the Disko Bay. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

A long-overlooked destination, Greenland — an Arctic island territory nine times the size of the UK — welcomed more than 100,000 tourists in 2019, nearly double its population, before Covid cut the momentum.

Smarason said the presence of KOKS “is exactly what we strive for in our effort to reach a certain distinguished kind of guests”.  The restaurant is open between the 12th June and 8th September, 2022 and 2023.