‘Baking pies can make you feel at home’

US expats Grace Wilson Løvig and Erin Eberhart Chapman turned to baking when they came to Copenhagen nearly 20 years ago as a way to overcome homesickness and gather people. Now they've turned it in to a thriving business.

'Baking pies can make you feel at home'
Grace and Erin in their brand new pie shop on Skindersgade. Photo: The Local Denmark Instagram
Grace Wilson Løvig and Erin Eberhart Chapman came to Denmark more than 15 years ago and first met each other in Copenhagen while working in advertising business. The two Americans quickly became friends through their shared love of baking American recipes as a way to overcome homesickness.
In 2012, they decided to take their passion to the next level, writing a traditional American recipe book for Danes. The Local met with the two expats to discuss their latest venture, American Pie Co, a bakery cafe that is a little slice of Americana in central Copenhagen. 

What first brought you Copenhagen?


Grace: After finishing college, I came to Denmark for the first time in 1991. I didn’t really know I was going to stay for so long and back then I knew very little about the country. I could barely differentiate Sweden from Denmark…


Erin: I came for the first time to visit in 1993, and then for a semester of school at DIS [Study Abroad in Scandinavia, ed.] during my university years. I was coming and going between Denmark and the US for a while and then I got a job as an art director and worked in the marketing field. Back then, I was ‘the American’ in the ad agency. When we first came to the country, there wasn’t so many Americans. I was 24, and one thing led to another and now I have my base here, it’s my home. I also have my American home though.


How did you two meet?


Grace: Back then the Americans expats in Denmark were a smaller community. We met each other here in Copenhagen via the advertising business. I owned a production company and Erin was an art director and I went in for a meeting with her one day…


Erin: …and it was like, “Hey, what are you doing here?”. We got along well since the beginning and started hanging out, and quickly became close friends. 



Why did you start the The American Pie Co.?


Grace: Erin and I have long dreamt about creating our own business around the idea of something so simple and good as pie. When you spend so much time away from home, little things like baking pies can make you feel at home. It has always been a way for us to overcome homesickness and gather people around the table, so the idea of setting up a pie joint was a vision we wanted to follow.


Erin: It was just last December when we seriously thought about setting up a place where you could enjoy pies the way we do in the US. We knew that if we had such a business, it would be essential that not only the pies be delicious and make from scratch, just as we would in the USA, but that the vibe around the place was truly authentic. We wanted to share “our world” with Denmark.


Are Danes big pie eaters?


Erin: We find that people are more and more interested in quality food. Danes are very curious about what they eat and want the experience of the ‘real deal’. Some of the Danes who visit us have lived or travelled in the US, and loved the baked goods, but couldn’t find authentic pies here. 


Grace: Danish people want to experience and embrace a more natural version of American food. We are receiving a lot of reservations for Thanksgiving pies. It’s common to see Danes interested in sharing some American traditions.


Both of you have been here for many years, any plans to go back to the US?


Grace: I was 20 years old when I arrived and I didn’t know I’d end up staying for so long. My daughter is now 17 years old and I’m glad that she has been raised here. I love the calm and the safety of the city. And also the way people behave, they are really respectful and polite. But sometimes you think of the consequences of being far from home for 20 years and you can’t help being homesick sometimes.


Erin: I also married a Dane and have a little daughter. Time goes by pretty quickly and at some point it is like: “Have I been here for five years, ten years, fifteen years…?”. But it is true than when I’m back in the United States I feel different in some sort of way. I actually tried to move back with my family to California recently, but we decided to return to Copenhagen. We love America, but we are very happy with our way of living here in Copenhagen.


Did you learn to speak Danish?


Grace: I do my best, but it’s difficult to express myself in the way I want sometimes. If I want to elaborate I still answer in English. Danes are so good at English, it’s easy to communicate.


Erin: Yes, but not right away. My first five years I got away with just speaking English, although I could read Danish okay. But I ended up learning over the years –  I had young Danish nephews and in-laws who weren’t fluent in English, so it was a necessity if I wanted to communicate with them! 


How much the city has changed since you arrived?


Erin: We can remember when coffee-to-go was inconceivable here several years ago and now everyone does it! Also there was not such a wide range of places to have breakfast or brunch. There has been a lot of changes and we can feel that today many Danes embrace other aspects of American culture, like Halloween, for example –  and now even Thanksgiving is catching on. 


Grace: I think that The American Pie Company comes at a perfect time, when people are interested in what they eat and want to experience food the most authentic way possible. We bake the way our grandmothers did and I think people can see that we’re the “real deal”.

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Expat aims for gender balance in Danish tech

Bulgaria native Plamena Cherneva has created Codher to bring more women into the Danish technology industry and increase gender diversity within tech.

Expat aims for gender balance in Danish tech
Codher students hard at work improving their tech skills. Photo: Submitted

It’s no secret that Denmark has a rather good track record when it comes to technology. The small northern European country has consistently ranked near the top in studies comparing national technology industries and access to the benefits of the internet in an increasingly connected world.

In the past year Denmark has been named the world's most connected country, the most digital country in Europe, and was ranked number one in the world for green technology in a global report.

Yet the world of programmers and tech engineers has been plagued with one glaring issue: the lack of gender diversity. And not just in Denmark. At Google women make up only 17 percent of the technical employees, and at Facebook the figure is even lower at 15 percent. According to a survey conducted this year by Stackflow, out of the 26,000 programmers from 157 different countries surveyed only 5.8 percent identified as female.

Expat Plamena Cherneva is striving to bring gender balance to Denmark’s technology industry.

Cherneva came to Denmark from Bulgaria more than five years ago to pursue her ambitions in technology. But it wasn’t all roses and sunshine for her in her new home. 

“When I first came to study in Denmark, there were 20 students in my course but only two women including me. The only other woman dropped out before graduating due to a lack of support from the university,” she told The Local.

“It was certainly a struggle to graduate for me here in Denmark and to make a career for myself in technology. This was primarily due to the huge gender inequality I faced, which led to a lack of support and became a major barrier to developing a strong social network,” she continued.

This led to Cherneva taking the initiative to create Codher, a Copenhagen based organization that aims to “diminish the perceived barriers facing the IT industry and make it accessible for those who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry,” according to their website.

Codher offers workshops and seminars in programming, web design, IT project management and entrepreneurship. But the course offers more than just the educational side of technology, as Cherneva told The Local.

“Here at Codher we are not only helping students follow their academic ambitions, but we are supporting them and giving them a huge community within the world of tech, something I’ve felt is seriously lacking in Denmark,” she said.

Codher is not only available for women looking to get into tech, but to anyone wanting to get involved in the industry. The group has received support from many like-minded males.

“We don’t want to be labelled as some sort of new feminist organisation, so of course our doors are open to everyone. We are getting great support from men, helping us with organizing our workshops and mentoring our attendees,” Cherneva said.

Codher has already found a partnership with the Copenhagen based tech company Pandisign, which is are aiming to utilize the expertise coming out of Codher, and to improve the gender balance within the company. 

More about Codher can be found here