A Girl Called Sild
I have been passionate about fish for as long as I can remember and my healthy addiction to Omega3 rich fish is only partially preordained by my Danish genes. While my mother was expecting me she craved pan fried herring with creamed spinach and even named me for her favorite dish: Sild, means herring in Danish. Growing up, a home cooked meal with a side of politics were served up every evening and my commitment to doing the right thing was sown and nurtured.
I spent every summer by, in and on the sea. Three glorious weeks at my grandmother's house on Hasmark Beach eating classic Danish dishes made from scratch, picking strawberries, eating peas straight from the pod, endless baking and hours spent splashing about in the Danish surf. Then another two weeks sailing through the Danish isles with my father. We sought out the best fish at every mooring; our favorites were the small fishing inlets with their own smokehouse, mackerel and herring glistering in the evening sun. My Proustian food moment will forever remain the still warm fish on freshly baked rye bread spread with cold butter and topped with sliced onion.
Despite coming from a family of foodies, I had no intention of becoming a chef; I was initially lured by the ivory towers of academia. I studied philosophy and literary criticism at the University of Copenhagen and then enrolled in a Masters Degree at Goldsmiths College. To support myself, I became a Smorresbrod Jomfru (Danish open sandwich maker) at the boutique sushi bar Nippon Tuk. The sushi proved more popular than the sandwiches so I too turned my attention to rice preparation, fish cutting and sushi making. The fire of my passion and curiosity was lit. I traveled regularly to Tokyo and beyond to hone my skills, witnessing the global transition of sushi from an exclusive eat for the AB1 internationals to a broader appeal for mere mortals. I created a sushi service for pioneering Birley’s Sandwiches in Canary Wharf and then in 1999, after 7 years of strict discipline balanced by creative experimentation, I co-founded Feng Sushi.
We opened in the Fulham Road the summer of 1999 wanting to create the first sushi delivery service in the UK and at the same time focus on being an environmentally sound operation. Health, nutrition, seasonality and tasty food were at the core of the business from the outset, from bio-degradable packaging, recycled oil and a strong emphasis on provenance and sustainability of fish, vegetables and Japanese ingredients. I spent the fist 8 years developing the menu, training a brigade of eager chefs, focusing on kitchen operations and the people piece whilst we grew the business from 1 to 6 outlets.
Thereafter I had a six year stint as the Managing Director putting Feng Sushi firmly on the map as the go to company of the best quality sushi delivery across London and overseeing the opening of a further three outlets. As the market saturated with other great home delivery concepts we stayed true to the core principal of offering top quality sushi at reasonable prices and putting provenance center stage.
During my 16 year tenure with Feng Sushi I discovered another passion for teaching - possibly a holdover from my academic aspirations. I have been hugely gratified and inspired by teaching, sharing knowledge and mentoring our chefs. Very early, my teaching extended beyond the Feng Sushi kitchen to teach our customers as well as at prominent schools across the capital (follow this link to my tutorials).
On behalf of Feng Sushi, I received two prestigious prizes: the City of London Prize for Sustainability in 2011 and in 2012 the Sustainable Restaurant Association prize for Innovation following the launch of a 6 season menu producing some of the most popular dishes on the menu. This past May (2015) the MSC awarded me Chef of The Year for my work on modern herring recipes.
I believe you are only as good as your suppliers and some of the best are to be found in the UK: hand dived, tender scallops from Guy Grieve, the Ethical Shellfish Company, Shaun and Alan Henderson’s sweet succulent Devon Crab, the beautiful farmed salmon produced by Loch Duart on the Eastern Coast of Scotland or the delicious fatty MSC Hasting herring available for a short window of time in the autumn. I have traveled across the British Isles in search of the best produce and made some wonderful friends in the process. As a chef I am honored to help facilitate the produce of these fishermen and farmers on its journey to the plate (or bento box as it happens….)
As my love of sushi developed, so did my interest in ensuring a sustainable food supply for generations to come. It is a complex issue with no easy answers. Over the years I have worked closely with various fishing organizations and NGOs who have these goals in common but represent the myriad different interests involved. At times the overlapping or opposing viewpoints have given rise to more confusion than resolution, so I have devised 7 main principals for which species of fish to choose and I share with you here.
Food businesses run on tight margins, but the best and most successful are without a doubt those who put quality before net profit; fantastic food is the headline act and from there should everything else be derived. I am blessed to be a chef; my role is to put delicious, healthy, well-sourced food in front of hungry folks, to inspire, to educate and to share...
Last year I joined GenjiUK and Hana Group UK Most recently the team and I have relaunched the sushi bar in Wholefoods Market in the mighty Barkers building Kensington as Sushi And Robata . Check it out and come sample some of the finest sushi in the UK, grab a box to go, sit down for a fast bite and a cold craft beer or come in for a real Japanese tour the force.
I have recently headed up the team at Genji UK relaunching their flag ship restaurant in Whole Foods Market at the mighty Barker building in Kensington as Sushi and Robata. I am now focusing on my teaching and working as a consultant to the sushi industry across Europe. 2018 was a special year working on my second book Robata – Healthy Japanese Home Grilling which will be published by Jacqui Small on the 19th of April this year.