We spoke to author, photographer and chef-owner of Geist in Copenhagen, Bo Bech about his most recent cookbook In My Blood and his top cooking advice.
Previously of Michelin-starred Paustian and now chef-owner of Geist in Copenhagen, Bo Bech is well-known for his relentless creativity. At Geist you’ll find inventive and spectacularly presented dishes, which look more like abstract art than cooking. Bech is also the author of two cookbooks, What Does Memory Taste Like? and most recently, In My Blood.
I was a late bloomer
My first job in food was at a fish restaurant in Denmark. I was always interested in food, but at the age of 24 I made the conscious decision to change my career. Before that I was just an office clerk.
In 1995, I started working in Marco Pierre White’s restaurant and that was my beginning.
I wrote In My Blood so the staff at Geist knew how to cook the dishes
Seven years before I opened Geist, I was travelling and a friend gave me brilliant advice. She was looking at the pictures I took on my phone and she said “You’re going to regret it one day if you don’t change to a more professional camera.”
I listened to her, bought a small Leica and got hooked – the same way I did when I started cooking. All of a sudden I was shooting pictures of my own food.
One thing led to another and I was curious to give myself the challenge of writing a cookbook. It’s for myself, for my staff and for everyone that loves cooking.
Start with the recipe you find the most interesting
If you’re curious, everything becomes easier. If you’re cooking from my book, I know you want me to say to start with the spinach or raw langoustine, but at the end of the day, it’s very individual.
Pick the dish that talks to you. Eventually, if you’re not used to cooking, you’ll meet your own mountain and there’s a bigger chance of you climbing that mountain if you really want to see the peak.
Before doing anything else, read the recipe from beginning to end
Visualise each step while reading. Prepare and set out all of your ingredients before you begin. Remember, it’s just food, so breathe easy and have fun.
Putting all the ingredients on the table so they’re in front of you is a bit like when we travel and imagine where we’re going in our head. Am I going to snowboard? Am I going to the beach? Am I going to a big city where I have to wear a cocktail dress or a smoking suit? We visualise what we should bring in our luggage, so when we arrive we are not forced with the challenge of being unprepared.
Reading the recipe properly is a reminder of the steps you can take that will give you a bigger chance of success.
Start slow, work up an appetite
When we do something new, we have a tendency to go all in.
Take your time, be slow about it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Start cooking the dish for yourself and your family, your girlfriend or boyfriend. Then once you’ve nailed it, invite some friends over and brag.
It doesn’t matter how you plate it
It matters for me because I’m a professional chef and I have a restaurant. As a home cook, take the recipe as inspiration. If you don’t want to do the spinach, you can remove the spinach and add watercress. If you’re in love with the way we did the salmon dish but you hate salmon, change it for cod.
These are incredibly easy things to say, but they sound difficult when you’re not used to working with food. The best advice is just to get cooking
If you mess up today, you still have tomorrow and the next 365 days
You can’t decide you want to be the best cook in the world if you’re an amateur. You’ve got to work your way to it. You’ve got to burn the potatoes, you’ve got to overcook the fish, you’ve got to caramelise the sauce when you weren’t supposed to. You’ve got to make the mistakes – it’s the mistakes that make you better.
It’s the same with everything in life. Practice, practice practice. There’s no way around it.
Food is flavour mixed with your skill
If you buy a frozen fish, you’re going to end up with that kind of a result. If you go to the fishmonger and buy a beautiful, fresh fish and have the fishmonger carve it for you, you’re going to have that sort of result. Food is flavour mixed with your skill.
At home I cook one-pot dishes
I’ll begin by adding water to a pot and boiling pasta. Then I’ll chop a few things on the board, remove the water and add those things to the pasta. Or, I’ll slow roast a whole cauliflower in a pot with butter so the vegetable caramelises. I tend to choose things that are just me and a pan or a pot.
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