Chef Christian F. Puglisi has announced the start of a new chapter for his restaurant and himself. Chef of world famous Danish restaurant Relæ which he opened in 2010 on a rough, run down stretch of one of Copenhagen’s most crime-ridden streets, the restaurant has been serving impeccable, intelligent, sustainable and plate-centric food of the highest quality in a setting that was devoid of pretention and frills of conventional high-end restaurant dining.
Today, the chef has announced that he is leaving the kitchen in the hands of his creative sparring partner Jon Tam. Instead, Puglisi will be focusing on the “Farm of Ideas” an experimental organic farm that will supply all his restaurants with the produce and freshest ideas.
Writing on his Tumblr page, Puglisi said now was the time for change. “I have loved being able to work creatively. It has been my privilige to create myself a space where I could establish what I feel is my own cuisine, Relæ’s cuisine. Cooking vegetables with a playful and inventive approach to a tasty result has been extremely rewarding but to create the framework around it to actually leave sufficient space for creativity has been just as satisfying and necessary.”
“But now its time for a change. As my persona have become more and more restless and Jon’s focus on the food has become more evident and determined, I need to let the creative work loose. I have been wanting to keep control of every single dish coming out of that kitchen believing that it was essential for the overall quality of the restaurant. But I founded my restaurant on the idea of creating liberty and room for creativity and I am now ready to take the biggest step and let the creative work live on without my total control. It is now Jon’s moment to take charge and pick up the creative relay. In the last six months we have tried to get used to this new configuration that has been challenging but never ceased to show its potential for us. Jon is extremely talented and my biggest worry in this restructuring of our restaurant might be reduced to the risk of his creative work exceeding what we have accomplished so far.”
Puglisi said he was proud of what he has achieved but added that “he has most definitely not achieved it on his own. I have had a core of staff around me that has contributed on every level, every day.”
Jon will be create his first menu on 1 June. “We have been working on not only changing the actual dishes but also altering the formal substantially. While still keeping our entry-level as low as 465 kr. for 4 courses we are breaking both short and long menu free. We are hoping to be able to deliver a bustling dining experience that goes beyond a list of dishes served after one and another. We will put together one long arrangement of flavors, textures and ideas that wont let themselves be reduced to a list of courses or dishes but need to be experienced as a whole. A truly Relæ experience.”
Puglisi said that his role not be narrowly confined. “I could almost define myself as a restless ‘free-range’ chef. People have asked me the same questions for years. Are you Italian or are you Danish? Are you a chef or are you an entrepreneur? Are you mostly at Relæ or at Manfreds? Truth is I cannot ever give a clear answer because there is no absolute truth. I can live with the fact that what I do today might not be the same tomorrow. Its confusing for most, but highly enjoyable for me.”
He said his top focus now is getting their new farm project up and running and serving as a liaison between produce and kitchen. “A sort of puppetmaster pulling strings of produce from here and there in between the restaurants. I plan to still be in the kitchen but to be freely able to choose which one of them and probably often with soiled boots at my feet. And my ideas, my visions and my love will still move Relæ forward, I still feel I have a lot to contribute with, its just not only up to me putting the pieces together any more. And it feels fantastic,” Puglisi said
Puglisi recalled that last year, they were privileged to celebrate the restaurant’s 5th anniversary. “Launching myself as an entrepreneur in 2010 with my former experience only reaching souschef level, I was considering mere survival of the 5th year as an achievement on its own. But once we finally reached that day I realize that my own humble expectations were surpassed. Today I am extremely proud of the continous development of this restaurant as a thought, as a cuisine and as my home.”
He said that he started off wanting to do things differently. “Not knowing what I really wanted I could focus on what I didn’t want. I didn’t want useless crap. I still don’t want that today. I didn’t want fine dining but I wanted gastronomy and creativity. I wanted to be independent enough to be able to follow my heart and my mind. I was lucky to be able to succeed with that from the very beginning and day by day we could focus on making Relæ a better restaurant based on our own criteria. Not letting anyone tell us what was right or wrong,”
Puglisi said that “an underestimated part of the succes is to be found in the opportunities to expand the gastronomic scope by adding more members to the family.”
“When Manfreds opened it naturally became a channel for my most rustic tendencies. My need to return to the roots and tribute Italian gastronomy has found its platform at Bæst. I love baking and managed to turn that into a bakery -Mirabelle. My interest for natural wine grew as far as into founding a wine import that now is a success on its own. My love for organic agriculture has now planted the first seed of what will soon be the “Farm of Ideas”.