UPDATED: Two years after closing the former Alchemist, head chef and co-owner Rasmus Munk has revealed the features of the new 24,000 sq ft dream restaurant in Copenhagen. The new Alchemist is set to open its 100 sq ft bronze door on 4 July. Bookings open on 22 June.
The 27 year old chef opened the former Alchemist in 2015 with a vision of challenging the meal and serve more than just great food. When he designed the new Alchemist in 2016, his initial visions were accompanied by the dream of building a restaurant able to stimulate all the human senses to create complete sensory dining experiences. This was always the vision for Alchemist, but now, he feels, the surroundings are ideal.
“We were very happy in Århusgade. But the relatively few square feet have also had their limitations. I’m looking forward to showing new and old guests Alchemist’s full potential,” Rasmus Munk said.
The new restaurant is more than 20 times bigger than the old one. The dimensions of the historical building previously occupied by the Danish Royal Theater not only provide Rasmus Munk with additional room to further cultivate his experimental restaurant. It also raises the bar of ambition.
“I’ll admit that our ambitions and expectations are very high” said Rasmus.
Returning guests should expect to be surprised and to experience sides of Alchemist and Rasmus Munk they have not seen, tasted or experienced before. However, some things will be familiar, like the dining counter and the ever-present messages, light or heavy, behind each serving. The mere size of the 24,000 sq ft restaurant including a 10,000-bottle wine cellar will be of great contrast to the former Alchemist. But the intimate dining experience is preserved.
New restaurant, new cuisine
In the past, Rasmus Munk and Alchemist have often been associated with molecular gastronomy. But Rasmus Munk has never been able to fit Alchemist and his style of cooking into this ‘box’ or other already existing types of cuisines. Therefore, he felt the need to create a new cuisine and named it ‘Holistic Cuisine’ referring to looking at the whole instead of parts.
”Holistic Cuisine is inspired by two major epiphanies that changed my way of thinking. One was on a trip to Japan, where I realised what skillful sourcing of quality ingredients truly means. The other one was when I was introduced to the world of art, which dazzled me completely. Holistic Cuisine represents a crossroad between the old and the new Alchemist. Now we know where we are heading,” Rasmus says.
Supporters of Holistic Cuisine include a long list of Danish experts from inside and outside the food industry. “The meal is a very complicated social phenomenon and to really understand what is going on you have to involve all known sciences: Social, Humanistic and Natural. I see the concept of an explicit holistic approach to the meal as both a challenging and in the long run very fruitful endeavour, ” said the co-founder of the Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen Jan Krag Jacobsen about his motivation for supporting Holistic Cuisine.
Art takes center stage
Besides articulating the chef’s ethical and social responsibility, Holistic Cuisine highlights art and theatre in the dining experience. A manifestation of this is Alchemist’s two sensory experience rooms featuring artists, actors, and other creatives with installations changing 2-3 times a year. The themes are determined by external creative partners and underlined by Rasmus’ serving(s).
“I’m very excited about our first two themes, New York City and LGBTQ. We want to create magic at Alchemist. And I mean, who hasn’t dreamt of pulling a rabbit out of a hat during dinner?” Rasmus says cryptically.
In the main dining room, Rasmus’s fascination with art is again very prominent. Inspired by Danish- Icelandic Artist Olafur Eliasson’s art piece Multiple Shadow House, the glass wall between the service kitchen and the dining room is covered by a film that creates a living shadow art piece when the chefs move around in the kitchen. To ensure a coherent creative storytelling from the beginning to the end, Rasmus Munk has invited Dramaturg Louise Rahr Knudsen to join the Alchemist team as Creative Manager.
Rasmus Munk was brought up on low quality ingredients and semi-finished products. It was only when he started his training as a cook that he was introduced to good ingredients and food made from scratch. The food education he lacked in his upbringing, Rasmus Munk wished to spread to all corners of Denmark and, in the long run, the world. At the top of the wishlist, was therefore a research-based food lab, when he presented the new Alchemist for Main Investor Lars Seier Christensen former CEO of Saxo Bank.
The result is the T[A]este Lab, a satellite institution inside the Alchemist organization with another mission very close to Rasmus Munk’s heart: To improve Danish food culture by developing teaching material for children and collaborating with universities, small and large-scale food actors, and scientists from in and outside the food industry.
All findings are open-source and easily accessible through scientific and popular publications, social media and an online blog streaming activities and experiments 24/7. The T[A]este Lab is spearheaded by Food Scientist Louise Beck Brønnum, former employee at the University of Copenhagen.
50 dishes on the journey towards gold
Rasmus Munk has always been inspired by ancient alchemists. He takes inspiration from the Alchemist menu, inspired by the elements of the periodic system used by alchemists in the attempt to create gold. The menu of the new Alchemist consists of 50 servings, five more than Rasmus Munk served in Århusgade.
“We play with and stimulate our guests’ senses by making use of flavors, sound and lighting effects,fragrances, textures, and aesthetics. For some servings, we will, for example, deprive guests of one sense to sharpen others, which will make them experience the serving completely different than if they had all senses to their disposal. For another serving, we will play with guests’ visual perception by making use of optical illusions. Our guests will leave full, but not too full,” Rasmus says about his extensive menu.
The evening ends in one of the restaurant’s two lounge areas under a golden sky created by Italian light designer Enzo Catellani. Here guests can experience a traditional Chinese tea ceremony performed by Alchemist’s certified tea sommelier.
Wine Director Helle Hasting has curated Alchemist’s extensive wine list (comprising about 10,000 bottles of wine). The 50-course menu can be accompanied by an alcoholic or non- alcoholic beverage pairing. The servings are divided into groups and each group is accompanied by a beverage. The non-alcoholic beverage pairing focuses on kombucha, water kefir, and tea. Some waiters at Alchemist are certified Tea Sommeliers trained by Tea Master Shana Zhang.