Forty chefs around the world are swapping places to cook an extravagant meal for one night only. Similar to the concept of Wife Swap, a popular US show, chefs will be trading places for a week from the restaurant down to staying in each other's homes for a week as they prepare. The best part? The diners have no clue whose culinary creations will be served. Munchies got the inside scoop on one such chef, Matt Orlando from the famous Amass in Copenhagen.
Orlando and his team at Amass focus on sustainability and keeping everything 100% organic. They find inspiration in the discarded remains most chefs would ignore, but they grow most of their own ingredients outside in the garden beyond the restaurant. While Matt Orlando is in New York at David Lynch's Mission Chinese Food, Riccardo Camanini will be taking over his kitchen in Copenhagen. Camanini's Lido 84 in northern Italy also draws inspiration from local ingredients, but his palate of citrus, olive oil an fish is challenged by the terrain of Denmark. Both chefs have a great challenge ahead of them, new ingredients, new coworkers and impressing their new patrons.
8:30 PM, New York: Matt Orlando is sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, bleary-eyed and smiling, fresh from the airport. He’s sipping on an MSG margarita. “They have fresh bread from a wood-fired oven here!? We’ve got to do something with this.” He’s trying to figure out how to mimic Amass’s iconic two-week fermented potato bread without pissing off the New York City health department. Jet lag is setting in.
1 PM, New York: Orlando heads into the kitchen at Mission Chinese Food and pulls out the kitchen’s pantry items—fermented black beans, sake lees, koji, black walnuts—along with some of chef de cuisine Quynh Le’s own experiments: one-year salted broccoli, black garlic, aloe salt, preserved salted citrus peel, aged miso, sprouted coconut. Sprouted what?
8:03 PM, Copenhagen: Camanini has arrived in Copenhagen. He heads to restaurant 108 where he has dinner (raw shrimp with sweet and salted plums; a hunk of glazed short rib) with the other visiting Gelinaz chefs and René Redzepi.
11 AM, New York: It’s Election Day, but Orlando isn’t focused on the future of America. His goal is to make a carrot taste more like a carrot. He’s using the Amass “dehy-rehy” technique on New York’s root vegetables by cooking carrots until tender, dehydrating them, then reducing ten liters of carrot juice into 1 liter. Later, he’ll rehydrate them in the reduction with a touch of white miso.
2 PM, New York: Election results are still hours away, but it’s time to consider booze. “We do Negronis at Amass, so I think we should do a weird Negroni on Thursday night,” says Orlando. Sam Anderson nods, “Let’s burn it.” Orlando smiles. “We have bonfires at Amass every night, so this sounds perfect.”
10:17 AM, Copenhagen: It’s a morning gin tasting for Camanini’s gin and tonic dish. Bo Bratlann, restaurant manager and sommelier at Amass, asks Camanini if he wants the normal or the “Navy strength,” then explains that the latter is called that because the proof is high enough that if there’s an accident at sea and the gin spills all over the gunpowder, the gunpowder will still ignite. Camanini chooses the Navy strength.
8 AM, New York: The streets of New York City are dead quiet. Even the tourists have nothing to say. As of 2:30 AM this morning, Donald Trump is President-Elect of the United States. Matt Orlando and chef de cuisine Quynh Le head to the Union Square Farmers Market to see about produce. There is a literal dark storm cloud over the city, and it’s beginning to drizzle, but the ominous tropical heat wave suggests the apocalypse is coming. The chefs pick up a hefty haul of green pumpkins and hail a cab back to the restaurant. Police cars block the streets around the square because of the swarms of protesters beginning to form. They’re planning to march to Trump Tower tonight.
12:30 PM, Copenhagen: Camanini and the Amass sous chefs try to figure out how the hell they’re going to serve the cacio e pepe tableside. The pasta will be cooked in a pig’s bladder.
12 PM, New York: Pork jowl is massaged with black pepper. Hamachi loin is getting broken down. Pumpkins are cut into quarters and placed into vacuum-sealed bags, which will be cooked in dry-aged beef fat infused with squid. Orlando holds a bag of them: “We make black pumpkin skin now at Amass, wherein we put the pumpkin skins in a dehydrator in a vacuum-sealed bag for 6 weeks, and it takes on a mole/miso-esque flavor when it turns black. The aged miso here really reminds me of that dish, so we’re going to make a sauce out of it.” Preserved, salted citrus peels are bubbling on a stove into jam with ginger, sake, and honey that will be served with black walnut skin cake. Fresh noodles are inoculated with koji powder for the next 24 hours. The kitchen is very quiet.
10:30 AM, Copenhagen: Gardener Jacquie Pereira and sous chef David Parrott show Camanini around Amass’s various pantries. Riccardo seems especially interested in their fermentation projects. At one point, he asks the chefs: “So, what kind of pasta do you use here?”
Chef Jens Mohr replies: “Pasta?”
Camanini: “Yeah, what brand?”
There is a pause before Jens diplomatically asks what kind of pasta Camanini would like.
11 AM, New York: Soten Oner, a graffiti artist from Copenhagen—the one who’s created two custom art pieces for Amass—is coincidentally in New York. Yesterday, after a quick phone call with Orlando, Oner has delivered custom work to put up on the walls of Mission Chinese Food to make this Gelinaz dinner feel like Orlando’s back home.
3:09 PM, Copenhagen: Camanini is briefing the staff at Amass, going through each of the dishes they will serve this evening. He’s wearing tight black jeans, gray sneakers, and a white chef’s jacket with his name embroidered on the left sleeve. The staff is taking notes. One of the courses is a herring broth with mushroom oil: “My mamma used to give me a piece of omega 3 when I was a child. She told me: ‘Ricardo, this comes from northern Europe and it’s very healthy.’ But it tasted so bad because it was oily and had a really intense flavor. So this dish will give you the same idea but with good flavors. I have made a very clean herring broth, very clean like a tea.”
3:38 PM, Copenhagen: Staff are discussing how to present the cacio e pepe. Rather than serving it at the table, waiters are going to invite guests into the kitchen and have Camanini carve the pig’s bladders open right in front of them. It’s the one dish he’s looking forward to the most, and dreading the most. “The bladders can explode,” says Camanini. “We need to be precise because we can’t change the recipe once we start the process.”
4:41 PM, Copenhagen: A final test for the cacio e pepe. Camanini is showing chef Alexander Cummings how to turn and shake the bladder while it’s poaching. He folds a kitchen towel and places it in his left palm, picks up the bladder from the boiling pot with tweezers, delicately places it on the towel, and gives it a gentle shake and stir. “This has to be done every two to three minutes,” he explains. “Be very careful when you tie the bladder. Organize yourself and your station.”
5:30 PM, New York: The first dinner service begins in one hour. Matsutake mushrooms—which were supposed to be delivered earlier this morning—have only just appeared. They need to go on the third course: dry-aged beef with smoked plums, black garlic, and spicy radishes.