At the helm of Copenhagen’s Relæ—the most sustainable Michelin-starred restaurant in the world—Christian Puglisi calls for change in how we perceive eating organically.
When did it occur to you that there had to be a sustainable scope to your work?
I became more aware of eating organic after my son was born in 2011. I’ve always had quality as an integral part of cooking but this was different. I started perceiving it from an ethical standpoint. It was about something more; there were so many qualities to unearth in the food beyond the sole aspect of taste.
Is it harder to build a Michelin-starred restaurant based on sustainability as compared to one with regular conditions?
I don’t think so. We didn’t set out with the aim of making a sustainable restaurant; there was no dogmatic marketing initiative. We wanted to serve the best food possible and we realised that we had to become more sustainable to do so. It’s not harder than doing a normal menu—you just have to bring forth a different agenda than what you’ve been used to.
Do you think that working toward sustainability is a means of pushing yourself to the limit?
To me, working creatively equals solving problems. You can open up a restaurant, get outside funding and hire loads of employees, but that’ll remove all the obstacles that allow you to develop a distinct expression and to create something unique.
Do sustainable ingredients taste better than non-sustainable?
You can’t frame it like that—it’s really about having a holistic approach to food where every step bears equal importance. The ideals of sustainability are forgone when you’re standing in a white room, tasting two kinds of celery and guessing which is the organic one; that’s beside the point. When you work with sustainable ingredients, you place a far higher value on the things that you have in your hands because you’re aware of exactly how much effort and care went into producing it.
How has your perception of organic cooking changed over the years as you’ve delved more into the subject?
I’ve realised that it should be the norm rather than the alternative. We’re at a point where we’ve completely alienated ourselves from the things that we eat. We’re clueless about where our food comes from. Getting familiar with the things that we’re eating is an enriching experience and a way for us to move forward.
Photography:Ulrik Janzen / Scanpix Denmark