Top Scandinavian Chefs Come Together for a Foraged Feast in Copenhagen
For this year’s edition of Stars du Nord, the roving pop-up restaurant brought Nordic Michelin fare to the urban commune of Freetown Christiania
In a city that created the concept of New Nordic cuisine, where superstar chef René Redzepi’s fine-dining restaurant Noma is considered a benchmark of gastronomy, standing out in the culinary landscape isn’t easy. “Taking the pop-up to the gastronomic hub of the Nordic, we needed to do something no one had done before,” says Caroline Thörnholm, founder and CEO of the annual gastronomic festival Stars du Nord, which brings together Michelin-starred Nordic chefs for a three-day restaurant dubbed MATERIA. “This was an impossible project—everyone said it was never going to happen.”
Last year, the event unfolded in one of the most remote locales on the planet, in the Arctic under the auroras in Swedish Lapland. Working with a zero-kilometer ingredient list, the previous edition was designed around the forest, but this year in Christiania, the former military base-turned-anarchist enclave sitting in the center of Copenhagen, the focus was on the soil. Notably, this is the first time that the 84-acre hippie commune, one of the oldest self-governing societies in the Western world, opened to an outside event. “Christiania is like a Narnia—I saw this wild, untamed nature that no one accessing or creating anything around,” says Thörnholm, who moved to the area for three months to work on the project. “The idea was to honor Christiania as this green oasis in the midst of a metropolis—we wanted to involve the community and create something together.”
To that end, chefs foraged with the community all spring and summer for wild plants and flowers like leeks, sweet clover, beach rose, and elderflower. Since the soil was polluted from years of operating as a military base, Stars du Nord partnered with the University of Copenhagen to test toxicity levels in the lab. When the results came back, they discovered everything was edible except for an invasive species of snails, so escargot was scratched off the menu. “When we asked the community whether they ate what was growing here, the response was divided—some ate the local plants, others don’t,” Thörnholm says, describing how the foraged feast came together.
Arriving on a motorized raft and passing through MATERIA’s signature, free-standing door, musicians dressed as forest fairies played music as guests strolled to communal tables crafted from local reclaimed wood. Inspired by a photo from 1971, when a group broke through the barracks with a wooden beam and founded Christiania, local designer Ana Lumack envisioned the pop-up as an extension of the community, where wooden beams are a core material.
At the open-air restaurant along the water, Swedish chef Sebastian Gibrand grilled oysters and algae over a fire while Copenhagen-based Alan Bates baked vegetables under embers to serve alongside slow-roasted venison—and all eight courses were paired with Scandinavian wines or spirits. “The traveling concept of MATERIA is that wherever you place the door, the restaurant adapts to the location and terroir,” says Thörnholm, adding that everything from the construction materials to the musicians was local from Christiania. “We wanted to honor the birth of this area and for people to feel that from the moment they arrived, they were being taken on an expedition.”