Words by Andrea Petrini

Photos by Borderless Co. for Cook_inc. 21

We had left him a perpetually busy young man, always late in his shadow, always behind four courtesy rings and seven messages to be forgiven. The latest on: “my life is a disaster, shit in full swing”. Including the blood-red emoticon of ❤️. If I weren’t already married, I would have been flattered by his affectionate declarations of affection. Because Nicolai Nørregaard is an immense cook, but a good, excellent and abundant person even more. For the prized Italian clientele, Kadeau’s two Michelin stars chef in Copenhagen will go down in the history of the most recent costume for being twice first (like the cyclists of the past who thanked his mother live “I’m happy to have arrived One”): the first to win a Guinness Book of Records fighting against the Papal Edit and posing nude on the cover of  Cook_inc. 21, as mummy did him, in the adamic outfit of Venus splashing in the primeval freezing waters of Bornholm island.

His other more recent, but far less joyful trophy, just barely past the month, was to have registered first, with a sprint that took the whole world by surprise, to the list of the fallen victims of COVID-19. The signs were not lacking already, the warning alarm neither, yet when Nicolai Nørregaard announced in late March that Kadeau in Copenhagen would not open at the end of the lockdown due to official bankruptcy, out of the blue the planetary foodosphere understood that the situation was and would be serious for all of us. His current considerations: “In the last two years we had massively invested, opened new premises, bistrots and bars, not only in Copenhagen. On the island of Bornholm, we had just completed the renovation of the kitchen and hall of our Kadeau. Already from the dawn of the crisis, in January and much more in February, there was a cautious disaffection of customers. But when, exactly from the day after, on March 11, the government announced the confinement and immediate closure of all public premises, if you have more than eighty people registered on the paycheck you logically find yourself with serious solvency problems. In addition to a common drastic reduction in wages of thirty percent, there was little to be done. A couple of weeks later we found ourselves filing for bankruptcy. This happened before the economic aid plan was proposed by the Danish government”.

Pruning some unfruitful branches (“the kebab restaurant opened in the Tivoli park in Copenhagen that has never worked as previously expected”) and following the end of the historic partnership with the usual partners, having settled all debts (“the first thing we did was pay all our suppliers”) this Danish young man is always standing ready to start new adventures. “We separated from the bistrot of the Bornholm hotel and essentially concentrate, with the support of our new financiers, on the original matrices of our kitchen.” That is, the flagships, the two Kadeau – the multi-starred urban restaurant in the center of the Danish capital and the island restaurant, in the birthplace of the blonde chef. So, get ready, it will start again. But when? we still don’t know. Wednesday May 13th at 17h30 Nicolai gropes, like all the Danish brotherhood (and Italian, French, English, the whole world being a country etc. …) in the dark. “Here, the reopening slowly goes on. Officially the restaurants from Monday 18th will reopen their doors. But we are still waiting to know the health directives and all the measures to be taken to respect social distancing. Will we all be in masks? What will be the regulatory distance between two tables? A few days after the reopening, the government has yet to tell us. There is no use throwing the first stone, the pandemic has caught us all unprepared. Each country reacted on sight by doing its best, making inevitable – but excusable – mistakes”.

Omniscient, like our rulers, Nicolai is not. But given the pre-adolescent children, with the memories of homework after school to be supervised between two services in the restaurant, arithmetic was not forgotten. He knows that two plus two always makes four. “With borders closed that will reopen who knows when, it is clear that this year we can forget about foreign customers who will not come to Copenhagen throughout 2020. We will have to rely only on the local ones. With the current crisis, little money will turn, we will make less covers. We did everything we could, but we had to separate from a part of our team. We will reopen, let’s say in a reduced format, this summer first the Bornholm Kadeau then, with the end of the season, the Copenhagen one “. Prudence, attentiveness, they hope that the New World that will come will not look too much like the one before, even for the worse, certainly there will be less hunger… of luxury, fine dining will have to redeem a new form of legitimacy. “In the city, when we’ll start with the local clientele, we will test the situation. Fewer tables, more space, less long and less expensive menus if possible, perhaps giving more space to the bar and garden. But the real stake, in addition to the economic one, will be how not to let your guard down: how to be more accessible, in all senses, without for this reason abdicating the progressive line of our cuisine”. Starting afresh if not exactly from scratch. Giving time to time, to reboot! Who am I, where am I, where we will go together? We will celebrate together as soon as we can. In Bornholm, or in Copenhagen by Noma Burgerteca, the first post-Covid event (world opening, Wednesday 21st). “If worse comes to worst, if the borders do not reopen before autumn, we will meet again on November 9th at the European Food Summit in Ljubljana.” Good news for fans. With five months of work ahead of him, Nørregaard – for fuck sake!!! – will have enough time to complete his report: “Hey, I’m just a Danish boy from the countryside: what the fuck do I know about male toxicity?” Needless to say, he scores already high in the play list of the most anticipated stand-ups of 2020.