Editorial | Michelin matters for growth of key industry

Danish food has come a long way since its contribution to world cuisine was canned ham, open-faced sandwiches and the Danish, all washed down by a Carlsberg or a glass of schnapps.


Nowadays, Copenhagen, at least, can lay claim to a plateful of gourmet accolades: 14 Michelin stars, the ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ and the ‘World’s Best Chef’. It’s also the seat of the Nordic food movement, which most recently earned Noma chef René Redzepi a spot on the cover of Time. 


For those not interested in unripe sloe berries or a dish of pickled vegetables and bone marrow, it’s easy to dismiss Danish haute cuisine in the same way the majority of us reject the eccentricities of haute couture. Just like concept cars at an auto show, many of these dishes or outfits will never wind up in the mainstream, but that’s not their ambition. Their aim is to expand our idea of what’s worth driving, eating and wearing.


In the case of the Nordic kitchen, the University of Copenhagen is engaged in a 100 million kroner study looking at ways to improve the health of children through better eating. Better in this case being Nordic, of course.


Despite the urge to write off such studies as an attempt by academics to ride on the coattails of successful entrepreneurs, it’s worth noting that their efforts could add energy to an important sector of the economy.


In Copenhagen alone, spending on food by all travellers amounts to 8.1 billion kroner annually. And when it comes to fine dining, people are willing to spend time – and money – chasing after the latest trend, and right now many are finding Denmark is worth a special journey. 


When it comes to everyday dining, the impact on the economy is even larger: food and agriculture remains the country’s largest export sector, bringing in 100 billion kroner in foreign revenue each year. 


Patriotic quibbles about whether Noma got cheated out of its third star may come off as being a petty First World problem, but given the economic potential tied to bolstering the country’s reputation, it could be a multi-billion kroner snub.


Why does Noma’s third star matter? Because Denmark doesn’t do tapas. Because you’re not going to find a quaint neighbourhood bistro, trattoria or pub, and because no-one is ever going to mix up pickled herring with sushi. When it comes to global food reputations, Denmark is banking on exclusivity, and in gourmet circles, neither Time nor multiple ‘World’s’ carry more weight than that additional little star.

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