My Copenhagen | Small, but full of flavor

There’s always plenty cooking in Copenhagen, says the head chef of the world’s only Michellin-starred Thai restaurant

As part of our summer coverage, we've met with six Copenhageners to ask them what they love about our fair city. For our third story, we spoke to chef Dak Laddaporn.

Dak Laddaporn’s mother was definitely nervous. Laddaporn’s new job was at the restaurant Kiin Kiin in the middle of Nørrebro – an area often in the news for all the wrong reasons. The owners had taken a huge risk and set up shop in a run-down club, where guests could light up joints away from the prying eyes of the police. But Nørrebronx, as the area is also known, has treated her well. In 2011, after just over a year with Kiin Kiin, she was made head chef, and under her supervision the restaurant was recently yet again awarded a Michelin star.

“It’s a dream come true,” she says.

Dak Laddaporn is originally from Holstebro, way out west. Her family is originally from Thailand and Laddaporn was raised on good old-fashioned Thai cooking with red curry and coconut milk. She worked as an apprenticeship at a restaurant in Aarhus and moved to Copenhagen specifically to work in the kitchen at Kiin Kiin. 

In fact, she doesn’t see much of Copenhagen in daylight. Normally, she bikes home from work at 2 or 3am, dodging drunk cyclists all the way to her flat in the suburb Vanløse. But so far none of her mother’s concerns about her daughter’s life Copenhagen have come to pass, and Laddaporn is herself slowly getting accustomed to the Danish capital. That’s in spite of the fact that her style of cooking – inspired partly by the Thai street kitchen, among other things – doesn’t always fit in with the Danish weather.

But when she has the time, she likes to spend it in Copenhagen’s calmer corners, like Christiania or the green parks near her home. But it is the food, more than the city itself, that has brought her here.

“In spite of Copenhagen’s size, the level of quality is so high, and you need to work hard just to keep up with all the others,” Laddaporn says, adding that while the competition makes it hard to stand out from the crowd, it’s also great for business.

“Our guests here at Kiin Kiin have often also been to restaurants such as Noma and Geranium. People travel to Copenhagen for the whole package.”

Laddaporn has been a fast rising star at a time when Danish gastronomy is starting to turn heads, but she is acutely aware that it won’t last forever. First of all she wants children, and it’s hard to balance the life of a Michelin-chef with starting a family. Secondly she feels that Copenhagen’s restaurants may be reaching their peak.

“Scandinavia, and especially Copenhagen, has been at the centre for world cuisine for the last decade or so, and we’re going to ride this wave for the maybe the next five years. Asia and Asian cooking is the next big thing,” she says.

5 of my favourite things about Copenhagen

When in Copenhagen, don't miss …

… the canal tour. I take it twice every summer. You should also spend a day sitting on Dronning Louise’s Bridge, drinking Golden Ladies (a kind of beer, ed.). It’s a remarkable place and packed whenever the sun is out.

Where do you go for peace and quiet?

Grøndalsparken is just by my flat, in Vanløse. There’s never anyone there, it’s amazing.

Where do you go for live music or to experience culture?

There are very often free concerts at ‘Staden’ in Christiania. Tivoli has a lot of great concerts, too, and a trip to the amusement park is a must every Christmas, where it’s just wonderful to take a walk in there and enjoy the decorations.

Where would you take a visitor to eat?

I would definitely go to Vesterbro, where most of Copenhagen’s Asian restaurants are. Either that or the restaurant Told & Snaps, which serves traditional Danish ‘smørrebrød’. My little brother beat the unofficial record for eating the most pieces in one setting – 12!

Where would you park your parents-in-law for an hour or so while you catch up on emails?

On a warm summer day, I would send them to Kongens Have park, where they can find a bench and just hang out and watch people playing petanque.

Dak Laddaporn, 26
Chef at Kiin Kiin

Dak Laddaporn, 26, is one of the few female faces in the kitchens of Denmark’s Michelin-starred restaurants. The head chef at Kiin Kiin, the only Thai restaurant in the world to have a Michelin star, she is originally from western Jutland, and has lived in Copenhagen for three years.

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