Where Passion Meets Purpose: Danish chef Claus Meyer on starting a culinary revolution
This culinary entrepreneur put New Nordic Cuisine on the map with the legendary restaurant, Noma. He has since pioneered social impact cooking schools and restaurants in underserved communities around the world—and fighting food insecurity as the COVID-19 pandemic. Get to know him and learn about some exciting exclusive experiences you can participate in with him this fall.
Plenty of chefs want to change the world through food. Claus Meyer is among the few to actually do it. The renowned Danish culinary entrepreneur, professor, cookbook author, and TV personality burst on the global scene in 2003 when he and chef René Redzepi opened Noma in Copenhagen. Focused on New Nordic Cuisine, a movement to promote local and seasonal produce, Noma not only earned two Michelin stars but was also named Best Restaurant in the World four separate years. Its runaway success only inspired Meyer to aim higher. Along with opening more acclaimed restaurants, in 2010, he established the Melting Pot Foundation, a nonprofit that runs free culinary education projects in underserved communities around the globe. Here, he discusses the six-month period that sparked a lifetime of food activism. He also shares a recipe for shore crabs: a plentiful, flavorful, yet underutilized food source.
How are you staying positive during the pandemic?
Through a series of unpredictable outdoor hospitality initiatives we have taken at Meyers that have generated a lot of joy. Working in my garden more than ever has also helped spur a sense of life.
Tell us about your culinary social ventures. What inspired you to start them?
I launched the Melting Pot Foundation in 2010. Melting Pot is about using the culinary crafts to engage underprivileged people in endeavors that provide them with new opportunities. In that spirit, we established a social fine dining and educational project around the Gustú restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2012. This led to 12 Manq'a cooking schools in [the neighboring city of] El Alto. Gustú was voted 14th best restaurant on the continent in 2016.
What has the impact of these projects been?
These schools have so far provided 3,500 young people with a six-month-long education, and 30 percent of graduates have started their own businesses or gotten jobs in the industry. Through Melting Pot USA, I established the Brownsville Community Culinary Center (BCCC) with Lucas Denton in Brooklyn, New York, in 2015.
What has the Brownsville Community Culinary Center accomplished so far?
The BCCC created a framework through which the community of Brownsville informed the development of the concept. Our amazing Community Advisory Board has guided us through hard times as well as good times. Ultimately, we've been able to serve tens of thousands of healthy meals to the community and put over 70 participants through our intensive, 10-month, paid culinary training program, during which they operated the BCCC's restaurant, and ultimately land in living-wage, career-oriented positions in the culinary industry.
Are any of your ventures supporting COVID-19 relief efforts?
The BCCC has been transformed from a cooking school and neighborhood restaurant into a production kitchen providing 2,000+ free, healthy, delicious meals daily to frontline workers and food-insecure community members throughout the crisis, totaling over 110,000 meals so far.
How did you get interested in the food industry?
Six months spent with a chef and baker and his family in Gascony, France, in the '80s gave my life direction. I realized there was a relationship between food and love and that something was rotten in Denmark. I went home to try to reverse that.
What's the first dish you cooked by yourself?
I baked bread when I was 12.
What are five things in your kitchen you can't live without?
Apple cider vinegar, flour, butter, salt, and honey.
What is one of your favorite recipes, and what's special about it?
Shore crab bisque. Shore crabs (an invasive species) aren't used for anything. In the ocean surrounding Denmark alone, if you caught all the shore crabs there would be approximately six kilos for each person on the earth. Paired with apples and cider, they make the best broth.
Unleash your inner chef and get to know Claus Meyer even better through this exclusive collection of culinary experiences, including a tour of his private garden, a family-friendly cooking class with his daughter and more!
Claus Meyer's Shore Crab Bisque
This easy-to-prepare recipe is both delicious and good for the environment: As Meyer says, shore crabs, which are considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, are rarely used as food. Yet Meyer discovered they're the perfect base for this bisque, a smooth, creamy style of soup originally from France.
"Bisque is classically based on the strained broth of all kinds of shellfish, from lobster, shrimp, and crayfish to shore crabs and more," Meyer explains. "Make sure to cook up a solid base and season it well to get a rich bisque, or make it extra fresh by adding lemongrass, lime, and ginger."
Download recipe: Priceless Cookbook - Chef Claus Meyer's Shore Crab Bisque
1kg shore crabs
4 tablespoons oil (or butter)
1 onion finely cut
3 cloves garlic finely cut
1 carrot cut in dice
1 parsnip (or parsley root)
5 tomatoes cut in smaller pieces
1 pinch of pepper
Herbs of choice (e.g. thyme, parsley, basil, chervil, dill)
375ml dry apple cider vinegar
Cream and fresh lemon juice
1. Pour crabs into boiling water until they’re no longer moving or cut them lengthwise with a heavy knife (place the crabs with the back shield against the cutting board; hold it tight by pressing the blade against the crab’s belly and press to cut through its head).
2. Put the crabs, juice and any leftovers on the cutting board in a bowl.
3. Sauté the crabs for a few minutes in oil together with finely cut onion and garlic.
4. Cut the apple and vegetables into smaller pieces and add these to your pan to let them earn some color.
5. Add tomatoes, pepper and the herbs of your choice and sauté a little further.
6. Add cider and water until it covers.
7. Bring it to a boil and discard the impurities continuously.
8. Let it simmer for 45 minutes-1 hour and finish with a blob of butter.
9. If you like, crush the crab shells in a food processor and return them to the bisque, then bring it to a quick boil again to earn its final flavor.
10. Sift the soup with a soup strainer.
11. Add some cream, bring it to a boil and reduce it as you see fit. Balance with salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and/or fresh lemon juice (lime or ginger) as you like it.