René Redzepi has been the world-renowned star of the culinary world for many years running. But a select group in Denmark has known a little secret that the rest of us just got let in on: there is more than one accomplished chef in the Redzepi household kitchen. (Well, actually there are several but more on that in moment.) Nadine Levy Redzepi, 32, has been by her husband’s side working at Noma since the restaurant’s meteoric rise to stardom and cooking since she was a young girl. (She made her first roast chicken when she around 8. Not many people can say the same.) While on maternity leave from Noma, she started posting pictures of on Instagram of the dishes she made for their family at home. A few years later, she has a new cookbook, titled Downtime: Deliciousness At Home, featuring all of their family favorite dishes she’s created over the years.
“I didn’t know that it would turn into a book,” she said. “I started writing down the recipes when I was pregnant with our first daughter because I wanted to start a family cookbook that I could pass on to her. This is that book. Hopefully, everyone can have a family cookbook.”
Their three young daughters are already busy playing sous chef in the kitchen with mom and dad. “They love helping with the cooking,” said Redzepi, who was originally born in Portugal and got the cooking bug from her mom. “Our 3-year-old can’t get enough chopping and peeling. It’s adorable.”
Redzepi, who is now juggling her roles as a mom, author and chef, spoke with W about how her healthy diet (scratch that, she’s not a big fan of the word ‘diet’) is the basis of her beauty routine, talked about her daily gymnastics workout with René and shared a few of her favorite Danish beauty products for battling winter skin.
I know you have been cooking since you were really young. What was the first dish you really mastered?
I don’t know if this counts as a dish, but I think the first thing was porridge, which then turned into scrambled eggs. I learned by just seeing my mom make it and then started to play around with it until I figured out how to make it the way I liked it best. Then that turned into scrambled eggs. But the first time I really cooked a meal was when I made roast chicken by myself. I was probably 8 or 9...it’s pretty simple, actually.
Wow, that’s pretty impressive for anyone but especially for someone that young.
It is incredibly simple. You just rub the chicken with oil and salt and put it in the oven and it’s amazing.
What I love about this cookbook is that the dishes are pretty approachable and for the at-home chef. This is truly what you like to make at home. What is your favorite comfort food to make?
It really changes depending on what I ate during the day, what workout I did that morning, what time of the year is it. But I am a fan of things you fry in a frying pan when I am pressed for time. It means from when I start until dinner, it will be like 20 to 30 minutes. But I am also a huge fan of things like roast chicken porchetta, or anything you put in the oven. It fills the house with the smell of comfort. For me, it’s the smell of home. That’s amazing, you put it in the oven and it takes care of itself. It gives you all this free time to do whatever else you want.
What is your favorite thing to cook for René?
He travels a lot and whenever he comes home, we always do a roast chicken. He also loves lots of vegetables and he is a big fan of the chicken liver toasts.
I know the two of you like to workout every morning before breakfast. What kind of workout do you do?
We have a trainer that comes and we are like four to eight people, sometimes ten to 12 people depending on who is in town, It’s a mix of functional training, CrossFit and gymnastics. We do a lot of handstands, cartwheels, standing on your hands and you have to tap the side of your leg alternating from hand-to-hand. The thought is that if you fell off a cliff, you could actually pull yourself up. It’s a lot of fun and we have been doing it for almost three years now. Then we sit down and have breakfast together.
What does your typical breakfast look like, post-workout?
Always an egg, whether it’s poached or scrambled or fried. Also, after we did our pop-up in Japan, we started doing rice for breakfast. We bought a rice cooker so we could do the Japanese rice. When you have this bowl of rice and egg, it’s so easy to use whatever green or if you have leftover steak or chicken stock for broth to pour over it. It can go with pretty much anything and it’s my way of getting rid of leftovers from dinner. Also, because we are like six to eight people for breakfast sometimes, it’s always good to have things easy to serve. I will also buy like flank steak and then do that for breakfast and cut into a bunch of slices. After the workout and all the running, you are hungry. Really hungry!
It’s really a part of the Danish ethos to be health conscious. What would you say is your approach when it comes to diet and health?
I don’t know if I necessarily believe in diets, per se, but I am very aware of how different foods make me feel when I eat them. I tend to ignore everything that is out there and really just focus on how it makes me feel. For example, I really really love cake. I really love it. I can’t eat like store bought cake. I don’t feel satisfied at all. When I bake a cake, I use the best organic flours and the best organic cream and the best vanilla. I know it’s not as healthy and it’s still cake, but I feel like it isn’t as bad. I let myself eat as much of it as I possibly can.
I also read in your book that one of your rules is not to fear fat. Tell me more…
I think steaming food is all good but you can really enhance the flavor if you put like a tablespoon of butter into the cooking water. It’s going to taste so good and so rich and you will be satisfied when you are done. Not being afraid to put lots of olive oil on top of the greens or butter in the water, baste your veggies and fish and meat…once you are done eating, you are full so you don’t want to go over and snack on something half an hour later because you are full. A lot of people will say that’s too much, but it’s still less than you will have when you go eat that chocolate bar afterwards or something.
I feel like this incredibly healthy, organic diet that’s sort of inherent in Denmark is the secret to Danish beauty. Thoughts?
Yes, I think it translates into a lot of things. We like things as close to their natural form as possible. You buy stuff as untouched as possible and it’s much better for you. Generally, people here like what’s clean and good for the environment in every way.
Are there certain foods that you eat particularly for the health of your skin or hair? Beauty foods?
We eat a lot of kale. I guess it’s the same in New York but this is the season where there is so much kale and it’s one of the only things that is seasonal and fresh right now. I go to kale just because it is fresh and healthy and I want my kids to eat it. I also use it a challenge to see what I can do it to make it taste amazing. I also love beets, I have been crazy about them since I was little. I love avocados and just a lot of veggies. Maybe it’s knowing that it’s good for you that makes me feel good but I feel so good eating these things.
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