Rosio Sanchez, Noma, Copenhagen

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th June 2014
Rosio Sanchez is the pastry chef at two-Michelin starred Danish restaurant, Noma. She grew up in Chicago before moving to New York to work at Wylie Dufresne’s legendary WD~50. She got the call up from Noma when she was travelling in Europe and has worked there since 2009. She most recently witnessed the restaurant’s return to the number one spot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and will be accompanying René Redzepi and the rest of the team in the temporary relocation to Tokyo next year.   Rosio Sanchez - photo by Hannah GrantGrowing up in Chicago, was cooking and pastry on the scene for you from an early age? It was mainly pastry that got me into cooking. I’ve always had a sweet tooth so mainly that’s been the drive – to make something sweet for myself or someone in my family. From there I got into the vocational programme in high school and just two weeks after I finished high school I went to Le Cordon Bleu cookery school [in Chicago]. I thought I’d jump in as soon as possible because a lot of European cooks start off so young, and I was around 18 at the time so I felt I was a bit behind. I was there two years and then moved to New York where I worked at WD~50 for about three years.   Was Noma a restaurant that had always been on your radar as somewhere you wanted to work?  It was always somewhere I always had an interest in. Wylie has a huge library in WD~50 that everyone has access to. I remember seeing René’s book there, the first one, and René came in a few times to visit Wylie. So yeah, I was always interested and even more so because it was just the complete opposite of WD~50. I love both approaches, but to able to do something so different instead of making some kind of horizontal move, was the challenge that I was searching for. How difficult was the initial adjustment to the Noma way of doing things? It was a hard adjustment but it’s something you quickly get over. In the beginning I guess not being able to use chocolate and things that are not immediately satisfying to everyone was a challenge. You can always put chocolate on and people are always going to love it. One of the first things I remember René saying was to try and do a carrot dessert. In my mind I was thinking carrot and white chocolate and I looked at him and didn’t say anything but he just looked at me and said: “You can’t use chocolate.” So I just went straight into the pantry and started smelling everything to find what I could use. You just have to get over it and realise that the box of ingredients becomes a little bit smaller, but it pushes you to appreciate the things that may have been overlooked and how you can acquire sweetness from things that you maybe wouldn’t have if you weren’t asked to. You’re famous for using ants to replace the citrus flavours that you can’t get locally; have you found that you can find something to replace almost any ingredient, or are there some flavours you just can’t recreate? There are some things you just have to accept you’re not going to make. If you taste yuzu you’ll understand that you’re never going to get there using local ingredients here in Denmark! But there are other products here that you never would have thought of and that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. There are some herbs here that are more potent and in-your-face than anything you can get anywhere else. NomaIn his last book, A Work in Progress, René rages at the winter in Denmark quite a lot; do you find winter a difficult season too? It’s pretty depressing but it’s become – now that we’ve adjusted to it so many times – something that we almost look forward to because it’s a time when we can be a little more creative in our applications, whereas in the spring you’ve got a lot of ingredients and you don’t have to do a lot to it but in the winter that’s when you really have to work with the ingredients – all these root vegetables – and try and do something that hasn’t been done already. In the end it has pushed us to do great things like for instance one of the dishes I’m really happy with is this almost fake ganache – I say that for a lack of a better term because that’s what most people can associate it with. It’s roasted barley that’s been fermented and we add cream to it so in the end it tastes like a very intense sophisticated ganache; it’s dark and creamy and luxurious and just a super chocolate replacement; but that would never have happened if we weren’t pushed to work with what we have; it didn’t come over night of course; a lot of things in the spring and summer come quicker but in the winter as there are less things to work with there’s more time. How on Earth did you come up with that? Hay parfait and strawberries - photo taken by Ditte Isager and styled by Christine Rudolph. I was trying to roast some of our fermented barley. Since it is fermented, most of the starches have already been converted to sugar, so I wanted to do a sweet application using this sweet roasted barley. Someone pulled it out and it was hard roasted, dark! Whomever pulled it out, put it on my cutting board like when you mess up something. But for me it kind of reminded me of coffee beans or roasted cacao beans so I just dumped it into some cream and let it sit overnight and the next day I looked at it and it tasted amazing. How did it feel to be back at the top of the World’s 50 best Restaurants list? That was unbelievable; we were dumbfounded; we had no idea. We had such a great day and we were expecting to be like number 20 or something because that’s the way it goes, so we were prepared for that and we just thought, let’s go and have fun, who cares? And we were having fun - having a lot of fun! – and then finally it was getting closer and closer to number one and we were just looking at each other and we were so confused about what was happening; it was awesome! Sloeberry and brown cheese dessert - photo taken by Ditte Isager and styled by Christine Rudolph.You’ve got the move to Japan coming up next year; are you already starting to prepare for that? Yes, we already have a Japanese-inspired dessert in mind that I want to do with sake and sake lees which should be nice. Also we received a few products a few weeks ago just to get a look. We’ll probably make it out there at some point, maybe a few weeks before the actual restaurant opens. I’m really looking forward to it; it should be just like when I first came here – you have no idea what you’re getting into!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th June 2014

Rosio Sanchez, Noma, Copenhagen