How chef Henrik Rettrup kindles his culinary creativity

Henrik Rettrup, head chef at Sweden’s famous Copperhill Mountain Lodge, shares the secret of how he fires up his imagination.

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.

“Fermentation and smoking are the techniques I have used and experimented with the most in my career, and they are the foundation of my cooking,” says Henrik.

There can be no smoking without fire - a fact Henrik appreciates. His fascination with fire began when he was a child (with a few minor mishaps we won’t mention here). As he grew older, he continued to stoke the flames of his interest by spending more time in nature, fishing and grilling what he caught. Today, he incorporates fire into his culinary process as a way to add character to the food.

“I think fire gives the food a certain flair, something raw and real. And I like the challenge of making something that is raw work with more delicate ingredients.”

When creating a new dish, he speaks the words out loud — as though they were a mantra — before experimenting to find the right combination of flavours. In this case, the challenge was to find tastes to team with his birch-grilled char. The solution was steamed king crab for a touch of sweetness, smoked fennel braised in roasted rapeseed oil, fermented leek, and leek foam to bridge the flavours.

What truly elevates the char, Henrik says, is the smoky taste in combination with a syrup he created using - you guessed it - his favourite of the four elements.

“Roasted birch syrup was something I came up with thanks to Fäviken. I think it was when I visited during their second year that Magnus Nilsson has this syrup that was like balsamic. He had burned out a birch log, filled it with vinegar and let it sit for a year. I wanted to do something similar but my own take.”

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.