Whipping up homey meals for celebrity chefs

Nadine Levy Redzepi, with her husband Rene, has published a cookbook featuring her down-to-earth recipes such as baked salmon with thyme and potatoes as well as apricot tart.
Nadine Levy Redzepi, with her husband Rene, has published a cookbook featuring her down-to-earth recipes such as baked salmon with thyme and potatoes as well as apricot tart.PHOTO: NADINE LEVY REDZEPI/ INSTAGRAM

Nadine Levy Redzepi, wife of Rene Redzepi, who runs acclaimed restaurant Noma, cooks for not just her husband, but sometimes, his celebrity chef friends as well

LONDON • You cook at home and each day you prepare meals for your husband, who also happens to be one of the best chefs in the world.

Sometimes, he even shows up with mates who are also culinary stars, such as David Chang of Momofuku in New York. 

It is a daunting prospect, but that is the life of Nadine Levy Redzepi, who is in her early 30s.

Her husband, Rene Redzepi, 39, runs Noma in Copenhagen, which has won the title of World's Best Restaurant four times.

She said it does not faze her at all.

"I don't get nervous. A lot of these chefs are very good friends of ours and have been for a long time.

"No chef would expect anyone whose house they go to to do crazy things, like with foams or whatever.

"When you work with that type of food every day, you almost look forward to getting home-cooked food," she said.

She has published a book of recipes that she uses to whip up meals for her family and friends.

Called Downtime, it  is as down-to-earth as she is, featuring nononsense dishes such as baked salmon with thyme and potatoes as well as apricot tart - rather different from Rene's creations, such as a salad with live ants and a ceviche of clam with thinly sliced banana.

She  was born in Portugal to a Danish mother and a British father, who travelled across Europe in a van, staying on campsites and playing the guitar to earn a crust.

"I was with my mum who tried to provide the family with everything we'd eat," she said. 

"We would be in the fields harvesting beans or walking around the herbs.

"Without thinking about it, everything I did revolved around food," she added.

She learnt to cook by watching television shows featuring chefs such as Englishman Ainsley Harriott and Italian food expert Antonio Carluccio.

However, her breakthrough in the culinary world came when she got a job as a waitress in Noma.

Like other employees, she was issued a manual on how to behave, written by Rene.

One of the stipulations was a rule against dating colleagues.

Then, she started dating Rene. Secretly.

"We'd meet at Rene's place after work, going there separately," she said. "It was a long time before we actually went out on a date.

"It was two or three months before he took a full day off. He had a delivery bike and I sat on the front and we rode around.

"We had a nice picnic in a very green area where you could see the water," she recalled.

They bought a DVD player, rented a few movies and went out for dinner. A nice evening.

These days, they have three daughters. Why go to the trouble of writing a cookbook?

"When I was pregnant with our oldest daughter, I started writing down my favourite dishes.

"I've always been drawn to this idea of a cookbook that was passed down like a family recipe collection, so I decided to make one.

"I wanted to give it to my daughters. It still is for them, but also, it is for everybody," she said.

Does it bother her that people will think she snapped up a book deal only because of who she is married to?

"I am very, very well aware that being Rene's wife and having my last name is how I even got publishers to look at my proposal," she said.

"I am totally fine with it because this is my book. I cooked everything in here. I wrote all the recipes.

"It is what I cook at home."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Whipping up homey meals for celebrity chefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe