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Christoffer Hruskova grew up in Odense, the third largest town in Denmark. In his family, it was his grandmother who did all the cooking. He told us: ‘She was the one that we always went to for dinners and she always did amazing dinners.’ Like many chefs, Christoffer Hruskova did not enjoy school. He says: ‘I’d had enough and higher education wasn’t the way for me. I have always been a good cook, but I never really had an interest in cooking professionally until I needed to decide what to do after school. My parents guided me towards cooking really. There was a course where you could try doing different things for a year, like butchery, pastry, cooking, being a waiter – so I did that. The chef and waiter part caught me straight away.’
He initially pursued a career in service, but after a couple of years decided to complete a chef apprenticeship. A spell travelling in France followed, before he took up his first position as a chef, working at Kong Hans, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen.
After leaving Copenhagen, Christoffer travelled the world. He told us: ‘I wanted to see what food was being made around the world, so I visited lots of different places, spending a month in each restaurant – more like a stage I guess.’ His journey took in Sydney, Hong Kong, Vancouver, San Francisco and New York, before he arrived in London and took a job at Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club in Soho. After leaving the restaurant he continued his travels, with stints in Japan and New York, before finally settling in London.
He told us he took something away from every position and stage he undertook while he was abroad: ‘I worked at the Chinese Restaurant at The American Club in Hong Kong – that was very different, lots of different techniques. In California there was a lot more freshness. The Latin food I experienced in New York used a lot of spices, different kinds of chillies and raw fish. At Tetsuya the cuisine was Japanese and I had Japanese friends, so that was different again. And I’ve always had a classical French background. I guess I’ve just taken bits and bobs from each place.’
His first sous chef position was at Cru in Hoxton, which he also helped establish. When Tetsuya (the Australian/Japanese/French fusion restaurant he worked in while in Sydney) came to London he was there for a time, and when Christine Manfield, another Australian chef, came to the UK he did a stint at her restaurant East @ West as well.
In 2006 he founded the successful brasserie, Fig, in Islington, where he worked for the next four years. It was at Fig that he started experimenting with wild herbs, having been introduced to foraging by a Swedish chef he was working with. Dishes at the restaurant included fresh, seasonal delights such as Asparagus with sweet brown shrimps and tarragon butter, or Spring lamb with pea purée and fresh peas. Scandinavian brunches of Danish rye bread with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon were popular on the weekends.
He told us the food he would come to cook at North Road was already starting to crystallise in his mind at this time: ‘I slowly had an idea of what I wanted to do at North Road and I think I worked towards that at Fig. But it was just myself working there, so I was quite limited with what I could do.’