Christoffer Hruskova

Christoffer Hruskova

Christoffer Hruskova was part of the movement that brought Scandinavian-inflected cuisine to London, earning a Michelin star for his hyper local dishes, inspired by his native Denmark. Using ingredients sourced entirely from the British Isles, treated with Nordic techniques, he creates light, vibrant, innovative plates.

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.’

In 2010 he moved on again, starting the restaurant North Road in Clerkenwell. He told us ‘I felt ready to do something a bit better and maybe aim for a star, which I had always wanted to achieve.’ After only ten months heading up North Road, Christoffer Hruskova was awarded a Michelin star. He says: ‘It was something we were working towards obviously, but it was still a big surprise.’

The kitchen at North Road used ingredients sourced entirely from Britain – its land and coastal waters. Jay Rayner wrote at the time: ‘No olive oil or olives. No tomatoes or bulb garlic. No chocolate in the desserts. He is more likely to season with vinegars than salts, to rely on smoking and pickling and leave ingredients raw where possible. The result is subtle and, for being unusual, intriguing.’ Christoffer Hruskova says of this decision: ‘I think you challenge yourself by limiting yourself and your chefs – it makes you more creative. We used lots of foragers and only small producers, we got really top notch stuff. Sometimes the dishes made themselves – I guess that can be the case when you have good stuff coming in.’

The highly seasonal, Scandinavian-inspired menu included starters such as Sweet cicely parfait with sea buckthorn and carrots, and Pickled mackerel with buttermilk snow, cucumber and dill. Noted mains ranged from Beef fillet in burnt hay with smoked bone marrow, salt baked and raw beetroot, to Wild turbot, burnt white asparagus and berries. Desserts included plates such as Millet porridge, oat crumble and milk ice cream, and reinterpretations of classic Danish sweets such as ‘Øllebrød’ with apple and salted caramel and Jellied ‘koldskål’ with green strawberries, liquorice ice cream and dill.

The Guardian at the time described the koldskål as ‘cool and light and tasted sublimely foreign’, continuing ‘you genuinely feel you're getting a glimpse of something new. There's an austerity, cleanness and clarity to this kind of cooking.’ Christoffer Hruskova told us: ‘North Road was amazing because I got to do what I really wanted with my food and the whole Nordic way with food as well. It was a fantastic time when I was there, absolutely.’

He left North Road in 2012 and worked as a restaurant consultant, helping set up venues in New York and Moscow. In 2013 he opened a pop-up at the restaurant, Verden, in Clapton. His signature style – ‘Nordic cuisine with British ingredients’ – was still in evidence and ingredients included foraged treats such as unripe elderberries, sea beets, samphire and wild garlic.

Working with Per Brun, the founder of Emmerys – a bakery Chris helped him establish when he lived in Denmark – the chef now owns The Bread Station, a bakery in London Fields. It sells sourdough loaves, authentic Danish rye bread and classic Danish pastries. They sell raw sourdough as well, so you can bake it at home – without the hassle and commitment of keeping a starter going.

He told us there is a new restaurant in the works too. He says the food will be similar to that at North Road, but there might be a little more flexibility when it comes to ingredients: ‘There are these sea urchins found north of Norway and they are just amazing. You can get some sea urchins from Jersey, but they are not quite as good because I think the waters are too warm. But I have had abalone down in Jersey which was fantastic – I haven’t seen anyone using local abalone in London before. We are probably going to go a little further out from the UK, but not too far. It’s going to be a very similar philosophy of using local, which is the main thing.’

We asked Christoffer Hruskova what it is that he still likes about working with food and why he continues to dedicate his life to it: ‘I love that you can make food that other people enjoy – I think that is amazing. When you go foraging and you see all of the great things that you can use, it never gets boring. For yourself and your team, you need to make it exciting and move forward all the time. I think that is what is so great about this business – you never need to do the same thing and stand still, you can explore. I think that is what is exciting about food and what keeps me going.’