Jesper Vollmer: “There has to be a connection between the story of the journey and the food experience”
By Inge Serrano, Communication Manager. Photos: Jesper Vollmer
Jesper Vollmer is a Danish chef who wants to inspire people to eat just a little better. He lives, enjoys and breathes cooking. And every week, you can follow him on Denmark’s largest online food club and cookery school, where he teaches people to become better at cooking and making weekday dishes. This former chef to the Danish royal family for 10 years will be in charge of designing the menus that our guests will enjoy during their expedition to the North Pole by airship.
Who is Jesper Vollmer?
I am a Danish chef, cookbook author and the former chef of the Danish royal family. I started quite late as a chef – when I was 25 – in a very nice French bistrot in Copenhagen. The head chef there was a 2-star Michelin chef. So, I learned his techniques and skills and it was a fantastic experience during those years. Then, later on, I worked for 5 years in the restaurant Søllerød Kro – very fancy and luxurious.
In 2006, I became the Head chef of the Danish royal family for 10 years. The Prince was French. He was a food lover and even had some vineyards in France. I remember picking vegetables with the prince in the palace gardens. Food was very important for the Queen and the Prince and both of them knew a lot about food. Cooking for people who really love food is very nice, so I feel I was lucky to work with the royal family during these years.
And what happened when you left the royal family?
When I left the royal family, I created a unique place for myself and my guests on the island of Bornholm where I wanted the guests to have the feeling of coming home with me and of me cooking for them and pampering them. People come to my house; I tell them about the history of the house. We have a glass of wine and then they cook with me and we have dinner together.
Also at Bornholm, I cook and I record my recipes and I own “Klub Vollmer”, a cookery school with a community of 5,000 subscribers who receive my videos online once a week and I show them how to cook different dishes.
How does it feel to have the responsibility of designing the menu for OSC’s first North Pole Expedition?
It’s so amazing. It has to be very unique and I’m nervous about feeling responsible for the menu. We have to rethink a lot of stuff. All the thoughts I have about the airship now are about space and comfort but we’ll have to think a lot about the little details that are going to make this experience so unique. We are designing the kitchen and we have to take into consideration the space limitations of an airship as well.
But I’m sure that, no matter what resources we have, this is going to be a very unique dining experience for the guests onboard the OceanSky Cruises North Pole Expedition. I think we will have an on-ground kitchen where we will do some of the menu preparation but, on the other hand, I would like to prepare some of the dishes in front of the guests in order to have an immersive gastronomic experience.
After many years cooking for the Danish royal family, how royal will the dining experience be onboard? Why is this menu going to be so special?
Although our guests are going to be high-end travellers and maybe they’re used to drinking champagne and eating caviar and truffles wherever they go… but I want to surprise them with something different and more experiential. I imagine it like a choreography of food and meals – and not necessarily the Michelin star type of food – but much more as an experience linked with the storytelling of the trip, the stars we’re going to see, the landscape, the animals…everything has to be visible on the plates and there has to be a story and a thread through it all.
How do you imagine it in broad terms?
Guests are going to have some fun little experiences related to the dining – trying new things. For example, to serve something that you are actually seeing below from the windows of the airship like local and traditional ingredients from Svalbard and the Arctic regions such as moss, vegetables, reindeer or seal meat.
Sustainability as a way of thinking on the airship is going to be visible in the food we are going to offer, so we have to cook with local resources and ingredients and not import food from around the world or waste ingredients and resources.
“I just want to offer our guests an entertaining, educational, luxurious, and unique experience that tells a story through food during our North Pole Expedition”
What do you see as the highlight of the experience, the dinner maybe? Will the low-and-slow airship experience be reflected in the onboard dining experience?
What I think could be fun during this trip is for guests to meet the kitchen crew and see what they’re cooking. Maybe having an oval table with the kitchen crew in the middle and the guests sitting around as an open show cooking. A multi-functional table where guests can have breakfast or a drink in a very relaxed atmosphere. A dining room that can change throughout the journey.
And including fun and surprising things such as eating with your fingers or using helium in some way during the dining experience. We are going to have one main menu but we will adapt it to our different guests needs – which we will know before going on board. I want each meal to be a surprise and a unique experience for our guests.
I’ve also seen some of the dishes from the airship trips from the 1920s and 1930s and I would like to recreate some of them in our menu as a tribute to history and a way of respecting our heritage, of where we come from.
What about the drinks?
Of course there has to be very good wines and champagne but I also want to offer some Nordic cocktails with entertaining themes and stories in the drinks as well. To have drinking experiences as a part of the story. We should definitely make an “OceanSky Cocktail”.
What role will sustainability play in the onboard dining experience? Can high-end gastronomy be sustainable as well?
People who are used to spending a lot of money on high-end food are very prepared to be sustainable and they have a positive attitude towards what we should eat. So, we are going to design a menu where sustainability and luxury should go hand in hand. Of course sustainability is going to be very obvious but we are going to have the luxury element as well and I want people, when leaving the airship, to be impressed by the gastronomic experience.
What does luxury mean to you regarding food?
Luxury doesn’t have to be very expensive. I’ve been on many luxurious trips around the world tasting really expensive food – but luxury could also be visiting a pig farm in Northern Italy which serves very organic and local food. You have to see respect in the dish and respect is a luxury in my world.
What message would you like to send to the world through your kitchen in the sky?
I just want to offer our guests an entertaining, educational, luxurious, and unique experience that tells a story through food during our North Pole Expedition. And to link the food experience to what we are seeing from above and to the history of airships.
How do you imagine your own personal experience onboard?
It’s going to be something very unique for me. Thinking about this neutral way of traveling again and showing people that luxury doesn’t have to be fast. Time is the new luxury. It’s going to be a respect like in the old days and of course having the modern technology, seeing what we’ve learnt through time and what we, as human beings, can create. It’s going to be amazing. I’m so privileged to be a part of this.