Nikolaj Schmidt Skadborg: “Cooking opened up a new world for me”

Nikolaj Schmidt Skadborg was named the best young chef in Scandinavia region during the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 regional heat and he will now put his passion for cooking to the test at the Grand Finale in Milan under the guidance of mentor chef Christian Puglisi.

We spoke to him about his preparations on how he turned a passion into a profession.

My dish is unique because…
My dish is unique because it truly represents Scandinavia, our climate and our culinary traditions. It represents who I am as a chef and where i come from.

What are the main influences in your signature dish?
Well really just the thought of what people most likely have been eating here since the early days. The raw ingredients, the preservation methods and cooking.

How are you collaborating with your S.Pellegrino Young Chef mentor in order to perfect your dish for the final?
He been giving me some general advice on my flavors. Mostly we are working on how to send out an even stronger message trough my dish.

What led you to choosing a career in the kitchen?
It was kind of an coincidence. I started out a little late, I had been struggling with figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and I kind just stumbled upon cooking professionally. It really opened up a new world for me and i haven’t looked back since then.

Who has been a mentor to you throughout your career?
I have been working around in a lot of different kitchens in Denmark. I can’t really hand out all of the credit to one guy.

What are your professional ambitions?
Just to work hard and grow as a chef and a person. I think it’s natural within me to take whatever I do as far as I can. But i would like to help nordic cuisine grow even more. So much has happened since it started out, but i think there is a lot more to come.

What’s the best dish you ever tasted? Where did you eat it and who cooked it?
I have had dinner at Noma 3 times now, it’s really hard to point out one specific dish, eating there comes down more than just what’s on one specific plate. It’s really more about the ambience and the energy. But definitely one of the servings there.

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
Just the whole scape of things, that there is so many chef’s competing from all over the world. The fact that we are now down to the final 20 is pretty exciting, there’s a pretty big challenge ahead of me.

What will you do if you win the competition?
Hard to say right now if it’s going to effect me in any particular way. I would really like to travel a lot and really get to see the world. Maybe winning is going to help me with that.