by Adrienne So
Due for release in May, “Food & Beer” is a beautifully written and photographed book that—despite its name—is difficult to categorize. It is not strictly a cookbook. While it does contain recipes for nachos and Welsh rarebit, or an open-faced grilled cheese, many of its recipes—like a dish of pork, chrysanthemum and rutabaga—are written for other chefs, with measurements in grams and instructions for service. And although the book delineates and explains many of the different flavors to be found in beer, it isn’t strictly a guide to that beverage, either. Rather, it is a book about relationships: the one between food and beer, but also between two men (both very gifted in their different fields of cooking and brewing) who came together to create a one-of-a-kind destination in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Daniel Burns is a Canadian chef who has worked at some of the most renowned restaurants in the world for some of the most famous chefs, like Heston Blumenthal, Rene Redzepi and David Chang. Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the famed brewer behind Evil Twin, who was also formerly the beer director at Noma. The duo opened the attached beer bar and restaurant Tørst and Luksus; the names mean “thirst” and “luxury,” respectively, in Danish. Tørst offers a well-curated selection of craft beers and Burns serves a celebrated New Scandinavian menu at Luksus, which just became the first restaurant in the world to win a Michelin star with only beer on the drink list.
Along with high-profile friends like Redzepi, who wrote the introduction; ghostwriter Joshua David Stein, the journalist and restaurant critic for the New York Observer, Eater and Heritage Radio Network; and food photographers Signe Birck and Gabriele Stabile, Burns and Jarnit-Bjergsø published their latest collaborative project. We spoke with them about “Food & Beer,” but mostly relationships.
How did the two of you come up with such a distinctive format, in presenting the book as a conversation?
Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø: It was something that we agreed on while in the process of figuring out what we wanted to say. The way we work together is very much the same thing—where we have a lot of discussions and talks and conversations about what we wanted to do. It seemed like an obvious MO, more approachable to the readers. It was just a nice way of doing what we do already.
Daniel Burns: I wanted the reader to get engaged with it. Hopefully, it’s something exciting and unique. The book writing was an open conversation about flavor and the relationship between beer and food. I think it’s really great to break up the chapters by flavor (bitter, funky, sweet). That would be the most engaging for people in terms of interest, really relatable concepts that get people into each chapter.
It seems like the book is also about the creative process.
DB: Yes, how you determine a pairing for a dish—it’s very much creative in how you want to approach it. Sometimes you want to pair the beer with the most prevalent flavor, but sometimes you want to pair it with the third or fourth most flavorful element. You don’t do a blueberry dessert with a blueberry beer. The pairing process is intuitive, but you’re trying to experience different things. When [the customer] tastes the beer and when [the customer] tastes the beer with the food, it should be a different experience.
Yes, and not just with pairing beer and food, but in putting together a paired bar and restaurant as well.
JJB: Yes, definitely. Luksus wasn’t something we had planned. I wanted to do a beer bar. In terms of making a restaurant, I had this idea. Now I know a good chef, and know he would understand it. If Daniel had said no, I probably wouldn’t have made a restaurant. You can definitely say that the process in the book is how Luksus and Tørst came about.
Would you say that luck was involved in how Tørst and Luksus got started?
DB: Jeppe was curating the beer program at Noma, but he decided to move to Brooklyn and pursue Evil Twin in the States… The first week he was in town, we met at an event with my friend at a beer shop. The fact that we met made it possible for Luksus to become a reality.
JJB: I don’t believe in luck that much. I think you create your own luck. You make sure you’re at the right time and in the right place. It’s too easy a word. I don’t think anyone can make it far with luck. You have to be hardworking. You have to take some chances, and jump out into it without looking back. A lot of people think too much about all the consequences and they end up not doing it. I’m the opposite. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, I’ll figure out how to change it.
Did your shared background in sports help bring you two together [Daniel played university soccer; Jeppe competed for the Danish National Team in track]? Did both of you bring something of an athlete’s approach to beer and food?
JJB: I’m extremely competitive. Does it come from my background in sports, or did I do sports because I liked the competition? If I do something, I want to be the best at what I do. When I presented the idea of Luksus, I said, “I want to do this thing, but there’s a couple of things you have to know. We can only do beer, and I want to be the first restaurant in the world to get a Michelin star that only does beer.” I always feel that I can be better. I always find another goal.
I wanted it to be a book to look at in about in five or 10 years, to say that this book changed how we look at beer in fine dining.
And now that Luksus has a Michelin star?
JJB: I’ll give you a wild guess. Now I want two!
But is there anything beyond another Michelin star?
JJB: The important part is to spread the love of beer. I want every restaurant to have a beer program. Next to the wine pairing, they should have a beer pairing.
But I wouldn’t say that it’s mainly for restaurateurs and sommeliers. The conversation appeals to normal people. We have a story to tell. It lets them get to know us. But it should also be usable to restaurateurs and sommeliers, if they want to do the same kind of thing. I wanted it to be a book to look at in about in five or 10 years, to say that this book changed how we look at beer in fine dining.
“Food & Beer” is available for pre-order now.
Images courtesy of Phaidon