My life in food: Hardeep Rehal
Back in May, Hardeep Rehal won the Danish final in World Class - the world's largest bartending competition. In addition to the title as Denmark's best bartender, it also gave him an entrance ticket to the international final in World Class, taking place from July 4th till 8th, which for the first time this year, will be 100% digital. We met up with Hardeep to talk about his relationship with food and cocktails.
What is a good meal for you?
“I love quality ingredients that are treated well. Especially, I’m a big fan of taking a raw material and getting the most out of it, by using everything from it. Ala “nose to tail” – or “root to tip” principles. So in reality it doesn’t matter what I eat. But I lean the most towards dishes vegetable-based dishes. ”
What is your favorite food?
“Dishes with pasta. I love the simplicity of a good pasta dish. A good base paste is a perfect canvas to paint on in a kitchen. Everything is possible, and it is solely up to you what colors, tastes, and ingredients you want to be creative with. ”
What is your favorite restaurant?
“It’s really hard to say. In Copenhagen alone, the level is so high and the selection so versatile that you can always find something good, no matter what mood you are in. I have always been a big fan of Bo Bech’s very organic and lively way of cooking. But if I had to choose one place, it would probably be Formula B. The service there is good, they have an insane wine list and extremely high quality of food. They have found a balance between the elegant and at the same time something that has power and substance. And then the setting is cozy. It’s probably the restaurant I’ve visited the most times with Le Sommelier since it existed. ”
What is your relationship with cooking?
“Food takes up an incredible amount of my life. And I make an effort to get the best out of the products I work with every day. Even my morning omelet I have spent several years refining, and today I hit the right texture! Since I work with taste daily as a bartender, I also find a lot of inspiration in the world of food. I also try as much as possible to build a bridge between the two worlds. ”
What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
“It must be Ambra, which is also known as an Ambra pig. It is a secretion from the sperm whale’s intestines that floats to the surface of the ocean and resembles clay or amber. It is incredibly rare and therefore also very expensive, but it is something very special. The aroma is sweet, intense, packed with umami, and leads the mind in the direction of the sea, forest floor, mushrooms, and steam. Ambra is also used in perfumes. ”
Can you use your skills as a bartender when cooking?
“Absolutely. With over 17 years in the industry, I have built up an arsenal of flavor combinations that I can use to give my food extra nuances. The way a bartender works with herbs and extracts of flavors from various ingredients is very useful in a kitchen. After all, almost all the ingredients behind a bar counter come from vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs. So when I’m at work, I almost make vegetarian food in liquid form. I also use spirits in my food. The intensity that spirits contribute can easily be used as a spice. And desserts are an obvious “bridge” to cocktails. ”
What characterizes you as a bartender?
“Atypical ingredient compositions and simplicity. Everything tastes like something and I either try to extract flavor from everything around me or I try to simulate the taste using other ingredients. I often use colors as guidelines, as colors can often reveal taste character. I always stick to 2 colors/flavors, so my drinks retain their simplicity and you can identify what you are drinking. If you mix too many colors, you end up with a muddy brown. ”
What is your favorite cocktail?
“I like a Wet Martini a lot. It consists of gin and dry Vermouth. You get significantly more Vermouth in than usual, so it gets the perfect velvety soft balance that a cocktail should have. A Wet Martini is still “dry” in expression, it just has balance. I love the simplicity of it just like in the pasta dishes I talked about earlier. I also like 2-component drinks that are sour – like a daiquiri, margarita, gimlet, etc. Simplicity and balance. ”
Which items contain a good cocktail?
“Balance is alpha and omega. You can have the best ingredients, if the balance is not present, it can be just as much. But must find the perfect match between the sour and the sweet. It’s like an orchestra. Everyone has their place and function, if things do not play together, it is the only thing you notice. ”
What inspires you when making cocktails?
“Colors, music, art, food, my surroundings. Everything tastes like something, and if I put on the scientific glasses, you can break everything down and extract taste from it. I often translate experiences into a cocktail, as a drink should preferably tell a story or create an atmosphere where the ingredients play together and show the experience. It allows me to create a cocktail that tastes of Tivoli, Amager Fælled, a specific song, or Marilyn Monroe’s favorite perfume. ”
What is Copenhagen’s best cocktail bar?
“It’s hard to say again because the level is so high. However, there are two bars I most often end up going to, and that’s Power and Duck & Cover. Stylistically, their cocktail profile suits me well. They serve individual cocktails with good balance. It is high quality wrapped in an unpretentious and cozy setting with personal and good service. ”
What are you most looking forward to at the World Class final?
“I am most looking forward to showing and carrying out my ideas. World Class is just like the haute couture runway of the fashion industry. This is where you show concepts and ideas that you have had in your body but have never had the opportunity to bring to life. Simply because they are too time-consuming and complex to do in a busy bar. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to express something abstract that you have kept to. So I’m most looking forward to it.”
How did you prepare for the final?
“Incredibly structured. All my challenges have been broken down into spreadsheets, to keep track of what my ideas are, as well as what World Class demands and what the judges give points based on. From here, I have found themes for the various challenges and familiarized myself with how I will be able to achieve the highest number of points. In parallel, I work on the creative and abstract part of the cocktail to give it soul, and so I can wrap it in a good story for the judges. ”