So over the next three weeks I will be doing a blog post trilogy on my incredible three-week trip to Denmark this summer! As part of the Erasmus Leonardo project with UCB I was selected to complete my NVQ level 3 work placement abroad.
As part of this programme around 20 chef and bakery students were selected. Half the group went to Marseille, France, and the other half went to Sønderborg, Denmark.
This incredible opportunity has been life-changing as I’ve gained valuable experience, created lifelong memories as well as making new friendships.
So the blog trilogy is going to be categorised under three sections – my placement, downtime and what I’ve gained!
For my three-week placement I went to the beautiful restaurant Huset Blom which is a fine dining restaurant with a tapas style set menu and warm cosy décor and service style.
Sat in the middle of what seems to be a residential estate, Huset Blom has to be one the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever seen. The huge white building with a shiny black roof, which the sun bounces off, has big brown framed glass doors and green plants around the entry. Walking up to this building on the first day has to be one of the highlights of my trip because in the weeks before I hadn’t comprehended that I’d get to spend three weeks somewhere as beautiful as this.
Huset Blom’s beauty doesn’t just stop at the exterior, the inside of the restaurant is also stunning! The restaurant is pristine and feels posh and expensive but on the other hand it has such a homely and comfortable vibe to it. The wooden dining tables look rustic, the bar has luxurious cream sofas, the foyer has fur displays and the hand-stitched napkins (by Pia the owner) add a real home comfort feeling.
The restaurant has two kitchens – a front open kitchen into the restaurant which has a large glass front so the customers can see all the plating and cooking going on, and a second back ‘prep’ kitchen where most of the mise en place and main cooking takes place. The back kitchen was amazing to work in, sparkling clean and immaculately organised. It was a chef’s dream. The second thing I liked about this kitchen was, as Huset Blom is a renovated house, that it is very much like a home kitchen. This was really strange for me as the kitchens at college are very industrial and the kitchens where I’ve done previous work experience or worked part-time have also been of an industrial style.
Working in an open kitchen was a completely new experience for me. Firstly it meant I had to look half decent, a luxury I didn’t prioritise for my part-time job. Also it was strange because being in an open kitchen I thought I’d have to be really aware of what I was doing when in fact I cooked as I usually did and they seemed to be happy with me. It is a bit weird working in an open kitchen as I wasn’t used to being watched as I worked and it is especially entertaining as customers were reading University College Birmingham on my chef whites and asking the waiting staff about me. I quite liked working in an open kitchen; it was great being able to estimate the checks more as I could see customers finishing their meals. Also, as a customer, I love eating in an open kitchen style restaurant so it was nice to be on the other side of that.
The food at Huset Blom was stunning. I loved my time there especially because of the range of foods I was able to prepare. As the restaurant also provides outside catering and takes pride in its staff food it meant I got to make some traditional Danish meals such as frikadelles and smørrebrød. The set menu was gorgeous, starting with a range of breads and a quenelle of butter, onto a small starter which was a one-bite piece that changed every day, onto two tapas style courses (one a salmon and one a crab salad). The next course was a chicken terrine and the main course was veal with new potatoes and carrots along with garnishes. Dessert was a white chocolate mousse with garnishes all freshly picked from the garden (one of my favourite parts of the day, picking fruit in the sun), and then onto a range of petite fours or sorbets depending on the order (I can personally vouch for the gin sorbet which has to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted in my life). The menu changed on a monthly basis to keep the staff and head chef creative.
The final thing I want to say about my placement was that the people, Klaus and Pia – the owners, head chef and manager of Huset Blom – are amazing people. So welcoming and kind along with the other chefs and front of house staff, they made me feel very comfortable for my three weeks there. I’m not going to lie to you, when I first got to Huset Blom I was slightly petrified of Klaus who somewhat resembles a Nordic Viking. However, I got to know and understand the gentle giant head chef and he made me laugh and dance when in the kitchen and Pia made me Earl Grey when I was homesick and missing English tea (the English know their tea but Danish coffee is better just to clarify). Even on our last day in Denmark they took me and Jude to brew beer with them – not an obligation as part of the college scheme but just out of pure kindness.
So to summarise, I absolutely loved my time at Huset Blom and am very grateful to UCB for the opportunity.
And if Pia and Klaus are reading this, a huge thank you and I hope to see you in Sønderborg again one day!