A couple of weeks ago Danish chef Rasmus Munk made Michelin-starred dishes, now he prepares pasta salad and tartlets for the homeless in Copenhagen.
In the past few weeks, COVID-19 has forced several restaurants in Denmark to close, including the well-known Alchemist.
But closing the restaurant doesn´t mean that the owner and star chef, Rasmus Munk, stops doing what he loves the most, cooking. The clientele and the venue, however, have changed radically.
Homeless and socially vulnerable citizens in Denmark have, in many cases, nowhere to go during the pandemic. With almost everything closed, their living conditions have deteriorated. And that is where Rasmus Munk wants to make a difference.
The pandemic has sparked new life into one of Munk’s pre-existing projects, which was conceived a few years ago. The project is called JunkFood, but while Munk was busy running his restaurant, he had little time to devote to it. However, during these times when the Alchemist is closed, the JunkFood project grew wings.
Workers prepare meals in the kitchen of the Alchemist in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo courtesy Søren Gammelmark / The Alchemist
The JunkFood project
The JunkFood project consists of cooking for homeless people. “This is a moment in time where we have a lot of extra time and four empty kitchens,” Rasmus Munk explains. “It is hard not to have anything to get up for in the morning, especially when one is used to working 16 or 17 hour shifts.”
And there is certainly a need. As he points out in an appeal to his colleagues on Instagram, in the Vesterbro neighbourhood in Copenhagen alone, there are between 500 and 600 people who live on the streets. Due to the lockdown, many of their shelters are closed or full, and volunteers are leaving due to the risk of contagion.
“This is a call for chefs in Copenhagen. In a time when everyone is encouraged to stay home, those who do not have a home are in dire need of help,” Munk said in his appeal.
The JunkFood project aims not only to feed socially vulnerable people on the streets but also to provide nutritious meals.
"We will, of course, take all necessary precautions regarding COVID-19,” he adds.
Munk explained in his interview for UNRIC that he had reached out to the City of Copenhagen.
“And now we are serving 550 meals a day to 12 shelters around Copenhagen. It is part of the Alchemist‘s philosophy to try to make a difference - both in our gastronomy and in our daily communication with guests.”
Workers package meals for distribution in the kitchen of the Alchemist in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo courtesy Søren Gammelmark / The Alchemist
Cooking and activism
Rasmus Munk has always been unique in the world of gastronomy and the Alchemist restaurant was called “the World’s Most Ambitious New Restaurant” in an article in Robb Report, with a mix of art, theatre, activism and food all in one.In his fifteen-seat, two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Munk once served a blood-looking cherry sauce, to persuade his clients to sign up to be an organ donor. Munk says that his cooking for the homeless is a continuation of the philosophy of the Alchemist.
“This project is, in a way, just another aspect of that with the focus now shifting to making a difference on a more one-to-one scale. We have had a fantastic response from the industry and have been supported with both ingredients and help in delivering food to the shelters.”