Arne Astrup’s recipes for Simple Feast are the result of OPUS, a Nordic cuisine development project in collaboration with chefs Claus Meyer, Bo Jacobsen, René Redzepi, Katrine Klinken, and Nanna Simonsen. He bridges the divide between health research and a culinary enthusiasm liberated from fanatical dietary rules. As the head of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, Astrup possesses deep insight into how the body reacts to what we put in our mouths. He has also written extensively in his field, including hundreds of scientific articles focusing on appetite and metabolism. As a contributor to an array of cookbooks, he remains attuned to dietary considerations while facilitating and releasing the creativity of today’s leading Scandinavian chefs. Astrup is also a frequent contributor in Denmark’s public debate. Astrup offers no shortcuts to a healthier life, yet he holds that people should dare to expand their diets with new flavors and ingredients.
• Robert Herman Award from the American Society for Nutrition, 2012
• Director of OPUS Centre from 2009-2014, which explored how updating Nordic cuisine could improve children’s well-being
• Author and co-author of a wide range of books in Danish, with titles such as “Eat to be Healthy and Slim,” “Eat Away,” “The World’s Best Diet,” and “Everyday New Nordic Meals”
• Consultant at Herlev Hospital, 2012-present
• Director at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, 2012-present
• Professor at the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, 2007-2011
• Adjunct professor at Departement de Médecine Sociale et Preventive, Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada, 2007-2010
• Chairman of the Danish Nutritional Council, 1992-2003
• In his spare time, Astrup is a member of the Royal Copenhagen Shooting Society, an association whose history dates back to 1443
• Son of saxophonist Arne Astrup.
Professor of Delectability
When Arne Astrup goes out for dinner, he leaves behind his role as professor of nutrition. He has conducted years of research into the causes of obesity, yet his focus shifts completely when dining. A waiter can bring a basket of bread and it’s still bread when it hits Astrup’s palate—the moist crumb and crisp crust—rather than simple or complex carbohydrates that take different amounts of time to metabolize.
Astrup is more familiar with metabolic processes than most. But he resolved long ago to fully embrace culinary experiences—even when healthier options are available.
“To be quite honest, I’m omnivorous. Most people who are physically active can do just fine as such,” he says.
Astrup stresses that his analytical mind is disengaged during a meal. Forget about calculating the fat or salt content: He devotes his full concentration to the taste.
Take, for example, a recent visit to the restaurant Sølyst, located north of Copenhagen. A pea soup with mint, crab, and aromatic oil arrived at the table.
“In that situation, I noted the soup’s texture, tasting to determine whether it was thickened with cream or was only creamy from the peas.”
Astrup exhibits a dash of academic methodology when discussing the composition of a dish; every ingredient has a name and can be described precisely. Such is the nature of a man with one leg in the international research community and the other in the kitchen.
The same thoroughness characterizes his research prior to writing cookbooks. In 2003 he published the cookbook “Eat Away” in collaboration with Noma co-founder Claus Meyer, the result of a five-year search for healthy dishes in the world’s ethnic cuisines. Their study found that gastronomic traditions from around the world share one distinctive trait: Delectability is the result of a dish containing the full range of tastes.
“Just look at a traditional Persian lentil soup that I often make at home. It gets acidity from grated lemon peel, sweetness from syrup or chutney, and meaty umami flavor from the combination of onions, vegetables, lentils, and the spice mixture garam masala. You can make a soup to perfection, but if you forget the element of sweetness, for example, then something will be lacking in the final result.”
Some years later, Astrup teamed up once again with Meyer and other chefs, including Noma’s René Redzepi, to compile the extensive recipe collection “Everyday New Nordic Meals.” This time Astrup narrowed his focus from global to local, helping to adapt the principles of New Nordic cuisine for application outside of a gourmet context.
“In purely scientific terms, we tested and confirmed that our dishes could be made from scratch in less than an hour. The New Nordic approach began as art, but we have turned it into a set of tools based on organic, local, and seasonal produce. It’s an approach that you can apply anywhere in the world.”