A playful curiosity permeates Sif Orellana’s approach to food. Often surrounded by her three sons in her “home office”—the large kitchen in her house—this self-taught chef develops her recipes through experimentation. Prior to pursuing a career in gastronomy, Orellana studied literature, as evidenced in the names of her recipes, which resemble fairy tale titles.
• Earned a master’s degree in literature and communication
• Founder of the publishing house Tinkerbell Books, which specializes in food and lifestyle books
• Her sons, Oscar, Lucas, and Noah, are deeply involved in the creative process at the publishing house and hold the titles of press officer, head photographer, and taste tester
• Proprietor of the company Muse Concept Studio, which provides food styling services, cooking courses, and concept development consulting
• Debuted as a cookbook author in 2004 with “Krudtugler & kanelsnegle” [“Sweets & Cinnamon Buns”], with subsequent books including: “Greven, kammerjunken og den dragende citronmåne” [“The Count, the Cookie and the Alluring Lemon Pie”] (2010), “Kram i madkassen” [“Hugs in the Lunchbox”] (2013), “Slyngler & stanglakrids” [“Scoundrels & Licorice Rods”] (2014), “Sunde slikmunde” [“Healthy Sweet Tooths”] (2016) and “Udeliv året rundt” [“Outdoor Life—All Year Round”] (2016)
• Chef, host, and commentator on Danish television stations DR and TV2.
Recipes for Adventure
A growing restlessness takes hold of Sif Orellana if it’s been too long since she’s had her hands nested deeply in dough, kneading and forming a bread to be. Orellana is enchanted by the creative process in the mixing bowl, working in tandem with a dough to bring out its lively elasticity.
A self-taught chef, she traces her baking exploits and experiments all the way back to childhood and the pride in hearing sounds of satisfaction as her family sampled her latest creation. A keen awareness of the recipient stays with her to this day.
“Cooking is an act of love,” she says. “As I cook in my kitchen, I think about how it will bring joy to others than myself. Like when I get the urge to fill the house with the scents of cinnamon and cardamom so it’s the first thing my boys are greeted with as they enter the house.”
It certainly runs in the family. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom and passionate cook, imbuing Orellana and her sister with the delight of combining ingredients and arranging a dish just right. She was the type of mother who gathered her daughters around the table in November to carefully craft a day-by-day Christmas cookie baking plan.
And these roots go deeper still. A treasured family heirloom is a cookbook written by Orellana’s great-grandmother. The book’s inscription reads “May this please thee”—a clear reflection of Orellana’s philosophy of putting the other diners first. She has used many of these time-honored recipes in her own cookbooks, from golden cream puffs to crisp fragilité.
The history of a dish or recipe fascinates Orellana. For example, her great-grandmother preferred raisins and candied peel in her birthday pastry, while Orellana updated the recipe with grated marzipan. But Orellana finds it equally important to add new stories to the mix, ensuring that the process—and not just the result—brings joy. She especially loves involving the youngest cooks and their imagination.
“If we roll a dough into snakes, we give it a new story. Date balls turn into funny animals when we stick twigs in them. Children instinctively add imaginative tales to food. It would be a shame if the kitchen were just a place where everything was simply about filling hungry stomachs. Fortunately, you can greatly shape your children’s perception of the world with words,” she says.
That’s why the large black lettering on the wall above her stove reads “The Magical Food Laboratory.” And why her recipes have titles like “Ghouls” and “The Christmas Cake from the Castle-with-the-twelve-towers.” Sometimes, however, her creativity falls short. Like the time she made a recipe for rolls and couldn’t come up with anything better than “Good whole grain rolls.”