Meet the Chef
Line Tscherning Damgaard
- Aarhus, Denmark
- "Be open-minded, listen, and never stop learning."
- My business partner-chef-best-friend, Sigrid Barfod, Captain Paul Watson, my friends and family, and all the wonderful people in my life.
Aarhus, Denmark-based chef Line Tscherning Damgaard’s vegan “Eureka!” moment sparked in the Ecuadorian rainforest. While working at an animal rehabilitation center there, she met her first vegan friend, Sigrid Barfod, who would later become a co-founder of Mikuna. The experience led her to see the plant-based lifestyle as a chance to reinvent her food and live by the mantra: “Anything you eat I can make with plants.”
After graduating from Aarhus Tech/Gastronomy culinary school, Line leapfrogged past the usual stops on the chef/restaurant-owner journey—working and studying under multiple chefs. Instead, she opened Mikuna as an answer to Denmark’s still-emerging plant-based restaurant scene.
The restaurant has won multiple awards, including “Best Burger” from the Danish tourism site OpdagDanmark. Nowadays Mikuna is a street- and festival-food concept, and Line and her co-founders’ vision is to get a wider range of plant-based versions of classic Danish meat-based products into Danish supermarkets and beyond.
Line Tscherning Damgaard's Recipes
Eva Leonard talks to Chef Line Tscherning about becoming vegan, her vision for plant-based foods in Danish supermarkets, and the most important thing about cooking.
When did you get involved with the plant-based lifestyle?
I’ve spent 12 years living 100-percent plant based and vegan and loving every moment of it. I’ve had a weekly day with my brother to cook for the family for as long as I can remember, so cooking has been a natural part of my life.
Who are your biggest influences?
When I was done with high school, chefs were my rock stars, so I started culinary school in 2004. I made the complete change to a vegan life/cooking in 2008, but a few years before that I had started to cook way more plant-based.
Going plant-based or vegan is so exciting. There are so many products and dishes and so much love in this movement.
Does traditional Danish food easily lend itself to vegan cooking?
A lot of Danish classic dishes are super meat-heavy, but when we look further back, when meat was more of a luxury, there are plenty of plant-based dishes with humble, great veggies like cabbage, potatoes, and cereals. That being said, I am a sucker for making my own plant-based meats, and frikadeller, flæskesteg (pork roast) and Christmas duck are all possible and amazing in plant-based versions. Flødeboller can be made with aquafaba (chickpea water). Actually, there’s a small Danish startup making aquafaba flødeboller. Stuff like that makes me so happy.
What are some of the products you’re working to get into Danish grocery stores?
We have three products landing quite widely in Danish supermarkets in May. They are a collab with a larger, organic food company. Our three first products are what we would typically get on smørrebrød—open-face sandwiches made with dark rye bread. They are a chicken-free salad, a tuna-free salad, and a mackerel-free salad.
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Have you created a vegan pølser (popular Danish hot dogs sold from stands and carts throughout Denmark)?
Not for hot dogs or BBQ, but we’re working on spegepølse, which is like a salami that you slice and serve on bread as well.
What are some of the most important things about plant-based cooking that you’ve learned?
Never be afraid of fresh herbs, spices and seasoning. I think that’s a general rule for cooking. I don’t mean mix it all together and wish for the best, but I think one of the most common mistakes when cooking with plants is that we under-season the food. A slice of raw zucchini can become a slice of heaven with generous salt, freshly cracked pepper, olive oil, and lemon peel.
What ingredients do you like using to experiment with flavor and texture?
Pickling and fermenting stuff is wild! Veggies become something completely different when fermenting. The taste is one thing, but the texture of fermented eggplant or mushrooms always amazes me.