Jamaican chef tantalising taste buds in Denmark
Jamaica-born chef, Christopher Pinder, is enjoying preparing food for the people of Denmark, a place he has called home for close to 20 years. The chef, who owns a restaurant in that Scandinavian country, gets really excited when his diners ask for more Jamaican oxtail, curry goat, coconut rundown Caribbean-style, or tun cornmeal. And not to mention patties!
Pinder’s eponymous café is promoted as “the only Jamaican restaurant in Vejen (pronounced Vine) and the only one where you get authentic Jamaican food in Denmark”, and he expressed delight with being a cultural ambassador for Jamaica by sharing the island’s cuisine. But he also spoke highly of the Danish people whose adventurous taste buds have made room for his island delicacies.
“A lot of people here had never tried Jamaican food before, and it is surprising how they gravitate to it. I am shocked at how much the Danish people love oxtail and curry goat. They have goat farms here, but it’s mainly for cheese and milk, so when I cook curry goat, and I do it the real Jamaican way, they just love it,” Pinder shared with Food. “I have some customers who want only oxtail, and others who will try everything,” he added.
His challenge, he said, with a grin, is how to get the very proper Danish diners to eat oxtail the “right” way. “Danish people don’t really like to eat using their fingers, but I tell them that to really enjoy the oxtail, they have to pick up the bones in their hands and get into it. And I make sure to buy the oxtail whole so that I slice it myself and do it thinner that we would do back home,” the Pinder’s Café CEO said.
His menu includes anything from his specially made sorrel and jackfruit ice cream, baked products, jerked chicken and every other meat that is ‘jerkable’, his burgers laced with Jamaican hot pepper, ribs, wagyu beef (on special occasions), fried dumplings, fry fish and shrimps with callaloo, ackee and salt fish, and of course his special patties.
“I introduced patties to their palates, and the Danish people buy them a lot,” Chef Pinder stressed, adding that he has catered for music festivals which have seen him selling hundreds of patties at the events. “I make beef, chicken, vegetable and also the gluten-free variety. I sell the patties with salads and by themselves,” Pinder, who once worked at fast food outlets in Jamaica and also at hotels on the coast, said.
However, always trying to be creative, he uses his own patty recipe to tickle their taste buds. “I have customers who have gone to Jamaica for vacation and come back and tell me that they prefer my patties,” he said with a laugh.
With enough stories to write a book, Pinder shares them as deftly as he serves up his meals. “I made some fried dumplings for my own breakfast one morning and had some dough leftover, so I decided to use it up and put one dumpling each in the lunches that had been ordered. So when one lady came and picked up her order, they all had in dumplings. A few minutes after she left, I got a call from her asking if I had any more of the fried bread. I told her that I could always prepare some for her, and she ordered six, so I quickly fried them,” he recalled.
He also takes special care in preparing what he calls the old Jamaican food that people have forgotten about. “I do the tun cornmeal with coconut milk and form it out in different shapes, and it’s a winner,” he explained, adding that his jerk and barbecue sauces on his own Black River Sauce label are also big sellers.
Another thing that he has introduced to his cola-loving customers is Grace Tropical Rhythm fruit juices. “I don’t have hands to sell them, but the major problem is that the distribution flow isn’t smooth, and oftentimes I have to wait too long to get my stock replenished from the distributor. I purchase from a local distributor who gets them from England,” he explained. And another bee in his bonnet is that he sees the Scandinavian market as being ripe for Jamaica, but the island isn’t taking advantage of it.
“I have sent emails to the tourist board requesting posters to put up promoting Jamaica, but I have never received a response. People here love everything to do with Jamaica, and they support the reggae artistes who come here to perform. I have cooked for artistes such as Capleton, Morgan Heritage, and Anthony B when they have come to Copenhagen to perform. I once prepared jerk chicken and oxtail for American rapper Xzibit and his team, and they loved the Jamaican food,” he shared.
Pinder, who also pursued reggae music at one point, sings praises to Vejen, which is one hour’s drive away from the German border, as “the best place [he] has ever lived in Denmark”, and stressed that this is directly because of the people. “You feel welcome, and the residents are supportive. It reminds me of St Thomas,” the proud country boy said.
For him, the pandemic has showed just how much his customers value him. “It’s like lately I can feel the effects of the COVID, but the community is supporting the business as much as they can. People come in every day and place their takeout orders. Because of the protocols, dining-in is not possible, and so I really appreciate how persons still stop by,” Pinder said.
Pinder says two ingredients that have made his café popular are the relaxing Jamaican atmosphere and the no-stress attitude that his customers associate with him. “We also have a beautiful backyard, where you are welcome to bring your dog, which of course is offered fresh water during your visit,” Pinder says.
Pinder first visited Denmark in 1999 on the invitation of a friend. He returned in 2002 and has resided there ever since, making inroads in the food industry and proudly waving the flag for Brand Jamaica.