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Three chefs around one oven

It’s a long way from the pier in Aarhus, where an exclusive restaurant unfolds on the water’s edge, and for that matter, from a Michelin star restaurant on the edge of a wood in the same city, and even farther from Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen in Tokyo, to the industrial district in Randers, where HOUNÖ is based. It is indeed, but it is in Randers where three chefs, each with their exotic background in Aarhus and Tokyo, work with what preoccupies them at a level where we would do best to listen well to what they have to say about the oven.

Martin V. Sørensen, Edwin Adkins and Rasmus V. Larsen around HOUNÖ oven

Martin Vestergaard Sørensen, Edwin Adkins and Rasmus Vingaard Larsen form the Danish contingency of the team of chefs at HOUNÖ. They are totally dedicated right down to their

fingertips, that part is not to be mistaken. The part, on the other hand, which is about being in a building with a reception, rows of desks and a grey factory floor, far from the smoky kitchen and the hectic atmosphere, that does not quite compute with being a chef.


AN OVEN IS NOT JUST AN OVEN

It is because of the oven. The consistent baking, user-friendliness, the design and the ClimaOptima feature explains some of it. Martin says:

“I’ve come across many different ovens and before I came here, an oven was a just an oven. But once you’ve used this oven, it’s just so incredibly user-friendly. When you use an oven, you tend to just do the same as you’ve always done. You will quickly find out with this oven that there are different functions and what they can be used for.”

If there is something everyone mentions, it’s the consistent result that comes out of the oven – every time. Roast pork with crispy crackling – every time. And just look at the croissants Martin takes out of the oven on the occasion of the interview. A whole plate full that illustrates the uniform baking. They are all in a straight row and the same golden colour. Quite simply because it is possible to enter the recipe into a program on the oven that works via an Android system just like a mobile phone. “The user interface is based on smartphone technology. The intuitive part is extremely high. We make a great deal out of the fact that it must be just like using your mobile. All young people coming into the industry are familiar with the technology and all the older ones can easily learn it,” says Rasmus.


However, the consistent results have more to offer. ClimaOptima. Martin and Edwin both highlight it as their favourite feature on the oven. “ClimaOptima is percentage driven. The oven measures and regulates how much steam is in the oven. If you slide a tray of chicken in, which gives off 10% steam, and the oven is set at 30% steam, then the oven adds the last 20% itself. If I then slide ten trays of chickens in, there is 100% steam inside the oven, then an exhaust opens and lets 70% out, and it comes down to the 30%,” explains Martin about the feature, so it is understandable that Martin’s own favourite dish is roast chicken. “One tray or ten trays will be prepared with the same humidity in the oven, and it’s this feature I’m trying to get most people to use. You really get something out of this oven,” he says.


FROM CHEF TO OVEN NERD

They are chefs. They love to cook, but the title of chef at HOUNÖ has a slightly different angle. Or perhaps more accurately an addition, as in ‘chef with more’. The three still cook at full throttle at HOUNÖ, both in connection with trade fairs, when they develop the oven and the programs for it, and when customers have to be trained to use it.

“I’ve gone from being a chef to being an oven nerd on an extreme level,” says Rasmus.

“I didn’t know about HOUNÖ. I’d never worked with a HOUNÖ oven before. After I’d been here for three months, I thought to myself, ‘wow, it’s simply the best oven I’ve ever worked with’,” says Rasmus who, in his job as a Product Manager at HOUNÖ, is helping put his mark on the oven, so it lives up to the demands of the market. Demands he encounters when meeting with buyers of the oven. Edwin supports the view:

“Time is limited in a kitchen and even though we’re also very busy here, we don’t need to be ready for service twice a day. We can think about innovation and how we can bring it to the kitchen in order to help chefs. That’s what we’re doing and something I’m actually very proud of.”

Edwin also talks about how the oven has given him a different perspective on cooking: “I now look at it with a chemical approach. For example, I take an old classic recipe like a consommé, think about the chemical process in the cooking and adapt it to the oven, so we can make a program.” And here Rasmus adds: “The chefs must learn how to break down their cooking into processes. They think of processes when they’re in the kitchen, but they must put them into a program on the oven.” Because that part, he explains, is both time-saving and promises good results every time. “Then there are many people who ask whether we lose our professional skills as chefs if we just need to select a program? I think there is a professional skill in finding out how to perfect a program, so the food is consistent every time, because that’s what we are all striving for,” says Rasmus.


And when you are an oven nerd, you can talk for a long time, sincerely and right down to the smallest details about voltage, gas, steam, fan settings and so on for an eternity, where all sorts of technicalities are flying around that can explain the oven’s design, and then there is all the work surrounding the oven.


Edwin says: “I really like to work with the guys at the factory. I call them nerds. They’ve gone to university to learn what they can do. It’s engineering work and new to me, but I’m a little bit of a technology nerd anyway. I really like computers and I therefore like to look at the Android system. For me it’s learning something completely new, and I love it. I love that I’m no longer just cooking,” Edwin expresses his obvious enthusiasm over the turn his career has taken, and it was also his encounter with the HOUNÖ oven that prompted Martin to head for Randers: “I already knew about the oven and thought it was really great to work with,” he says, about why HOUNÖ was his choice when he decided to seek new pastures. Common to the three was that the balance between their private life and professional life was decisive for the chefs’ change of career. Family was paramount to all of them.


Both Edwin and Martin are wearing the white chef’s uniform. It confirms that they are chefs through and through, and also that the same morning they prepared food for the trade fair that Martin is on his way to in Prague. There are quite a few travel days involved in the job as a demonstration chef, spread all over the map of the world. Each with their area, and there are advantages to the travel days, says Edwin: “Over the years I’ve gained many chef friends who have now gone out into the world to work, and sometimes I’m lucky to go to a city where I can meet up with an old friend. Then we go out and have a drink, and I try to sell them an oven.”


BÉARNAISE IN THE OVEN

“When I started here, Rasmus had an idea that we should make a béarnaise sauce in the oven. At the time I still thought like a classic chef – ‘You can’t, forget it,’ but Rasmus was adamant, he said, ‘Come on, let’s do it.’ I’m a classically trained chef and I had it drummed into me a long ago that you make béarnaise sauce by stirring, stirring, stirring and stirring. But we played with it for a few days and we reached the point where I was just ... WOW. It was my first lesson that you can make, if not everything, a lot in the oven,” says Edwin.


Béarnaise in the oven was one of the first things Martin was introduced to when he arrived at HOUNÖ: “I thought it was great fun. We put all the ingredients into a vacuum bag and steamed it at 65 ˚C. Then into a saucepan and whisked it,” he explains about the HOUNÖ way to cook a fabulous béarnaise and about how it could resemble a test of manhood that had to be passed in order to be on the team.


IF YOUR OVEN WAS A CAR ...

... then a HOUNÖ oven would be one you would want to drive yourself. Edwin compares the ovens to cars, in an attempt to illustrate the difference in quality:

“There are many different levels of cars and it’s the same with ovens. We’re in the top category, no doubt about it. We’re one of the smallest companies, but we have high quality. For example, the stainless steel we use is thicker than some of our competitors and it’s the same with the insulation around the oven.”

Rasmus adds: “We have the most beautiful oven in the industry. We get blamed for having a feminine oven because it has curves.” Rasmus has nothing against that accusation. Rasmus explains that the oven’s special design has its advantages: “The air moves well inside the oven, and the setting options on the fan mean that very light products such as a macaroon or meringue are perfect. At full blast it can bake frozen Danish pastries or roast a joint of meat with a heat that is evenly distributed.” And just like the heat in the oven is distributed just right, there is a sense that the job the chefs do at HOUNÖ is also just right. The three have preserved their identity as a chef - albeit the chefs’ hat is not quite as tight, and it makes it possible to navigate between cooking and being an oven nerd.

Edwin Adkins


Is from Birmingham and since the late summer of 2013 he has worked as a demonstration chef at HOUNÖ.

Edwin Adkins - Sales & Culinary Support, CFSP at HOUNÖ A/S

Geographical area of responsibility: UK, India, Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Background: Edwin debuted in a local kitchen, even before he finished primary school. Since then he has worked his way through kitchens in London, Australia, New York as part of the team that opened the legendary Soho House, Members Club Hotel, in the Meatpacking District, to a sous-chef position in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen in Tokyo. A few years before Edwin went to Japan, he met a Danish girl who went with him. As Edwin says it was a make or break situation. They made it and the journey subsequently went to Copenhagen, which is the city that Edwin likes best in the world to live in. Nevertheless, today he lives in Aalborg, close to his wife’s family, which he is very happy about.

Favourite dish from the oven: Fish.

Confession: “From time to time I miss going out and having fun with the staff after work in the kitchen.”

Quote: “Being a chef is a young man’s job.”

Martin Vestergaard Sørensen


Is the latest chef to arrive at HOUNÖ and he has been employed as a demonstration chef since July 2015.

Martin Vestergaard Sørensen - Sales & Culinary Support at HOUNÖ A/S

Geographical area of responsibility: Scandinavia, Baltic States, Europe, South Africa, United States and South America.

Background: When Martin was younger, he went on many trips with his family and on these trips, he was introduced to a wide variety of food. It was here that his interest in taste and food was established. Martin was trained at Hindsgavl Slot. He then went to ‘Ti Trin Ned’ and on to a position as souschef of the Michelin restaurant Frederikshøj. Martin has been part of the National Culinary Team of Denmark for the last seven years. He travels to Randers from Odense, where he lives with his family.

Favourite dish from the oven: Roast chicken.

Confession: “If I have to stand in front of my fellow chefs and play smart, then it’s cooler to stand and whisk a litre of béarnaise sauce by hand, but when they’re gone, I put it in the heat mixer.

Quote: “It’s no use if you want to make incredible food and then you buy the cheapest crap ... it just doesn’t add up.”

Rasmus Vingaard Larsen


Is Product Manager at HOUNÖ and celebrates his 10-year anniversary at HOUNÖ on 1 January 2017.

Rasmus Vingaard Larsen - Product Manager at HOUNÖ A/S

Geographical area of responsibility: United States, Netherlands, Germany and Finland.

Background: Rasmus started in the industry as a dishwasher at the age of 14. Then he began an apprenticeship at Sønder Hostrup Kro in Aabenraa. Halfway through the apprenticeship, Jens Peter Kolbeck joined as head chef and he accelerated Rasmus’ expectations for himself. Rasmus was a hard-working competitive chef during his apprenticeship, both as a student and as an assistant to the chefs. After completing the apprenticeship, he had, among others, been at Molskroen, a dessert chef in Norway at restaurant Oro and part of the start-up of the Brødrene Koch restaurants in Aarhus. Rasmus joined HOUNÖ in 2007 and he lives in Aarhus with his family.

Favourite dish from the oven: Tarte Tatin

Confession: “Sometimes I still miss working flat out at full speed.

Quote: “When an order pops in for 100 ovens, it’s like having a full restaurant.”

Published by HOUNÖ

Text: Journalist Lousin Hartmann

Photography: Rasmus Bluhme, Moment Studio and Signe Birck

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© 2018 by HOUNÖ A/S, Alsvej 1, 8940 Randers SV, Denmark. www.houno.com

Photography: Rasmus Bluhme, Moment Studio and Signe Birck

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