Restaurant Brace is owned by Ursula Waltermath and her husband, Nicola Fanetti. Nicola has previously worked at Michelin-starred restaurants Noma and Era Ora. Restaurant Brace is listed in the White Guide and has received positive mention in the Michelin Guide. In 2019, the Brace chef team won the Danish competition for organic chefs, Årets Øko Kok.
Ursula Waltermath explains how the team at the restaurant has worked with organic cuisine over the last three years, leading up to the restaurant obtaining the Silver Organic Cuisine Label in 2019.
Why did Restaurant Brace obtain the Organic Cuisine Label?
“At Brace we invest a lot of ourselves without limiting ourselves. That’s the entire reason we started the restaurant. Care and respect, sustainability and organic cuisine are important parts of our personal values. They represent the mindset that we both grew up with; we didn’t have unlimited means, and ingredients were used with care.”
What motivated you to start the process?
“In March 2019, we initiated a dialogue with Organic Denmark. Mainly because we wanted to participate in the Danish competition for organic chefs (Årets Øko Kok) and we needed the Organic Cuisine Label for that. However, the more we thought about it the more sense it made to be able to document what we were actually already doing. We’ve always worked with organic cuisine and sustainability, but we never had the administrative time required to structure our work in this area. The competition was an opportunity to change that.”
What were the preparations and process like?
“We’d heard that it would take a long time and require a lot of work, so we prepared well and sought advice from Organic Denmark’s Foodservice. Understanding the rules was the most time-consuming for us, because we’re not originally from Denmark – and at the same time we were in the process of applying for permission to sell some of our products in retail, which is an entirely different task. The process of obtaining the Organic Cuisine Label was about reviewing all invoices to reflect on our sourcing. It was a healthy process because we realised that we had a lot of ingredients that we thought were organic, but they actually weren’t. There were also several items that could be converted, e.g. vegetable oil and pasta. We just never thought about it. We have many different suppliers and some were not registered as organic suppliers, so there was a lot to be considered. It was also a good process though, because we realised that we could source our ingredients in a different way.”
What was your biggest challenge?
“The biggest challenge was the wild foods that we use. They impact our organic accounts negatively because forests are not necessarily certified organic. We get berries, mushrooms and herbs from the forest. They’re all important ingredients in our menus, so we won’t do without them. That’s why we chose the Silver Organic Cuisine Label, because it leaves more room for the things that we pick ourselves. Then it’s up to us to tell the guests the story of the wild ingredients on their plates.”
How has the Organic Cuisine Label impacted your way of working?
“We’ve changed our way of sourcing our ingredients. We’ve become more critical, and we ask ourselves and our suppliers more questions. There is no use in talking about sustainability if pesticides are used in the production of our ingredients. That’s why we’ve had to replace some suppliers. For example, we thought we had a lot of organic wine, but it turned out not to be the case. And sourcing high-quality organic wine is particularly difficult. But we have an expert sommelier who does all of the research and knows a lot of small winemakers. This means that we have been able to build an excellent wine list.”
What does the Organic Cuisine Label mean to you?
“Now we can show everyone what we’ve been working on for the last three years. It’s a guarantee for our guests and an enormous acknowledgement for us, and we believe that it matters to our guests that we’ve made a visible effort to prioritise organic and sustainable ingredients. It reflects our personal attitude and passion, which is why the label is a great match for our business.”
What is your best piece of advice for others who are about to start the process?
“Find the right suppliers. It can be a bit difficult at first and there is no complete list of organic suppliers. It may have been extra difficult for us, because we’re not from Denmark and therefore don’t have a local network. But it did become easier over time. We benefit a lot from networking with our colleagues in the industry, and we’ve learnt that there are several websites and organisations where you can find help.”
Restaurant Brace, Teglgårdsstræde 8a in Copenhagen, Denmark