Luksus at Torst: The gastronomic equation of Daniel Burns

INTERVIEW / 08 MAY 2016 / BY DIMITRIS PANAGIOTIDIS

DANIEL BURNS
Squash, Chestnut at Luksus. Photo by Signe Birck.
Luksus at Torst. 615 Manhattan Avenue Brooklyn, New York, USA / luksusnyc.com

Daniel Burns is the Chef and owner behind the Michelin-starred beer-pairing restaurant Luksus (Danish for luxury) in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and the adjacent beer bar, Tørst (Danish for thirst). He has been a chef at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in the UK, pastry chef at René Redzepi’s Noma, and he ran the Momofuko test kitchen for David Chang in New York. He is from Nova Scotia, Canada and lives in Brooklyn.

DANIEL BURNS
Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and Daniel Burns. Photo by Signe Birck.

Daniel Burns says “Rene Redzepi has been my biggest inspiration for the simple fact that he thinks about food from a natural perspective. We can modify and manipulate foods somewhat but we must respect their integrity; and only do so in natural ways so as to enhance texture and flavour. Cooking within what the seasons and local terroir is also an important part about how we cook at Luksus, and how I am inspired to think about new dishes.”

What inspired you to get into this business? Share some of your mentors and how they have helped you.

I went to university to study mathematics and planned on being a professor one day. Plans changed and I wondered what I should do. My mother taught home economics and she made all of our clothes growing up, as well as being a fantastic cook. We ate so well all of my childhood and so I developed a strong appreciation for tasty food without realizing it. Having grown up in Canada and receiving my Chef training there – my biggest career move was going to England in 2004. I landed a position at the Fat Duck which was an incredible jump – starting work at a 3 star after graduating as an apprentice. The position was in pastry after having trained as a savory Chef. It was amazing to work at that level and to see the level of consistency and care in all of the preparations. Heston and James Petrie (Pastry Chef at the time) are mentors for me obviously.

From England I moved to Denmark, and to noma in Copenhagen in particular to be Pastry Chef. It was a quick move and one that I did not plan out that thoroughly. I had met Matt Orlando at the Fat Duck and he was a big reason why I went there to cook. It turned out that I landed in a wonderfully exciting period for the restaurant. People were starting to take note of what Rene was doing and we all felt the momentum building on a daily basis. It was an incredible time to be there and I am proud to say that I helped out during that period (from 2006-9). Rene has changed the way I think about food and products generally; as well as flavours, and how they interact.

DANIEL BURNS
‘Food & Beer’ by Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø with Joshua David Stein, Foreword by René Redzepi.
Published by Phaidon on 16 May 2016 / phaidon.com

Please define the word “Gastronomy”?

Gastronomy is the vast landscape that the world of food covers – the people (chefs, scientists, nutritionists, biologists, historians, …), plants, animals, text books, blogs, forums, that help everyone learn more about food and why we find such great pleasure in it. Gastronomical pursuits are those of the purest kind – to create pleasure by presenting another food (and the experience of it) created from one’s own tradition, heritage and/or physical location.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Rene Redzepi has been my biggest inspiration for the simple fact that he thinks about food from a natural perspective. We can modify and manipulate foods somewhat but we must respect their integrity; and only do so in natural ways so as to enhance texture and flavour. Cooking within what the seasons and local terroir is also an important part about how we cook at Luksus, and how I am inspired to think about new dishes.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

To never burn bridges in life. To always respect others that have helped you in your life and career, even when it is time to change paths or to move on.

DANIEL_BURNS_FOOD_BEER_BOOK_RENE_REDZEPI_NOMA_PLATE
Squab, Salted Plum at Luksus. Photo by Signe Birck.

What motivates you?

Travel. I love to visit new cities and try the local ingredients and specialties. It can be so inspiring to see new products and techniques.

What is your idea of happiness?

Sharing life and memories with friends and loved ones; and cooking food for people on a daily basis. I feel blessed to have found a profession that I truly love.

It is true, smells and flavours cover the biggest percentage of memory. Would you share with us, a unique, still vivid moment in life?

For me the earliest food memories are of being in new brunswick on my grandmothers farm. There both blueberries and fiddlehead ferns are abundant. I will always remember going to pick blueberries and harvest fiddleheads; and the taste of sun-warmed blueberries straight of the bush.

Suppose you were hosting this coming Saturday night. And you could invite anyone you wanted. Dead or alive.

Which four would you invite to come over and why?

David Bowie – Music for after dinner. Zinedine zidane – greatest footballer of our generation. Mark Twain – to wax poetic. Agnes Marshall (author of fancy ices) – to make the ice cream for dessert.