I have been waiting for this to happen,” Danish chef Ronny Emborg says after one of his last nights at Marchal, the restaurant at Copenhagen’s Hotel d’Angleterre, where he has been the executive chef for two years. Working abroad has been his goal for six years, ever since he lived for a year in Spain, half of which was spent under the tutelage of chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, and then nine months aboard the Royal Yacht Dannebrog cooking for the Danish royals to fulfill his military requirement.
At the end of March, Emborg got his chance to move to New York, when American chef Matthew Lightner left Atera, the Tribeca restaurant known for its cerebral 20-plus-course tasting menu served at a 13-seat counter. To find Lightner’s replacement, Atera owner Jodi Richard had three chefs cook for her at her apartment. “Chef Emborg worked with a calm confidence,” Richard says. “I could see, taste, and feel the playfulness in his food.”
Emborg, 32, didn’t come from a gastronomic family (though he says that his mom does an “amazing beer por ridge,” a Danish staple), but when he got a kitchen job, he discovered food was a creative outlet. It’s clear that Emborg puts passion on his plates as he has become something of a European cult chef, known for his attention to all five senses. For example, in his 2013 recipe anthology, The Wizard’s Cookbook, a dish called Autumn includes a fragrant puree made from apples baked in hay and crispy artichoke roots that look like tree branches; it’s served with an MP3 player that emits wind sounds.
At press time, Emborg was rewriting Atera’s menu, saying he wanted to shift the focus to more local vegetables prepared with a new Nordic twist—in other words, raw and light. What he’s most excited about is influencing the restaurant with his particular credo. “Once a week, the entire kitchen staff comes up with a dish or element to present,” he says. “It’s a good way for everybody to have influence on the food. That, I will bring to Atera.” At 77 Worth St.; 212-226-1444; ateranyc.com.