REAL MAN – REAL FOOD
We have lots to discuss with the man who became famous as the celebrity chef in one of Copenhagen’s most esteemed restaurants, a chef in the Danish TV food programme “Til middag hos”, participant in the DR2 TV series about Denmark’s deserted islands, and the man who threw away sugar and put stone-age food on the menu. But we start with the very special footwear.
“I wear five fingers because they’re good for me. That’s it. I think it’s funny when I meet women and they ask me why do I walk around with the special shoes, and I look down at their feet and see how their toes are totally deformed because they wear high heeled shoes, which have usually cost them thousands of kroner.” When Thomas Rode married his partner Thilde, he wore a suit and a pair of five fingers. “They were made from kangaroo skin.”
Driven by love
Thomas Rode’s wife, Thilde Maarbjerg is a sommelier, and very much the reason for most of what takes place in his life. Thomas Rode Andersen first came to public attention as the star chef at the restaurant Kong Hans Kælder, one of Copenhagen’s absolute gourmet temples. Today, he is known because he has changed his life completely. The transformation from Michelin start chef to stone-age man is the main theme of his life. But why did he do it? “The most important reason was my wife. When we got together, I could feel that she wanted to be with me and I wanted to be with her. But she was 13 years younger than me, and I felt that if I was to have such a young partner, I was going to have to earn it. I was going to have to be the best version of myself. And that was the mission. And I think I’ve succeeded.”
There has been a lot of discussion about to what degree Thomas Rode’s paleo diet, with its focus on original food is healthy or not. But that doesn’t worry him. He knows he is right. “I do wonder why so many people spend so much time and energy trying to disprove it. For me, it makes perfect sense that a human being lives as we’ve always lived.” “Our body hasn’t changed in 40,000 years, and we have the same needs as hunter-gatherers did, to move and to eat. The lifestyle we have now is an expression of humankind’s evolutionary history, where there’s maybe some things that are more practicable or faster, but they don’t change our original requirements.”
Driven by passions
Thomas Rode is a passionate man. He loves extremes, and he is driven by his passions. Kaufmann Journal asked him to name the three most important driving forces in his life. His wife Thilde and his two children are the main driving force. Thomas Rode is also driven by the desire to be the best version of himself he can be – to live life in a way that can be felt. But what about food? Is he no longer passionate about food? Even though other chefs now work at Kong Hans Kælder, Thomas Rode’s passion for food is undiminished. He has just recently created the food club Rigtigmad. dk, where for a monthly fee of DKK 75, members gain access to some of the finest ingredients in Denmark. He has spent huge amounts of time and energy in finding the finest meat in terms of taste, sustainability and naturalness. Thomas Rode’s quality requirements are uncompromising. Only natural, organic food is allowed. “I believe that real food is 100% natural and created by people who believe that we must look to the past in order to define tomorrow’s food. Food must strengthen not weaken health,” he says. “We have chosen to start with the things that are the most difficult to find today – fish, poultry and meat, which you can eat with a good conscience with regard to the environment, the animals and yourself.”
So the ‘black foot’ pig, the ox and the Skåne chickens are allowed to roam the countryside before they end up on members’ dinner plates, and the lobster are caught in lobster pots.“It’s simple and there’s nothing sacred about it,” assures Thomas Rode. “It’s just about proper food that tastes great.” “So yes, my passion for food is 100 % intact. I’ve just moved my focus. I’m no longer interested in how it should look on the plate or if I have the same plates as the ones at Geranium. Enjoyment is still very important to me. I think it’s amazing that Thilde and I, who have eaten so much food and drank so much wine and enjoyed so many restaurant experiences, can have just as much enjoyment at home in the holiday home, in front of the fire in the evening with a bowl of pumpkin soup and some crispy diced bacon. It’s not just the taste that I enjoy but also knowing that the pumpkin grew in the garden, the bacon comes from a pig that had a good life. And so what interests me is that the food is the right fuel for making me a better version of myself. And that it tastes as good as it possibly can.”
And the third passion?
“The third passion is to motivate and inspire. That’s probably what drives me the most. You can appear a bit self-absorbed and narcissistic when you post yourself on Instagram with a bare backside, but in reality, it’s to inspire other people. And I get a lot of responses that way. It is indescribably precious when someone writes “Thanks a lot for the inspiration. Thank you because I’ve lost 30 kg and I believe I’ve got my life back.” Those things make you really happy. Much more than someone who writes that you have a great body.” But don’t you work out in order to have a great body? “I don’t exercise in order to make my body look good in a specific way. I don’t think, for example, today I’m going to exercise my upper arms. I do something else.”
Thomas Rode does CrossFit and functional fitness training. “I love variation. You never know what will happen, because it’s so versatile. It’s also functional, not just physical, it’s mental. If you are going to do it, you need to focus to do it properly, otherwise it won’t work and you may even end up injuring yourself. I also like that it isn’t necessarily about competing with other people, but that it’s also about training together, with other people who have to face the same challenges you do. I love to train in a team and try to satisfy the team’s expectations of me and my own expectations of what I can contribute to the team. But in the final analysis, I compete against myself. And I push myself. For me, it’s about doing the best possible, and so I throw up because of the effort.”
Are you a macho man? “Masculinity isn’t something I aim for, but when I’m swimming with a mate in the sea next to Amager Beach on 27 December, I look back at the beach and the lit windows of those small apartments, I think there are men inside who don’t do anything. They don’t fight danger or hostile tribes who are after their wives. They don’t even get food, because their wives do that. They don’t have to bring up their children, because the government does that. They just lie there, pear-shaped, rolled in a blanket, munching sweets while they watch some other person’s wonderful life on the TV. That’s masculinity reduced to almost nothing. While I’m out there in the sea, alive to life. It’s maybe a bit cold and the wind’s blowing, but I’m enjoying it. I’m together with a pal and we take a break and then we swim on. If that’s being masculine, then yeah, I’m masculine.” Thomas Rode’s wife Thilde also trains and I wonder where that puts him and all of his masculinity. “Admittedly, she’s not particularly vulnerable, but therefore I also like to believe that she needs me to take care of her. I like to open doors for her, set up her sun lounger for her and things like that. She makes me want to do everything. That’s how I respect my wife – and it’s also a form of masculinity.”
There is a 13 year difference between Thilde Maarbjerg, and Thomas Rode, something he is well aware of. “I’ll be 50 next year, and I’m extremely busy, and I can certainly get sentimental thinking about I’ve less than half of my life left. But I’m glad that I have a beautiful young muse, who keeps me young. And I will never stop training and I will always eat properly. Those two things increase the testosterone level and the level of growth hormones. When you look at CrossFit, there are masters who are +60 and +70, and if you look at their bodies you can’t tell that they are that age. These aren’t men who go to beauty salons but anyway, they have almost no wrinkles. They eat right and train hard. So I plan to keep going.” Thomas Rode isn’t always hard on himself these days. He has let gin and tonic back into his life. AND ice.
Thomas loves to train but he also loves to drive cars. But what kind of car suits Thomas Rode? "Thilde’s and my previous BMW 330s. But currently, I like the car we drive in now, an Audi Q5 S-Line. It really suits me and it’s big. I drive around 40–50,000 km a year, and it’s a great car to travel in. You could say cars turn me on. I’m wild about cars and a lot of horsepower, but you won’t see me driving a Land Rover. You can’t both save the world and drive in a petrol guzzler, and I’m not going to rule out that one day, I will be driving a hybrid car or an electric car. I’ll just have to play some music, so I won’t notice how much I’m missing the lovely sound of an engine."
Ask Thomas what his favourite clothes are and you get a quick answer: “As little clothing as possible.” Which gives him the opportunity to flash the many tattoos decorating his body? “I don’t have them to flash them or to provoke people. In fact, they’ve been done so that they are hidden when I wear a longs-sleeved shirt and a pair of trousers. I’ve no desire for a dragon on my throat.”
Despite this, aren’t they just random, marker pen stuff?
“I think that maybe I started with some really horrible stuff. But when I was 30, I met an artist who could do something special. He bases his work on the contours of your body and all of its bumps and spots. It’s important for me that my body’s tattoos don’t follow a trend. They have to be around for as long as I’m around, And I think they’re a good-looking part of me.”
Kilimanjaro wearing five fingers
As Thomas Rode approaches 50, he has started to wear ordinary shoes as well, however, only when the situation requires it. “It’s difficult to get used to, but it’s important for me that I wear footwear that makes a statement, which means now and then I wear a pair of shoes that are more appropriate. But I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro with Climb for Charity and the Child Accident Prevention Foundation very soon, and I’m thinking about doing it in five fingers. It’s not to make a statement but because I believe wearing them is best for getting up the mountain. I also have a pair of boots for the last stage, where I think my five fingers won’t be able to hack it.”
Born in Southern Jutland in Denmark in 1968.
Founder of the food club rigtigmad.dk.
Together with Thilde Maarbjerg, owner of the company Rode & Maarbjerg, a business that makes presentations, publishes books and much more.
Director and master chef at restaurant Kong Hans Kælder for almost 18 years.
Author of books on functional training and stone-age food
‘Functional lifestyle mentor’ at international spa hotel Kurhotel Skodsborg, located north of Copenhagen.
Participated in countless TV programmes.
Married to Thilde Maarbjerg, sommelier.
Two children from a previous marriage, Chili and Frej.