Meeting Jesper Rydahl, the Danish founder of new über cool raw food restaurant 42RAW was both fun and enlightening.
The name 42RAW comes from the maximum temperature – 42 degrees Celsius – that food is ‘cooked’ at in the raw food movement. Raw food has been around for a while but is beginning to move out of a previously perceived niche position, thanks to places like 42RAW that excel at taste, presentation and coolness factor. Once you’ve tried it you realise it tastes fantastic and what’s more important, you feel even more fantastic after eating it!
I’d already eaten at 42RAW a few times as I’m rather partial to their raw lasagna – seriously, it’s probably 10,000 times nicer than a traditional one – but was still pleased to be asked for lunch. Mine’s a Milano juice and a tapas selection, thank you very much!
Jesper comes bounding up, exuding lean energy, good Scando genes and infinite enthusiasm for all things raw.
Volt Café: What’s your background? Have you been in the restaurant business before?
Jesper Rydahl: No! I knew absolutely nothing about restaurants before I started 42RAW. He beams ingenuously at me, realising how reckless he must sound. I started a face book-style venture for Danish teens, which was incredibly successful till the ‘real’ Facebook took over and basically killed us off. While I’d been setting up my venture I’d gotten into a somewhat unhealthy lifestyle, I’d drink a liter of cola each day and basically the menu was either pasta or pizza. I had a permanent headache, constant mood swings and I was a bit more rounded than I am now. My sister started something called Healthy Living at the Hyatt, which I helped out on and this was really successful. For me it also sparked an interest in eating healthier. Around the same time my gym had a lecture on raw food, which I attended, I asked loads of questions and something just clicked. I bought every raw cookbook I could find and a shedload of vegetables and started experimenting with taste and texture. After a whole summer of doing this I had lots of recipes and I was ready to start a restaurant. I got some partners on board to look after the business side and in total it took 6 months from getting the idea to opening the first 42RAW in Copenhagen.
VC: What is the USP of 42RAW exactly?
JR: The food is 100% plant based, never heated to more than 42 degrees Celsius and served fresh. It’s a state of the art gourmet approach to healthy eating. The menu is 80% fixed and 20% according to the season. The décor is a modern day farmer’s market with Scandinavian elements.
VC: Who is the typical 42RAW customer?
JR: We have a surprisingly broad appeal but a strong representation among fashion and media, which is hardly surprising, given the address. More women than men – I’d say the split is 70 – 30. The location is both challenging and brilliant. Challenging because we’re not allowed to sign post and when we opened in April it was too cold to sit outside on the stairs so it was hard to spot where we were. Now of course it is heaven. (He is right; every table outside is occupied by happy lunchers basking in the sun.) Brilliant because when there’s an exhibition on like the recent one for Hérmes we have a constant feed of customers who aren’t necessarily local but who, having discovered us, will return. The branch in Copenhagen has a lot of celebrities using it, which makes sense, their looks and health are important to them. The new plant eaters are well-off and educated…
VC: What kind of feedback have you had from your customers?
JR: Surprise! The fact that it’s so delicious AND you feel good after eating it.
VC: What are your plans for the future?
JR: I’m focused on 42RAW. I’m a social entrepreneur – I like the idea of taking something like raw food, which was originally subcultural and then giving it a mainstream tweak. It’s a commercial initiative for sure but it is also good for the environment, the CO2 footprint for plantbased eating is extremely low, no animals harmed. There’s a holistic element. I’m not just motivated by money; I want to do something that benefits society.
We’d like to open up 42RAWs in airports which I’m confident will happen – travellers want healthy food just like the rest of us – and also in New York. My ambition has always been to not only open up in London and New York, but also eventually to see hundreds of 42RAWs. We are looking for an experienced partner to do a large-scale roll-out.
VC: Finally, Jesper, if you weren’t doing 42RAW, what do you think you’d be doing?
JR: It would be entrepreneurial… I’d work for my friend who is setting up a website called Let’s Go Public, which is crowd funding for charity, done online and utilising the strength of celebrity ambassadors to raise more money for charity.
6 Burlington Gardens
Words by Anna Bang
Tags42RAW, anna bang, Jesper Rydahl,