Q&A with Lasse Sorensen
What is the mission of your new show?
The idea of the show is that I'm showing you new and different cultures, or cultures you wouldn't even know about. I have been amazed by how much diversity there is in St. Louis, especially in the restaurants here, and how authentic the food is. This is a perfect place to shoot the show, because the show will take you around the world in St. Louis.
Why "Food Is Love"?
When you put food on the table and break bread, you become a peacemaker. I've always said that even though as people, we are different, we all need to eat. And when you have something good to eat—when you break bread and have a nice glass of wine and a wonderful meal—it brings you together. You're open to new ideas and other people's ideas and suggestions, and it's a form of love.
When you say "peacemaker" are you referring to the times we're living through?
Yes. With all the political havoc we've had, I think it's more important than ever to bring people together. Food does that. I've had a restaurant in Southern Illinois for more than 20 years, and I've worked in many great dining establishments before that, and I've always believed that when people enjoy their dinner together, it opens up to their hearts to new ideas and to new cultures.
Everyone knows this is such a challenging time for those of us in the restaurant business, so I love that we can promote wonderful dining establishments. And we've seen with all the protests that people need to come together with love, to communicate and to share what we have in common, not what divides us. This is the perfect time for this show, and the perfect place for it.
Is that why you wanted to do this on public media?
Exactly. To me, public media is about educating people, and expanding how they see their communities, and the world. I'm grateful to the Nine Network for letting me do that. We're going to break down some barriers. This is unchartered territory for some people, but when they watch what we're doing on TV, introducing them to this food, items and selections they might have never seen, and when they see the passion of the chefs, people will want to try it out.
How will that happen?
We're going to introduce the audience to the people and the culture behind the food, and, of course, they'll get to see the restaurants and food as well. And then, in the end, I come back to my restaurant and I create a dish from the impressions and creations that I got from those chefs. But this is not a cooking show. It's a love letter to the St. Louis food scene.
How do you research these restaurants?
I spend a day or two with the chefs and they kind of indulge me with all their best offerings. I have a great producer in Jason Pinkston, who helps me capture it beautifully. Then we have a night off together, where I spend time away from the restaurant and we discuss things like people and cultures and our experiences. I'm an immigrant myself, so I'm in a good position to do that. And, I think it helps that because my restaurant is not in town, I don't favor any restaurants here. The only purpose is to show people new possibilities.
How would you describe your own culinary specialties?
I've been exposed to so many cultures that I take what I've learned over the years and put a Scandinavian flare to it. I think the most important thing about my background is that we've always been taught to treat food with respect. We treasure the products we're handling. You really have to show respect to Mother Nature and to the food itself.
What do you mean by "respect" in this sense?
It's about keeping things simple and showing people exactly what they're eating. I see a lot of people cutting and mashing things, whether it's vegetables, like carrots, or meat and fish. Don't bang it around. Show respect for this piece of meat or fish. That's how I was brought up in this business.
With all your accolades, what do you consider your best accomplishment?
The biggest is when I cook a dinner in my restaurant, and when I come out, they give me a standing ovation.
This article appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Nine Magazine.