Lisa Lov: Chef at Tigermom in Copenhagen, Denmark
A lifelong passion for food and cooking…
Lisa Lov arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark by way of Vancouver, Canada – a long way off from where she was born in New Zealand and where her parents grew up in Cambodia. Given this circuitous journey, it would be a challenge to geographically pinpoint where Lov’s career in the food industry gained the momentum that led her to open her own restaurant, but – according to Lov – the dream has been with her the entire time.
“I remember when I was really young, I used to draw floor plans of cafes; like, this will be my own cafe one day and the kitchen will be here,” she recalls.
While in high school, Lov began working in a fresh produce shop. “I loved all these fresh vegetables and fruits that we were getting all the time and I became interested in cooking my own food at home,” she says.
After graduating high school, Lov enrolled in courses to pursue a degree in law and psychology at a Canadian university, where she also took on work cooking at a cafe. When she completed her studies and started her first full-time job, she missed preparing food for other people. Despite her busy schedule, she got a part-time position at a Thai restaurant.
“It was there that I reconnected with the rush and the fun and the adrenaline of service,” explains Lov. “For me, it was the first time I ever put on a chef jacket. I was very inspired by my time at this restaurant.”
Lov’s boyfriend at the time was a chef at another restaurant and decided to move to Copenhagen to get experience at a Michelin-starred establishment there. Lov made the choice to join him and eventually began work in the kitchen at Relae, a restaurant that earned a Michelin star of its own and a place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.
While at Relae, Lov was in charge of staff meals on Saturdays. “I would usually cook something that would remind me of home because, at that point, I had not lived at home for a while. I really, really missed Asian food – home food – so I would make that for my colleagues,” she says. Her colleagues loved these meals so much that they encouraged her to open her own restaurant based on the flavors that she had grown up with. Lov did just that, opening Tigermom in Copenhagen two years ago.
Though Lov traveled a long distance to arrive in Denmark and the food traditions that inspire her menu are rooted in Asia, locally-grown ingredients play a key role at the restaurant.
“Sourcing is really important to me,” Lov explains. During her time as the sous chef at Relae, Lov connected with many farmers in the area. These relationships motivated Lov to prioritize sourcing the ingredients for Tigermom from local farms, particularly ones that follow organic agricultural practices. She also sought out farmers who would be willing to grow Asian seed varieties not normally found in Europe.
This convergence between local and international culinary influences makes it hard to sum up Lov’s cooking style in a few words.
“The flavors and techniques and dishes that we do here are inspired from all different parts of Asia, including food from my upbringing – like Chinese and Cambodian – and my experience in Thai food, and also just Asian food that inspires me, like Japanese food and Korean food,” says Lov.
Adding to the complexity of the Tigermom menu is the fact that it changes constantly with the seasons. One dish in particular, however, has proved to be so popular that it is a fixture at the restaurant: chicken kaatsu. The idea for the dish comes from Japanese cuisine, but Lov devised her own unique variation. Instead of breading the chicken with panko (breadcrumbs), at Tigermom the meat is coated in puffed rice. The motivation for this choice came not from a desire to break with tradition, but as a way to reduce food waste when the restaurant had too much cooked rice on hand.
At Tigermom, Lov transports diners in Denmark to the many places that have influenced her own journey, while also exalting the fresh food of Copenhagen, which has come to be her home and has played its own important role in defining her unique approach to cooking.