Meet Chef Daniel Burns of Just-Opened Luksus
It's been four months since Tørst first opened its doors in Greenpoint, immediately becoming an exalted destination for much of the craft beer establishment in this city, and people brave the G train in hordes for its rare drafts and even rarer bottles, a collection curated by Evil Twin brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. Those crowds are likely going to grow: This week, the team debuted its attached Nordic restaurant, Luksus, helmed by chef Daniel Burns, who has done time in some of the most prolific kitchens in the world.
Burns grew up in Nova Scotia and "never thought about cooking at all" as a kid. But after university, he did a kitchen apprenticeship in Vancouver and decided to go to Europe. He landed behind the burners at the Fat Duck, where he had the opportunity to train in pastry, despite his early focus on savory cooking. Two years later, he moved back to the savory side when he took a job at St. John, a much-lauded restaurant in London.
After he'd had his fill there, "I still didn't want to go back to Canada," he recalls, so he called a friend who'd gone to work for Rene Redzepi's Noma and asked whether the restaurant needed help in the kitchen. He was almost immediately offered a pastry position, and he made a quick decision to move to Copenhagen. "That was in 2006," he says. "It was a really awesome time to get involved. At that time, just Scandinavians were eating there," though that would change over the course of his three years there. By 2009, when he left, the restaurant had garnered worldwide attention, and it would land the top slot in the San Pellegrino rankings the next year.
At the end of his tenure in Copenhagen, Burns met David Chang at the first Cook It Raw dinner, a global collaboration between some of the most innovative chefs on the planet. When Chang learned Burns was about to become a free agent, he invited him to New York to open the Momofuku test kitchen. Burns took the job and stayed for about three years.
By the end of that time, though, the chef knew he was ready to take charge of a kitchen, and he pondered returning to Copenhagen to launch his own venture. Then he met Jarnit-Bjergsø at an Evil Twin event, and plans began coming together for Tørst and Luksus. "It was serendipitous," says Burns. "You can never plan when things come up, but this all happened in about a week."
Burns launched his new restaurant with a nightly four- or five-course tasting menu that will change frequently, turning over entirely every four to five weeks. The meal starts with finger foods and moves into full dishes over the span of about two hours. "People don't want to sit down for three or four hours as much as they used to," he observes. "This is not too long, and you don't get crazy full, just sort of comfortable full."
The chef lists menu highlights that include the ham chip--"you make a stock out of country ham bones, then make a purée, then dehydrate it, and then fry it. You get a ham-flavored chip and dust it with vinegar powder"--as well as the beets and rhubarb dessert, which combines rhubarb mousse, pea and anise hyssop sorbet (anise hyssop, the chef explains, look like shiso leaves), and an Italian beet meringue.
Jarnit-Bjergsø will take care of beer pairings, which will be carefully selected to match the food after Burns has put the finishing touches on a dish. In fact, the chef says he doesn't think about beer at all while he's putting his recipes together. "It's difficult to make a dish to match a certain style of beer," he explains. "I try not to think about it too much." As for what he drinks when he's not on the job? "Saisons and sour beer," he says. "And IPAs."
The space has just 26 seats, and Burns says it will max out at about 40 covers per night. It's currently open for dinner Tuesday through Friday, and while the chef says the hours will expand, he also notes that the place may never be open on Saturdays, when Tørst needs the extra space for drinker overflow.