Discover what unfolded following our appearance on the Danish TV show “Lions Den.” Delve into the journey of Nordic Chefs post-show and find out if we indeed made the five investors to shame on what they thought about us
INTERVIEW IN WWW.PENSOPAY:COM
Do you also want to have 300 thousand followers? Nicolai and Thomas, the brains behind ‘Nordic Chefs,’ are passionate about cooking and sharply skilled in social media.
Interview: Nordic Chefs
Nordic Chefs is so much more than what you saw in “Lions Den.” We had a chat with Nicolai, who gives us a personal insight into how a passion grew into the business it is today. Hear also how they get over 50 million views on their videos.
Colleagues with a shared passion
Nordic Chefs consists of Nicolai Damgaard, CEO and Thomas Axelsen, COO. “Two individuals with great and heartfelt interest in food – especially gourmet food” Nordic Chefs. Thomas and Nicolai got to know each other as colleagues from a previous job.
Nicolai Nordic Chefs
Nicolai is a passionate amateur chef who finds great inspiration from visiting restaurants and is a genuine “foodie”.
Thomas Nordic Chefs
Thomas is highly skilled in social media and a real Instagram nerd. He has many years of experience creating organic growth on various Instagram pages.
First Mover Foodie
“We started in 2016 when Instagram was still relatively new. We enjoyed showcasing food – and wanted to gather it all on one platform. It worked in such a way that our users sent in content and we shared it. Or we found content from other chefs or restaurant owners and asked if we could share it on our own profile,” Nicolai Damgaard, Nordic Chefs. Over 3 million people follow the Nordic Chefs Instagram profile.
“We started at a good time. Nowadays, it’s tough to do the same on Instagram, first, there is a lot of competition and the algorithms are also tough. There weren’t as many on Instagram as there are now. It’s a bit like the TIKTOK wave. The unique thing we’ve built is that it’s quality and that it’s profiled chefs from all over the world keeping an eye on our profile. It’s probably this Nordic wave that proves how good we are in the North with gastronomy,” Nicolai Damgaard, Nordic Chefs.
What can Nordic Chefs do?
Nordic Chefs is just one of a total of 5 large Instagram accounts, each promoting and presenting everything happening in the culinary world. In addition to showing exciting content, Nordic Chefs has a range of delicious products specially designed for chefs.
Now With Our Own Design
“It was natural for us to get our own products that we could stand behind. Given our passion for food and the fact that the chefs are our point of contact, we inquired with them. So we started to develop products, including food tweezers – that was actually also our focus in Dragon’s Den, which unfortunately was not included. But they have been very well received by our customers.
After that, we got our own knife series, which is now available in retail stores throughout the Nordic region, with the aim of expanding to other countries.
Of our own products, we have knives, food tweezers and soon also our own pastry molds in many different shapes that we have designed ourselves. Some of our videos, which have gone viral, are those where they make pastries. People were really eager to get those – so of course we had to produce them as well. I myself have wanted such a mold, I just think they have looked too cheap and they have not exuded the quality I myself was looking for. So we have emphasized that there should be a sense of high quality in our products.” Nicolai Nielsen, Nordic Chefs.
The Crucial 9 Minutes
Nicolai and Thomas participate in episode 9 of season 8 of Dragon’s Den (Løvens hule in Danish).
“When we applied to Dragon’s Den – we knew it was a bit early regarding our kitchen knives,” as we had not yet gotten our products into physical stores. So our case was that Nordic Chefs should be seen as an untapped potential.
The examples we came up with, such as turnover, were based solely on tweezers. For instance, I gave an example of a turnover of 5,000 DKK from one story, and that was solely from tweezers, which cost 150 DKK each. I think I ended up saying in Dragon’s Den that it was the knives.
We stood in front of the dragons for nearly an hour and a half, but were only shown for 9 minutes. They didn’t think we were unique enough, so that’s the main thing we’ve taken to heart. So now we are developing our very own products – that is, products that we have designed ourselves, and product development is something we spend a lot of time on.
We have never really spent money on marketing, but now there is suddenly some room in the budget for it. We have gained an international audience, so we need to test how we handle that, Nicolai, Nordic Chefs.
Michelin, Gordon Ramsey, and TheBestChefsAwards
“Before I started Nordic Chefs, I’ve always been interested in food. While all my friends watched football or other sports, I watched cooking shows. Many of the people I used to watch on screen now follow us,” Nicolai Nielsen, Nordic Chefs.
Even though Nicolai has worked with some very influential people in the restaurant industry, he talks throughout the entire interview with a great deal of humility.
I think it’s impressive that a Danish gastronomy platform has attracted so much attention from such big personalities. They’ve done really well.
Several Large Collaborations
“Today, we collaborate with several Michelin-starred restaurants and right now we are starting up doing a lot for AOC, which is a two-starred restaurant in Copenhagen, and we have been managing social media for restaurant Jordnær ‘on and off’ ever since they opened in 2017, which today has two stars. Søllerød Kro, which has the world’s best chef, Brian Mark Hansen, also produces and promotes.
Our biggest collaboration is undoubtedly Michelin. Additionally, Gordon Ramsey also follows us, which I think is really cool. He has also commented on some of our things and I’ve exchanged a few brief messages with him. It’s fun,” Nicolai says with a big smile.
Nordic Chefs Content Strategy
“After we’ve gone full-time, I now have time to create content together with the restaurants. It works in such a way that we visit, for example, Søllerød Kro, where we film cooking videos, while also promoting them on their and our own media. It’s an all-around solution.
Results from Søllerød showed that they were seen by 50 million people in 3 months. About 30 million came from our media, and then there are other media that subsequently picked up the video and asked if they could repost it,” Nicolai.
If You Were a Chef, You’d Get FOMO
“Something that made us pinch ourselves was during Covid, when Michelin had to host their annual event. The nominated chefs couldn’t participate due to the restrictions at the time. Therefore, the event had to be filmed.
It was held in Norway with seven people from Michelin and then there were the Nordic Chefs, that is, me and Thomas. We helped them with interviews of 3-star chefs. These included René Redzepi, who got his third star that year, and Mark from Kong Hans, who got two stars.
We were also allowed to interview Gwenda Poullennec, who is their international director. After the event, we took them to a local bar and got a unique insight into Michelin’s ‘underworld’. It’s normally a very closed world, and people don’t really know about Michelin and how it works with inspectors and the whole setup. So, it was an experience we will remember forever” Nicolai, Nordic Chefs.
From Insurance Agent to Entrepreneur
After seven years in the insurance industry, Nicolai quit his job and became self-employed. Nordic Chefs had been a hobby project during this time, in addition to having three children and a partner at home.
“I can remember my partner crying from joy, because then it was only one job I had to focus on,” Nicolai recounts.
The driving force for the project is enthusiasm and passion and the reason we achieve our goals. I don’t believe that one can start something up – just to start something up. There has to be something that drives it.
Nicolai mentions that he is still interested in learning new things and would like to take various courses and trainings to solve some tasks himself. But it requires time, and he has also recognized that if you spend too long trying to solve a task, it’s better to ask for help from someone who knows how to do it.
Here, Thomas and Nicolai complement each other very well. Thomas is more cautious, while Nicolai is impulsive and has a lot of thoughts and ideas. Nicolai says that he sometimes initiates and if it goes too slowly – then it’s on to the next project.
“It’s my Achilles’ heel. It’s important to have someone who can put on the brakes – or maybe just question what one has in mind. Thomas is the brake in this relationship. It requires that you have both in such a partnership, so there is balance in things” Nicolai, Nordic Chefs.
Thank you very much for the conversation Nicolai. We are really proud to call Nordic Chefs our partner.
PUBLISHED ON MAY 2, 2023 BY CECILIA ROSENKILDE