A Danish Café Grows in Brooklyn
Growing up in New York City, Bed Stuy native Jesus Caicedo had always dreamt of running his own café — particularly one that he could build off of his Colombian roots. Little did he know that a journey to Europe and an introduction to all things Copenhagen would serve as the ultimate catalyst in making his dreams turn true.
Now, Caicedo’s dream café — Skål — is a reality, occupying a prominent spot in the heart of Bed Stuy and quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite. #DenmarkInNY recently caught up with Caicedo at Skål’s Lewis Avenue location for a delicious spread of sumptuous bites (including Koldskål!) and a conversation on how Skål came about.
DKNY: Tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you came to love all things Danish?
JC: In 2014, after working for nonprofit organizations and teaching in NYC for eight years, I needed change. I quit my jobs and traveled to Europe. A few months later, I met my girlfriend, Caroline Soelver from Copenhagen, Denmark, who lived in Berlin at that time. Perfect timing, because I love Berlin. Shortly after, I moved in and we lived together in Berlin for two years. We spent all our spare time traveling the world, often to European countries, and of course to Copenhagen to visit her friends and family. Slowly but surely, I was exposed to Danish culture. I always make fun of my girlfriend because we will walk up an avenue in NYC and she will grab my hand, point at something and excitedly yell “OMG, that’s Danish!” It could be Meyer’s in Grand Central, a B&O store, BoConcept or whatever is Danish. This was an effective way to learn exactly what is Danish. After two years in Berlin, we moved to Copenhagen and lived in Istedgade for one year. My parents-in-law live right by the ocean in the middle of the city and in my year in Copenhagen I began winter-swimming — another “great” Danish Viking idea: jumping into the freezing ocean! However, I love it. Also, I learned about the Danish lifestyle and social system and I am a fan!
DKNY: You recently opened SKÅL — a new Danish/Colombian brunch hotspot located in Brooklyn. What prompted you to begin your spot and get into the restaurant business?
JC: When I decided to quit my job and leave NYC and the hustle and bustle I didn’t know what I was going to happen. I had no plan. But I decided to take a gap year that almost every Danish student allows themselves after finishing high school. However, my gap year was ten years later. Better late than never! I’d always dreamed of opening my cafe or bar, so my three ‘gap years’ of living in Berlin and Copenhagen were used for soul-searching. What did I want to do, how, where and when?
After a lot of soul-searching and researching, my girlfriend and I came up with the idea. I had to go back to my roots in Brownsville/Bed Stuy Brooklyn and to open a cafe that would reflect our lives, bringing the best parts of Brooklyn, Colombia, and Copenhagen together. I found the perfect location in a landmark building in my favourite part of my neighbourhood, Bed Stuy, and I went for it.
DKNY: When delving into Danish and Nordic cuisine, from where do you derive your inspiration? Are there go-to’s in the New Nordic Cuisine world that you look to? Or is something else informing your passion for Danish gastronomy?
JC: I’m inspired by everything Copenhagen. This is a tough question to answer; I’ve yet to eat any bad food in Copenhagen except for pickled herring. I want to make brunch fun and have my guest experiment and play with food and break the brunch norm. It doesn’t have to make sense, it might sound weird, but in the end, it will taste amazing. I’m inspired by Geranium, Noma, and restaurants that push the envelope and experiment with all types of material. Food is life, and there should be no rule on ingredients.
DKNY: What was your point of departure when curating the SKÅL menu and how do you think Danish and Colombian cuisines complement each other? Do they?
JC: Honestly, the way I curated the menu was to offer my guests a taste of my worlds: Copenhagen, NYC, and Colombia. Like the Danes, Colombians love pork and chicharron which is the same as Stegt flæsk (of course I googled the spelling lol). Many Colombian delicacies play around with the sweet and savory aspects in food as well.
DKNY: What are your ambitions for SKÅL?
JC: My ambition for Skål is to open one up in Copenhagen bringing Brooklyn and Colombian cuisine and give it a Nordic kiss. Imagine a Bandeja Paisa with forest ingredients or fried herring with waffles and maple syrup! Yummy stuff.