Five Questions with Ole & Steen

Denmark In New York talks with Danish bakery Ole & Steen about how its bringing mouth-watering Danish goodies to The City That Never Sleeps.

Anyone who has visited Denmark is sure to have come across the ubiquitous and famous Danish bakery chain Lagkagehuset. Renowned for their very delicious and aesthetically pleasing Danish pastries and cakes, Lagkagehuset is a hit among Danes and visitors to Denmark — especially those with a sweet tooth.

So, it is of course great news for pastry aficionados living here in New York City that Lagkagehuset — or, Layer Cake House, for those uninitiated into the Danish language — finally made its debut stateside, opening its very first bakeries in the Big Apple. The obvious difference between Lagkagehuset’s many bakeries in Denmark and the newly opened ones in New York is, however, the name. Alas, Danish words can sometimes be a tongue-twister for prospective American clientele!

Named after Lagkagehuset’s two founders, Danish bakers Ole Kristoffersen and Steen Skallebaek, the Ole & Steen bakery chain is now delivering great Nordic quality and a simple Danish aesthetic to hungry New Yorkers up and down Manhattan island.

To celebrate the Danish bakery’s first year in the Big Apple, Denmark In New York caught up with Ole and Steen’s US Operations Director, Gabriel Sorgi, for a talk about Ole and Steen’s delicious pastries and how the brand’s hyggelig vibe is resonating with New Yorkers.

Ole & Steen recently landed in the US. Tell us a little bit about the bakery and whether there are any fundamental differences between Ole & Steen here in New York and Lagkagehuset in Copenhagen.

Ole & Steen is a premium “all- day” bakery from Denmark. We offer authentic, carefully crafted pastry, cake, and breads from Denmark in addition to excellent coffee, beer & wine, and an innovative breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu from our kitchens. We are a design forward bakery- our bakeries offer generous seating and a Scandinavian aesthetic to create a convivial atmosphere for our guests.

We are proud of our heritage in Copenhagen and our relationship to Lagkagehuset has enabled us to bring incredibly authentic product to New York. Our breads, pastries, and cakes should seem comfortingly familiar to guests from Denmark. We have made some changes to meet the tastes and preferences of New Yorkers- most notably with our wonderful breakfast, lunch, and supper menus and the addition of our beer and wine menu.

Puffs from Ole & Steen. In Danish these are known as ‘flødeboller’.

Was it difficult to get a foothold in New York and establish a clientele?

We are still new to New York City and learning new ways to make our guests happy every day. We have had a lot of surprises along the way but I think New Yorkers are adventurous eaters and appreciate the authenticity and craft in our products and the welcoming design of our stores.

New Yorkers buy bread in a very different way from Danes and some of our products may be unfamiliar to them. Our rye bread, in particular, is very special and different from what New Yorkers may have tried before. We spend a lot of time in store giving out samples of our rye in our bakeries because we love surprising guests with great products they may not have tried before. So far, the reaction has been very positive.

What’s your most popular product and why do you think it resonates with New Yorkers the most?

The cinnamon social is our most popular product. I think it resonates because it is delicious, simple, thoughtfully crafted, and made to be shared. New Yorkers are discerning eaters and I think they appreciate the product because it is good. They have excellent taste!

Danish ‘smørrebrød’. A delicate Danish ‘sandwich’ made on ryebread.

Do you have any plans to bring Ole & Steen to other cities in the US? If so, when and where will you be expanding to?

We have a lot to learn in New York City before we consider moving to new cities.

We’ve seen many Danish products and companies take a foothold here in New York City. Why do you think New Yorkers respond so well to Danish culture and Danish products?

Danes have a concept called “hygge” which refers to the contentment that comes from being cozy and comfortable with friends. This concept is embedded in a lot of Danish companies including our own. I think the invitation to slow down for a moment and enjoy things is appealing to busy New Yorkers. So for New Yorkers, we hope that Danish businesses like ours and their “hygge” sensibilities offer something delightful to the city.

Ema Seferovic is the Press and Communications Intern at DenmarkInNY.

The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.

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