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Cardiff Character: Steen Kokborg

This chef marries youth work with cooking, and he’s just getting started

After multiple attempts: a close up of Steen in his kitchen

After multiple attempts: a close up of Steen in his kitchen

Steen has been working since the morning and now it is dark. There is smooth music playing and an array of artwork displayed on the walls. Combined, these make a relaxing and warm atmosphere for his customers. However, when his customers have left and the cafe is clean, Steen’s day has not ended.

“I’m just cooking some more roasties to give to the homeless outside,” he says with a smile.

This extra effort is normal for Steen. He has been cooking since the age of 12, and 34 years of experience has done nothing but fuel his love for food and people.

“You’ve got to be a part of society haven’t you?” he states. “You have to give to receive.”

This philosophy underpins every move Steen makes, and it shows. His life has been spent flipping between youth work and cooking, but now the combining of the two has given him a new direction.


“Shall I swear so I look like a real chef?” - Steen in his kitchen

“Shall I swear so I look like a real chef?” – Steen in his kitchen


You can’t be a community on your own

Steen already offers cooking classes to all walks of life, but he wants to expand on this. A youth restaurant is one of his ideas for the future.

The restaurant will be a chance for young people to get a feel for the food industry before committing to catering college. He faces issues with funding and candidates, but this does not faze him. “You can’t be a community on your own,” he explained.

Steen is waiting for characters “with integrity” so he can start his teaching. He already has some ideas on who will be suitable.

“Dealers work well in the kitchen. They deal with pressure and can do maths.”

In addition to the future classes, Steen rents his restaurant out on Saturday evenings to aspiring chefs. He joked that the reason for this was because he no longer wanted to work on Saturdays. Although this may be true, his drive to share his knowledge and give back to his community shines through in his actions.


Peasant food with polish

Although Steen has many future ambitions, it does not mean he has nothing on his plate. The day-to-day running of his cafe and the buffets he caters for customers take up a lot of his time.

If you are wondering how he has the energy to keep taking on new projects, he’ll tell you he’s “a bit crackers maybe.” But Steen’s cooking is fresh and healthy and he wants to share this with others.

“I want to get people thinking a bit more about what they’re consuming. Someone once asked me if they could have risotto with chips… no you can’t!” said Steen.

He strives to offer healthier alternatives because of the rise of processed and microwaved food served in restaurants nowadays. He explained that in his last cooking class, they made four sauces in two hours. “It really is simple when you know how,” he said.

At the same time, he does not want to go too far in the opposite direction. “Fine dining is boring,” said Steen, “it’s like working in a factory. There’s too many egos in the kitchen. We serve peasant food, with polish.”


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