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Jeremy Strong on Nordic Cuisine, Acting, and ‘The Bear’

Jeremy Strong on Nordic Cuisine, Acting, and ‘The Bear’

Jeremy Strong wouldn’t necessarily call himself a foodie, but the culinary world is a passion of his. That’s clear as we sit down to lunch at Ilis, the Brooklyn restaurant from Mads Refslund, one of the co-founders of the Michelin three-starred Noma.

Strong, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Kendall Roy in Succession, spends part of his time in Denmark, where he and his family have a home. (His wife, Emma Wall, is Danish.) There, he’s gotten to know chefs such as Noma’s René Redzepi, Alchemist’s Rasmus Munk, and Claus Meyer who’s often called the founder of New Nordic cuisine.

“I marvel at what they all do,” Strong tells Robb Report. “Anywhere where people are using artistry and precision at the highest levels, and the soulfulness that goes into all the people that we’re talking about and what they do, I just appreciate it and it nourishes me.”

The actor sees parallels between the way these chefs work in the kitchen and the way he works on the screen and the stage. He’s currently starring in Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People on Broadway, for which he’s been nominated for a Tony Award. Given that it’s a Nordic play, Strong drew on his own experiences with Nordic culture and cuisine to inform his role. He even reached out to Linie Aquavit, a traditional Norwegian liquor that some compare to gin, to become involved with the production, as a way of adding an extra layer of “authenticity” to the show, as he puts it. (Linie, which hosted our lunch, provides aquavit to the audience in the middle of the play.)

Despite those similarities—with both chefs and actors using their lifetime of experiences to influence their arts—Strong also thinks that fine-dining chefs are allowed a certain sense of exactingness that those in other fields are not always.

“The thing that I love and I’m drawn to, and it’s what I love about The Bear, is that it’s a space where a certain kind of rigor and discipline and seriousness is still allowed and required and respected,” Strong says. “It’s not always true that that is permitted or supported in the arts, but it’s just as necessary in the arts. There’s not a lot of fun being had in these kitchens—it’s not the point. The point is the food that they’re making, and what it takes to make it, and what goes into that.”

I ask Strong to clarify, given that some see The Bear as a prime example of the toxic kitchen environments many have come to recognize as unwelcoming and unsafe to those in the industry.

“I guess there is such a thing as a toxic environment, but there’s also such a thing as a”—here Strong takes a long pause, carefully considering his words—“pressure cooker, which is what these kitchens are, where there’s a certain level of rigor and difficulty that is a kind of necessary anvil on which you have to forge a certain kind of excellence that is getting harder and harder to do in our culture.”

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Strong, it seems, is always striving for that level of excellence. Perhaps that will be recognized by the Tony voters this weekend.

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