Semiotic Review 5: The Semiotics of Food-and-language - article published January 2017

Pigs, herring, and Bornholm on a table: A high-end restaurant’s construction of authenticity

Martha Sif Karrebæk
Marie Maegaard

Abstract:This paper focuses on constructions of authenticity in a high-end restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. The restaurant self-identifies as ‘Bornholmian’ and thereby it creates a link to the island of Bornholm, some 160 km from Copenhagen. Bornholm is introduced discursively as an interpretive universe and as an essential part of the restaurant’s claim to value. We show how authenticity is performed, created, and treated reflexively. We concentrate on servers’ authenticating discursive moves and their crucial role in guiding guests’ attention to relevant elements, and we point out that authenticity is a potential that does not always materialize fully. We also discuss guests’ role in the creative processes. The restaurant’s construction of a comprehensive semiotic experience includes food, décor, photos, tableware, and narratives; dialect features are used to heighten the intensity of the guests’ experience. We build on Coupland’s (2003, 2014) semantic dimensions of authenticity, that lay out the meaning dimensions contributing to an understanding of authenticity, and on Coupland & Coupland’s (2014) frames of authenticity. Here (constructed) authenticity emerges through interactional frames that participants can orient to and draw upon in their creation of value. Frames of cultural, recreational and material authenticity are continuously made relevant, and tradition, or historicity, and place of production, or ontology, are important semantic dimensions. The data set consists of interviews with staff, recordings of servers at work, visits to the restaurant webpage, and ethnographic field-notes and photos.

Keywords: authenticity, semantic dimensions, frames, the restaurant experience, pork


When the Copenhagen-based restaurant Noma2 received its first – two - Michelin stars (2008), this was a path-breaking international recognition of the ambitious project to create a Nordic cuisine, based on local produce, foraging, and old cooking techniques. Noma was subsequently selected the world’s best restaurant four times by the Restaurants Magazine (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014), and the international success of the culinary invention of the New Nordic Cuisine contributed further to its national success. Food became an important topic on the national agenda. The Danish capital Copenhagen suddenly bloomed with high-end eating-places, competition became increasingly hard, and a creative approach became mandatory in order to attract guests. To quote Vladimir, a professional Danish foodie:

“It3 seems to be a widespread trend in the Copenhagen restaurant environment that you need to have a strong sales gimmick, a brand if you want, in order to fill the tables. There are now so many fine eating places that it is no longer enough to serve good food in order to win the battle for the hungry customers. The DNA of the restaurant needs to be clear, easy to decode, and possible to explain in a (newspaper) headline.” (Timm Vladimir’s blog; 17-09-2012)4

Vladimir describes the contemporary Copenhagen fine-dining scene as difficult-because-saturated. A restaurant needs an easily comprehensible brand which incorporates elements believed to add specific meaning, distinction and, thus, value, to the restaurant. A common element in the creation of such a brand is by claiming a nationally or regionally based culinary authenticity, as e.g. a Japanese, French, or Italian restaurant. Although based in an ideology where ‘original’ (real, genuine) is regarded as of higher value than ‘non-original’, reproduction or (re-)interpretation, authenticity is a constructed rather than inherent meaning. It depends on a particular universe of interpretation without which there is no ‘genuine’ and ‘original’ version and consequently no way to attribute authenticity to phenomena, e.g. by anchoring them in time and space recalling history and tradition (Cavanaugh and Shankar 2014). Consequently, the high-end restaurant needs to ensure that (potential) guests grasp this universe in order to construct value. At the same time, there is nothing inherently unique about a Japanese or French restaurant in Copenhagen, and a claim of regional authenticity has to be carried out in creative or remarkable ways in order to add the dimension of distinction that Vladimir asks for. This may be done through the selection of produce, special cooking techniques and refinement, or by choosing a rare region as one’s culinary identity and universe of interpretation.

In the remainder of this paper we focus on Restaurant Koefoed, a high-end restaurant in Copenhagen. Restaurant Koefoed identifies as Bornholmian, Bornholm being a small Danish island. In terms of distinction, Restaurant Koefoed is one of only two Bornholmian restaurants in Copenhagen; the other, Kadeau, has one Michelin star (2016). Yet, a well-defined Bornholmian cuisine does not exist, and there are only few food products and dishes associated with Bornholm. As Restaurant Koefoed needs to invent tradition and simultaneously develop a modern and creative interpretation of it, this makes the task of creating an authentic Bornholmian restaurant different from creating, e.g., a French restaurant.

In accordance with prior studies we treat authenticity as a performed construction rather than an immanent quality (Coupland 2014: 16), and as high-end restaurants sell experiences organised around meals – the restaurant experience (Pardue 2007: 67; Trubek 2000: 50f) – rather than just prepared food, Restaurant Koefoed creatively uses a range of elements to index Bornholmian authenticity, including food and other material objects (décor, silver- and tableware). Language is central, however, and the linguistic aspect is what we focus particularly on in our analyses of how Bornholmian authenticity comes about in front-stage restaurant encounters (Goffman 1959). We pursue questions such as how the ‘authentic’ Bornholmian restaurant is performed, in what ways the restaurant makes meanings associated with authenticity available, and what roles restaurant guests and servers play in these processes. We show how the emergence of authenticity depends on the server’s establishment of a universe of interpretation, and his (all servers were male) indications to guests of where to look (and what to ignore). But encounters differ in how salient authenticity becomes and how much they index Bornholm. Guests usually accept and even encourage the construction of authenticity, in some cases they add to it, whereas in others they assume a more withdrawn position.

Authenticity as meaning and performance - and as terroir

In the contemporary era of globalization Coupland (2003: 417) argues that people monitor their “lives against criteria of ‘truthfulness’, ‘reality’, ‘consistency’, ‘coherence’ and so on” (Coupland 2003: 417). All of these contribute to ‘authenticity’ (ibid.), a concept, which seems to have gained importance during the contemporary neo-liberal capitalist era. According to Duchêne and Heller (2012:8; also Heller 2014: 138) traditional markets are saturated, and industrialization and mass-production dominate. Dimensions of uniqueness and authenticity come to signal high value as a counterpart to uniformity and modernity and through appeals to history, place and tradition (Pratt 2007: 293f). Material or symbolic value can be added to products by producers aiming at creating distinction, one of five processes which according to Dûchene and Heller (building, of course, on Bourdieu 1984) are central to what they see as a current shift in discourses on language and multilingualism, based in neo-liberal ideology (Duchêne and Heller 2012: 9). It may seem like a paradox that authenticity is a widely commodified meaning rather than an immanent, rare quality (Heller 2014: 153) – how can authenticity signal ‘real’ and ‘genuine’ while at the same time being produced? However, under conditions of late capitalism producers and consumers engage with authenticity in ways that are “neither wholly cynical nor naively accepting” (Coupland 2014: 30). While orienting to situational goals, participants show awareness of authenticity as constructed through a process, and of this process as simultaneously creating value (Wilk 2006: 20). Thereby the creation of authenticity can be treated as the expression of reflexivity rather than paradoxical, and it certainly invites the contemporary sociolinguist to treat authenticity as a discursive construction, associated with specific meanings and high value, and achieved through social action and performance (Coupland 2014: 16; also Eckert 2003; Bucholtz 2003, etc.).

Coupland (2003) suggests analyzing authenticity in terms of five ‘semantic dimensions’: ontology – that is, intrinsic claims to existence; historicity – i.e., the longevity of a phenomenon; systemic coherence – the importance within a certain institutional framework and licensing in relation to a normative center; consensus – relating to the authorization and (high degree of) acceptance within a constituency; and value – (personal and social) importance of authenticity and the observation that some cultural elements are revered and regarded as cultural anchoring points (Coupland 2003, 2014). The dimensions are interdependent; systemic coherence makes sense only in relation to social consensus, to an understanding that a particular phenomenon has special value, and to the ideas that features selected for systemic coherence are the correct ones, those that index value, e.g., those that have intrinsic claims to authenticity or a long historic dimension within a certain licensing community, etc. Furthermore, according to Coupland and Coupland (2014) the semantic dimensions are made relevant in relation to different frames. Each frame “mobilises a distinctive value system in which authenticity has some specific salience, and brings into play different forms of symbolic capital and different subject positions” (Coupland and Coupland 2014: 8). The frame of material authenticity focuses on physical space and objects (i.e. materiality). The cultural authenticity frame brings in the history of certain practices and lifestyles – in the Couplands’ study, stories told by mining guides about their experiences as miners. A frame of performative authenticity is concerned with the fact that in the tourist industry authenticity is based on selected elements, and sometimes on practiced and even scripted representations. Last, the frame of recreational authenticity acknowledges that in tourist encounters notions such as ‘heritage’ and ‘authenticity’ are objects of consumption, and as such part of an ''entertainment package'' created for leisurely purposes. The Couplands treat the frames as in competition, yet we consider them to work together, as a form of lamination.

The restaurant experience, as other food consumption rituals, transforms ‘raw material’ into meaning, including meaningful social relations and authenticity. Although participants in the restaurant encounters (guests and servers) are differently positioned with regard to the construction of authenticity, they are most probably aware to some degree that authenticity is an emergent phenomenon that has a less-than-essential character and is not intrinsic to any object or phenomenon. As mentioned, people do not see authenticity as necessarily contrasting with the commodification of it. At the same time they need authenticity to fulfil their different but complementary expectations to the restaurant experience, as this adds value to the restaurant experience. The transformations happen overwhelmingly through language and draw on different frames (Coupland and Coupland 2014). Guests visit high-end restaurants in order to experience a contrast to their consumption in everyday life (from ‘food’ and ‘eating’ to ‘cuisine’ and ‘experiencing’; see Trubek 2000: 37); this makes a recreational frame constantly relevant. Servers evoke particular, recognizable and presupposed meanings associated with high quality to their product (“sauce espagnole is a traditional French sauce”, “we import katsuobushi flakes directly from the Tokyo fish market”); this draws on the frames of material (katsuobushi flakes) and historical (sauce espagnole) authenticity – and on the consensus dimension as French and Japanese food is generally associated with refinement, tastiness or selection.

The use of historical and ontological dimensions of food authenticity points to the notion of terroir. This enregistered understanding that a specific climate and soil (and mode of production) create distinctive flavours is promoted and accepted by particular producers and (gourmand) consumers and institutionally legitimated through labels such as AOC. Evoking terroir posits an inherent qualitative relationship between taste and place, whereby produce from one place is essentially different from produce from elsewhere. Regardless of whether this ‘taste of place’ is or isn’t verifiably true, terroir is certainly a discursive phenomenon, and as a discourse it can be invested with affective significance and material relevance (Paxson 2010: 446; cited in Weiss 2011). The meanings of ‘local’, ‘artisanal’, ‘material’, ‘tangible’ and ‘sensuous’ – all associated with terroir - suggest and create proximity (or ‘connection’; Weiss 2014) between the producer, consumer and origin of the produce: “it links a series of places … with the animals raised on the farm, and—crucially—includes the audience within this sensory field” (Weiss 2010: 448; also Manning 2012: 24). Most importantly, terroir is seen as a warrant of quality, i.e. Coupland’s value, to locality, Coupland’s ontology, and to historical time-depth, Coupland’s historicity, as it carries associations to non-industrialized production (‘craft’) imagined not to have changed much over time (Paxson 2010: 445; Weiss 2012: 615). This of course is not the case; terroir is just as much a product of globalization and modernity as industrialization (Pratt 2007).

The New Nordic Cuisine

Terroir has become an important notion on the contemporary Danish restaurant scene, particularly due to the influence of the New Nordic Cuisine (NNC) movement. NNC was created by the Danish gastronomic entrepreneur Claus Meyer, along with like-minded food professionals, inspired by anti-industrialization and anti-monopolization movements such as Slow Food (Petrini 2003), locavorism (see e.g. Meneley 2004; Weiss 2011: 439), and Gastronationalism (DeSoucey 2010). In his 2006 manifesto Meyer5 called for producers (and consumers) to re-connect to land and soil, for sustainability and re-appreciation of the seasons, and for the use of local resources “that express the territory they derive from” (Meyer 20106). This, of course, is a reference to the notion of terroir. Historically sedimented practices were called upon in order to “Unite the best Nordic methods of production and culinary traditions with impulses from the outside”, and develop “new uses of traditional Nordic foods”. Meyer explains: “we want to explore and renew the traditional Nordic recipes and cooking methods. We will listen to the wisdom of old people, in the periphery and wherever else it is found”7. Notice the reference to ‘the periphery’ where ‘traditional’, i.e. authentic, food wisdom is found; this is compatible with the creation of Bornholm as a special place, perhaps even a ‘hyper-place’ (Pietikainen and Kelly-Holmes 2014: 223) foodwise, loaded with the symbolic meanings of authenticity, and where the name itself indexes high quality. In fact, NNC is emergent authenticity and (to a large extent) a (discursive) construction (Byrkjeflot et al. 2013; Trubek 2007: 40) that builds very little on tradition as historically sedimented practices. The starting point was a poor, thoroughly industrialized Danish food culture (Byrkjeflot et al. 2013; Meyer 2008; Troelsø 2015), and the goal is not to recreate something predating industrialization but to create something entirely new while paying attention to old techniques and the local ecological affordances (Redzepi n.d.). Consequently the NNC demands a high level of professional creativity (cf. Paxson 2010; Lasater-Wille this volume).

At Restaurant Koefoed the owner claimed to find the NNC discourse tiresome, but was “more local than the New Nordic” (paraphrased from interview), and the inspiration from this added that they had been part of the trend from before it was even labelled. In fact, the restaurant gastronomic idea is evident. Restaurant Koefoed values terroir, locality, a peripheral Danish area, seasonality, animal care, and non-industrial methods. As we shall see Koefoed also exploits other dimensions than those pointed out by Meyer, e.g., the staff’s relations to the place, interior decorations, and cultural narratives (cf. Toback this volume). In this way, Bornholm becomes a universe of interpretation in which to create authenticity rather than just an ‘authentic’ cuisine – food is just one element in the making of an authentic restaurant - and the restaurant embellishes the meaning of terroir by creating new connections between food, place and tradition.8

Bornholmness as value

Restaurant Koefoed is a Bornholmian restaurant. Bornholm is a Danish island, some 160 km away from Copenhagen (and the rest of Denmark) in the Baltic Sea (see Figure 1). It carries the nicknames ‘the Sunshine Island,’ because of its (relatively) many sunshine hours per year, and ‘the Pearl of the Baltic,’ because of its attractive long sandy beaches and fascinating rocky landscapes; the latter provide a contrast to the otherwise flat and soft Danish territory. Whereas traditionally, fishing and agriculture constituted the basis of the local economy, tourism has been the dominant source of income for at least half a century (Østergaard 2010), but economic decline has been steady for decades. Today Bornholm is one of the poorest areas in Denmark (Rauhut et al. 2008) and is associated with low income, low educational levels, high unemployment, and outward migration.

Figure 1. Map of Denmark (white), showing parts of Southern Sweden, Northern Germany, and North-Western Poland. Bornholm is the encircled island furthest to the east.
Figure 1. Map of Denmark (white), showing parts of Southern Sweden, Northern Germany, and North-Western Poland. Bornholm is the encircled island furthest to the east.

Over the last 10+ years local businesses and politicians have cooperated with national agents such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Interior and regional organisations and networks such as Regional Food Culture Bornholm (‘Regional Madkultur Bornholm’) and Bornholm Forum for Growth (‘Bornholms Vækstforum’) to change negative cultural associations and to attract a new type of tourists and new investments. According to Bornholm Forum for Growth, globalization has caused traditional workplaces to move out of Denmark – and Bornholm – and at the same time the demand for luxury lifestyle products and uniqueness is increasing. These developments – however they are related – can be exploited, and this is what stakeholders and entrepreneurs attempt to do in their work on creating a new image for Bornholm - not as an island of fishermen or an ordinary tourist spot appealing to mass tourism but as a place that offers high quality products and unique experiences:

“The aim is to create a brand for Bornholm that will achieve a degree of noticeability at the same level as other strong Danish brands, and that will visibly signal quality and creativity.” (; our translation)

The Bornholm Forum for Growth explains that they aim at creating a place brand in Bornholm (Lucarelli and Berg 2011; Kavaratzis and Hatch 2013). This is increasingly more common in post-industrial societies, especially where former industrial cities are redefined and reimagined (Short and Kim 1999) in order to find a new source of income. Kavaratzis and Hatch (2013: 82) view place-branding as a dialectic process with stakeholders who both benefit from and take part in it as the most important agents (ibid.). In Bornholm, too, conditions have changed, and similarly to what we see in other parts of contemporary rural Denmark, increasing attention is devoted to food. This is probably motivated by (and adding to) the success of the NNC which encourages small-scale, ‘local’ production. But of course it remains a question how economic and cultural defeat is transformed into high social and economic value, both on the larger scale (for Bornholm) and with regard to the single entrepreneur and stakeholder, one being Restaurant Koefoed.

Koefoed is (and is recognised as) a typical Bornholmian name; according to Restaurant Koefoed’s website they serve “Bornholm on a table”, and Bornholm and Bornholmness is thematized in media promotions: “Now you can get Bornholmian produce in a good modern interpretation at Restaurant Koefoed” (Politiken 01-02-2007), “Restaurant Kofoed [sic!] sells itself as –and is– a Bornholmian restaurant. No doubt that the heart of this place lies in the middle of the Baltic” (Vladimir 17-09-2007), and “everything from the produce to the glassware celebrates the island of Bornholm” (Guide Michelin9). Apparently, the restaurant succeeds in making its brand clear, and the restaurant’s small-scale place-branding adds to the work done by Bornholm Forum for Growth and other entrepreneurs by presupposing that Bornholm indexes value and simultaneously reaffirming this value. Regardless of the depressing socio-economic realities on the island, the association between Bornholm and high quality is never questioned in our recordings, and this consensus constitutes a premise for the success of the restaurant. However, if authentic Bornholmness is to be achieved at Restaurant Koefoed, it demands more work than it would if the restaurant had been French or Japanese. After all, there is no such thing as a well-known Bornholmian cuisine. This does not constitute a problem in itself – there is no such thing as an established Nordic cuisine either but the NNC still has tremendous success. But Restaurant Koefoed is not New Nordic, it is Bornholmian, and it constantly needs to anchor itself in Bornholm for this brand to make sense. The work done by servers becomes essential since in order for guests to interpret objects as signs of (Bornholmian) authenticity, the server needs to evoke the appropriate interpretive frames, universes of interpretation and semiotic ideologies. Semiotic ideologies are defined by Keane (2003: 419) as “basic assumptions about what signs are and how they function in the world.” Not all qualities can be seen as immediately accessible and naturally occurring, and in such cases their very existence “must usually be relayed to the consumer discursively from an expert to the consumer through a discursive chain of authentication” (Manning 2012: 21; Silverstein 2005). For instance, it is not always relevant to see produce as a (indexical) sign of place or as embodying essential qualities of place (icons); this depends on contextualization. In effect, a pork dish and a fish cake in a smoke-filled jar are not immediately recognizable as representations or indexes of Bornholm. As we will see in our data authenticity is not always present as a relevant meaning, and it is not constructed exclusively by the restaurant staff but demands participation from the guests. Consequently, we argue that authenticity in this restaurant context should be seen as a potential and as something that is suggested by servers and only realized when guests actively acknowledge it and engage in the construction. In other words at Restaurant Koefoed cultural authenticity is a potential enabled through the preferred employment of staff with Bornholmian roots, it is suggested when the servers talk about Bornholm’s history, traditions, etc., and it is realized when guests accept the servers’ discursive construction. A frame of performative authenticity can be activated by the servers’ active self-identifications as true Bornholmians when waiting tables. Last, the frame of recreational authenticity acknowledges the guests’ specific needs and wishes as consumers of ‘heritage’ and ‘authenticity’ through well-prepared, well-tasting food. In terms of the semantic dimensions of authenticity, as other high-end restaurants Restaurant Koefoed devotes much attention to historical, material and ontological dimensions of food produce – it may have grown in Bornholmian soil or been manufactured on Bornholm. Some products have a long Bornholmian pedigree (e.g., marinated herring), others do not (e.g., Bornholmian wine). In some cases, it may make immediate sense to experts (‘foodies’) to use a terroir discourse. For instance, wine, beer, meat, vegetables, cheese are all argued to develop specific qualities depending on the specific environment, soil, water perhaps, and production methods. We will show how Restaurant Koefoed’s servers point to certain source-identifying indexicals (i.e. signs that identify the source of the product; Manning 2012: 20-24); these may become icons of Bornholm, and the nostalgia, intimacy and valorization of the taste of place are identifiable meaning aspects in our data. In other cases, terroir is more questionable as a relevant value-adding parameter -- e.g., if the herring is imported and only manufactured on Bornholm. In such cases, evoked dimensions of authenticity include culture and tradition (historicity) – herring is considered a ‘traditionally Bornholmian’ food. Even personal history is exploited – servers tell anecdotes and situate locations (ontology, licensing, attempting to create social consensus). The saliency of authenticity differs from one encounter to the next. Its commercial exploitation is never reducible to a strategic introduction of a particular meaning dimension by the producer (cf. Cavanaugh and Shankar 2014); it is a potential that may or may not be realized or even introduced, and it may not be taken up, accepted as relevant or as an appropriate framing by guests.

Data and methods

This article is based on data collected over six months with a particular focus on the Copenhagen-based, Bornholmian high-end restaurant Restaurant Koefoed, recommended by the Guide Michelin ( The study was developed in association with a larger project on dialect in peripheral areas of Denmark, including Bornholm, and we have data from other food entrepreneurs such as a wine-maker located on the island (Monka et al. 2015; Scheuer et al. 2015) and a Michelin-starred Bornholmian restaurant in Copenhagen. Restaurant Koefoed started out on Bornholm but moved to the capital after a few years of hardship; the owner continues to be involved on the island as a food entrepreneur. Restaurant Koefoed is located in the city centre, near expensive hotels and tourist attractions. We interviewed the owner, chatted with the servers, took pictures at the restaurant, browsed the website, and collected reviews and discussions from public media (social media, newspapers, magazines, etc.). In addition we were allowed to make audio-recordings twice, once during lunch (4 hours), once during dinner (6 hours); these constitute the paper’s main data. At each session approximately 15 tables were served, and the recordings contain interactions between servers and guests, the servers’ communication with the kitchen staff, or each other, and lots of noise. The data set may be small but it was not easy to get permission to record in the restaurant (we were not allowed by the other restaurant we visited and talked to), and we preferred not to abuse the restaurant’s goodwill by being pushy. We do, however, consider the recorded interactions between servers and guests as typical; we have no evidence that they weren’t. In any case they offer a rare glimpse into (attempts at) discursive constructions of authenticity and creative exploitation of available resources during the everyday practices in the cultural institution ‘a restaurant’ (cf. restaurant studies in Berris and Sutton 2007; Goffman 1959). The two servers Henrik and Peter carried out the recordings. Both servers are originally from Bornholm, and both are central staff members, Henrik being the ‘restaurant manager’. We instructed them to inform the guests about the recordings and ask for their consent, and we placed an informative pamphlet by the front door and cloakroom. We have transcribed relevant, audible parts with the server Henrik whose recordings were most lively. All examples have been selected from here. The guests include (Danish and non-Danish) tourists, travelling businessmen and locals. Particularly the dinner recordings have a high number of non-Danish background guests –German, Austrian, British, Irish, and Scottish– but both recording sessions contain conversation in different languages. The staff did not wish to be anonymized, but we have concealed the few cases of identifiable guests. All examples preserve the original language.

The restaurant website

As Restaurant Koefoed’s website may constitute a first encounter with the restaurant, it can be crucial for influencing potential guests’ decision to book a table and thus needs to communicate clearly what distinguishes this from other restaurants. The visitor is early on presented with the claim that here you get a taste of Bornholm; on the main page the restaurant logo is placed in the top left corner, highly visible (Hartson 2003: 325), and it reads “Restaurant Koefoed - Bornholm på et bord” (Restaurant Koefoed - Bornholm on a table). The relations to Bornholm are central in the section “About Bornholm,” which contributes to a construction of uniqueness and familiarity through a terroir discourse. The main body of the page shows alternating photos from Bornholm – rocky landscapes and sandy beaches, pigs, sheep, and cows grazing in forests, hills, or fields. The introductory text reads:

“We salute the amazing produce from the sunny island10and the concept is a tribute to Bornholm. We focus on the island's many small producers of specialty products of high quality. Bornholm has a unique climate, with many hours of sunshine and a fantastic nature.

The inspiration for the rooms comes from the distinctive round churches of Bornholm with their raw, whitewashed arches and vaults.”

Bornholm’s nature, landscape and traditional architecture are celebrated, and smallness and uniqueness is highlighted; even the exceptional medieval round churches are claimed to be a source of inspiration. From an authenticity point of view the text draws on the frames of material authenticity (the Bornholmian produce) and of cultural authenticity (decorations inspired by historical sites). Furthermore, the text’s lexical choices – words like “salute”, “focus”, “inspiration” – implies that the restaurant uses Bornholm as inspiration in creative interpretations of Bornholmness and that it takes Bornholm to inspire positive affect.

In the website’s section on animals used for meat at the restaurant, a photo shows sheep in a green field under the blue sky – no stables, machines or other industrial farming material; the location is even an iconic heritage site (Hammershus). This suggests the restaurant’s relation to (places with a special value at) Bornholm, and the text constructs links between the meat/animals and nature. The sheep spend time in places that would “otherwise have to be mowed by machine or hand”, they therefore participate in a natural, local eco-system, and represent an opposition to a prevalent industrialization. It is stated that the sheep are fed with a special blend, “created by Koefoed’s own chef,” which “contributes to the lambs’ fantastic meat quality and completely unique flavour” – somehow at odds with the natural eco-system discourse, but underlining the restaurant’s preoccupation with their animal produce. Finally, the website presents us with the sheep farmer and his dogs –all named; this establishes a relation of proximity and familiarity. Close connections between producers, produce, and landscape are presented as important aspects of the high-end restaurant’s product and as a claim of value (also Weiss 2012: 615).

Overall the website establishes Koefoed as a restaurant that values authenticity. Authenticity is communicated through use of non-industrial production methods and localizable produce, acquaintance with the terroir of the produce, intimate engagement with the process of production, proximity between hosts, guests, and producers, and a concern with animal welfare. Uniqueness is established by situating the restaurant as part of special Bornholmian places and through its care for environment, animals and guests. Guests and animals get an extremely intimate relation as the animals consume special food, created by the restaurant, and the guests then incorporate the animals.

The restaurant encounters

We will now analyse recordings made by the server Henrik. As mentioned the restaurant experience needs to satisfy a specific recreational purpose. The guests visit the restaurant to experience something special, including high-end gastronomy, and they are presented with a particular universe of interpretation (Bornholm). It is in relation to this that the creation of authenticity becomes relevant, available, valuable and possible (cf. Wilk 2006: 20).

The restaurant visit has both linguistic and non-linguistic aspects: talking, eating, drinking, and reading the menu, as well as plates, glasses, decorations, food, and servings (cf. Pardue 2007). To a large extent the assumed and demonstrated expectations of the guests influence what happens during the encounters. We focus on three particular themes: contextualizing information, mostly in the presentations of the restaurant concept; talk about herring; and talk about pork and pigs. The presentations establish the universe of interpretation, and herring and pork have long histories in Danish food culture.

Context and presentations

During the dinner recordings all tables receive an explanation of the restaurant’s ‘concept’, as the server Henrik formulates it. This includes facts about the island and that the restaurant concentrates on ingredients from the Danish island of Bornholm. In example 1 the server asks a newly arrived female guest, who has just revealed that she has been to the restaurant before, if she has introduced the island to the other guests at the table:

Example 1: Presentation of the island

01 Henrik: have you talked a little bit about the island already
02 Guest1: no not really I
03 Henrik: okay
04 Guest1: I was just about to but you can do it

The “already” suggests that ‘talk about the island’ is a recurrent part of a visit. As someone with previous experience from Restaurant Koefoed, Guest1 may know that, and Henrik’s question can be seen as both a way to acknowledge her special status – as a ‘regular’- and to probe discretely into whether the presentation has been accomplished. In her response Guest1 recognizes the presupposition. She claims that she was “just about to” but hands over the task to Henrik: “but you can do it”. This being a recreational experience rather than, for example, an educational or legal one where repetitions would be appropriate, Henrik wants to avoid repetitions and be sure that he brings the guests new information. The information in the presentation is an essential part of the “discursive chain of authentication” (Manning 2012: 21) as the server here points out the universe of interpretation which will later enable Henrik to suggest some of the potential sign values. The presentation also shows to guests how Bornholm is “presented, performed, consumed and interpreted in the present” (Coupland and Coupland 2014: 9), which is necessary before Henrik can re-contextualize and authenticate the meal. In this way, the presentation sequences evoke the frame of recreational authenticity, as they occur for the purpose of satisfying visitors’ needs as both authenticity consumers and as restaurant guests (also see Coupland and Coupland 2014).

Some elements in the presentation sequences are only offered occasionally, such as the distance to Copenhagen: “hundred and twenty kilometres south east (.) direct line and it takes a little (.) a little less than three hours to go there and with the plane (.) thirty five minutes”. This works as a demonstration of the symbolic difference between the two locations, where distance in geographical space represents distance in symbolic space (although the mere 35 minutes by plane humorously questions the importance of the distance; it’s far but really not that far). It is also the distance that makes it relevant to argue for authenticity at all – as we are not at Bornholm. Other information is always presented, e.g., that the restaurant mainly deploys ingredients from Bornholm: “we get most of our ingredients from the island ah but we we s: we do need to have supplies in Copenhagen as well o:r in Sealand”11. The restaurant depends on the ontology, or provenience, of the produce - being (mainly) Bornholmian, to argue for its authentic Bornholmness. At the same time, Henrik announces that some elements which the guests will meet during their visit have no relevance in the construction of authenticity; “most” rather than “all” ingredients are from Bornholm, others are merely “supplies” from elsewhere. Although presented as dispreferred, prefaced by hesitation and “but”, this information informs guests that the server is an indispensable ‘guide’. He will point out what is and what isn’t worthy of attention, as the guests may not be able to detect the source-identifying indexicals on their own. It is also a reflexive statement as it foregrounds “the reality that the sites, despite their material and cultural authenticities, are selective and to various extents scripted representations of cultural histories, constructed partly for economic purposes.” (Coupland and Coupland 2014: 9). Thereby the server’s comment shows how the construction of authenticity is articulated within metadiscursive performative frames; the restaurant’s authenticity is not a question of either-or but needs to be teased out, argued for, and related to particular values and discourses. The server’s suggestions that the restaurant experience involves both Bornholmian and non-Bornholmian elements rarely receive any significant responses from diners. (We return later to a few exceptions.)

In another presentation the server explains why Bornholm is a Danish territory despite being geographically closer to Sweden. He uses this to present the Bornholmians as devout Danes:

Example 2: Koefoed the local patriot

01 Henrik: you see it here it's actually closer to Sweden than the rest of Denmark a:hr (.) in the
02 sixteenth century for a short period it was Swedish but e:rh (.) the general wan- was
03 killed (.) a man called Koefoed (.) a local patriot
04 Guest18: he is a hero
05 Henrik: he is a hero on the island they named a boat after him and everything ehm: (.) no and
06 then after the Danish and Swedish king had to ah (.) drop the deal (.) so: the southern
07 part of Sweden (.) became Swedish again and Bornholm became Danish again

The narrative positions the server as knowledgeable about local history. Also, the restaurant’s name –Koefoed– is identical to that of the ‘local patriot’, and although the restaurant (to our knowledge) is not named after him, the name-sharing creates an intertextual relation between the cultural narrative and the restaurant. The name Koefoed is turned into more than an indexical and unspecific cultural reference. Many Bornholmians are called Koefoed, and if your name is Koefoed, you are sure to have a relation to Bornholm. The correlation has rendered the name emblematic for Bornholm, and it now signifies true and authentic Bornholmness as a second order indexicality (Silverstein 2003)

The story of Koefoed-the-patriot is relatively realistic; this is not the case for all cultural narratives. In example 3 the server shows the guests a tourist souvenir, the troll Krøllebølle:

Example 3: A Bornholmian troll

01 Henrik: actually we do have trolls in Bornholm there is one called Krøllebølle he see this way
02 because he lives (.) under the ground
03 Guests:  hahaha
04 Henrik:   it's a it's an old (.) story
05             (.)
06 Henrik:   I have a I have a little a: I have a little statue of him (.) [ah
07 Guest2:                                                                   [a troll
08 Henrik:   yeah a troll krøllebølle
09 Guest2:  xxx
10 Henrik:   one second
11 Guests:  hahaha
12             Henrik goes to fetch the figurine and returns after less than a minute
13 Henrik:   this is Krøllebølle
14 Guest2:  o:h [cute xxx
15 Guest1:         [oh my Go:d
16 Guests:   hahaha

01 Henrik: actually we do have trolls in Bornholm there is one called Krøllebølle he see this way
02 because he lives (.) under the ground
03 Guests: hahaha
04 Henrik: it's a it's an old (.) story
05 (.)
06 Henrik: I have a I have a little a: I have a little statue of him (.) [ah
07 Guest2: [a troll
08 Henrik: yeah a troll krøllebølle
09 Guest2: xxx
10 Henrik: one second
11 Guests: hahaha
12 Henrik goes to fetch the figurine and returns after less than a minute
13 Henrik: this is Krøllebølle
14 Guest2: o:h [cute xxx
15 Guest1: [oh my Go:d
16 Guests: hahaha

As other narratives this one permits Henrik to perform as a cultural authority within the frame of cultural authenticity. He self-identifies as a true Bornholmian -- notice his use of the first person plural we (have trolls) -- and by the same token he inserts himself as an essential part of the restaurant’s (claim to) Bornholmian authenticity. He is the material embodiment of Bornholm. Also, Henrik’s narrative presupposes the historical authenticity of the narrative at the same time as it constructs it. The guests’ laughter may acknowledge the performative frame that Henrik’s enactment also highlights, but they may also laugh because trolls are not usually relevant in a restaurant setting; this is a surprising turn. The server is subsequently asked how they are supposed to understand and evaluate the story:

Example 4: myth or fact

01 Guest1: it's like a myth o:r is the e:h
02 Henrik:     nononono
03 Guests:     hahaha
04 Henrik:     that's (.) that's the f:act

This is a rare example of the guests perhaps (mildly) challenging the presupposed validity of the server’s information. The questioning is manifested as a concern about truth as the world-as-an-objective-fact, however their question also potentially questions the ‘truth’ of Restaurant Koefoed as a Bornholmian restaurant, by perhaps challenging the truth value of Henrik's statements more generally. In return the guests receive full endorsement: Krølle-Bølle is a fact – just as Bornholmian authenticity and Bornholmian cuisine are facts. Although trolls are usually assigned to the world of myth and fantasy, the guests do not question their existence any further, and thereby they validate Henrik’s interpretation of the Bornholmian universe they have ended up in.

In this sequence recreational authenticity is prioritized (Coupland and Coupland 2014) and outdoes questions of truth and reality. In one instance the server’s insistence on the restaurant’s dedication to Bornholmian produce is received slightly critically. What about in the winter, a guest asks:

Example 5: Vegetables in the winter

01 Henrik: and: we have most of our ingredients from there (.) everything used in the kitchen is
02  Danish (.) most of it from the island
03          (.)
04 Guest15:   [what do you do in the winter
05 Henrik:   [and the
06 Henrik:  a::h
07 Guest15:  the fish is obviously there (.) the vegetable
08 Henrik:  a::hm (.) everything is grown in Denmark eh all year there's these houses called e:h (.)
09 so everything is grown e:h grown in Bornholm eh in Denmark and Bornholm
10 so we can get pretty much everything (.) all of the year (.)
11      but in winter time we have more (.) beets (.) ehm: (.) xxx everything that grows in the
12      ground ehm: (.) so we have different seasons eh use a lot of berry (.) very soon when
13            they a:re (.) are ready [so ehm
14 Guest13:                            [good

Guest15 suggests that there is a potential incompatibility between the restaurant as Bornholmian, using mainly Bornholmian produce, and as a high-end restaurant. The problem is that very few vegetables grow in Scandinavia in the winter; however, guests may expect a wider selection of greens all year. The server argues that they get what they need from “these houses”, most probably green houses, which is somehow at odds with the restaurant’s (gastro-)ideological approach (orientation to seasons, dispreference for industrialization). He retreats and claims that in the winter they serve more beets and root vegetables (“everything that grows in the ground”), which is locally available12. This shows that not everything goes in the construction of authenticity; trolls, historic heroes and even produce imported from other parts of Denmark are treated as acceptable, appropriate or relevant elements, but green houses are not.

Curiously we do not find a presentation of the preference for Bornholmian food produce in the lunch-time recordings. There may be several reasons for this difference between lunch and dinner. One could be that the ‘Danish lunch’ or smørrebrød ‘buttered-bread’13 is a culturally well-established phenomenon, which overshadows other potential meanings. By contrast, because there is no such (conventionalized and traditional) thing as a ’Danish dinner’, Restaurant Koefoed has leeway to be more creative (and charge more) for their construction of an ”authentically” Bornholmian dinner. When people go out for lunch on a restaurant designated as ’Danish’ (incl. Bornholmian), they often come for Danish-style smørrebrød. And this is what they offer at Restaurant Koefoed according to the website:

”Restaurant Koefoed’s smørrebrød is a retelling of the classic, Danish open sandwich, for which we have upgraded the ingredients with foie gras, truffles and caviar and deconstructed the servings in contemporary style.” (; accessed on the 14-08-2015)

Notice that there is emphasis on the high quality of ingredients and the hauteness of the culinary preparation; this is how the restaurant adds distinction to a culturally ‘more developed’ (mere veludviklet) meal-type with more conventionalized meanings. This then differs from what the restaurant offers at dinner where the Bornholmian brand (and authenticity) is emphasized.

The lunch menu includes one choice where Bornholm is used attributively, namely in “Bornholm and other Danish cheeses”. In addition, guests can order sol over Gudhjem, an emblematic dish which we return to below. At lunch, however, it is not labeled Bornholmian. Overall, Bornholm seems to be much less necessary and relevant as a universe of interpretation at lunch. The (participant-relevant) keywords are ‘traditional’ and ‘Danish’, although in a creative, i.e., ‘contemporary’ interpretation. The smørrebrød-lunch is a much more culturally salient and wide-spread concept than Bornholmian cuisine, and this smørrebrød is treated as central for the lunch guests’ visits.

Another observation corroborates the interpretation. It is not only the presentation of the preferred origin of produce that is absent from the lunch recordings. Talk about Bornholm as a context is also rare. In one instance an elderly couple pays attention to a representation of Bornholm printed on the menu and in the bottom of the glasses. When they fail to identify locations correctly, the server corrects them:

Example 6: Locations

01 Guest22:   Snogebæk (.) det hernede
                    Snogebæk (.) it’s down here
02 Henrik:      arj (.) de: øh ik helt rigtigt (.) det helt hernede
                    noh (.) i:t eh is not entirely correct (.) it’s all the way down here
03 Guest22:   xxx
04                (.)
05 Henrik:      ja det ligger fak:tisk (.) ja det ligger faktisk ø:h lige heromkring
                   yes in fa:ct it is (.) yes in fact it is e:h round about here
06                (.)
07 Guest22:   ja
08 Henrik:     Nexø heroppe Nexø
                   up here
09 Guest22:  nåhja xxx
                   oh yeah xxx
10 Guest21:  det så lige før I ska tegne på xxx
                   it’s almost as if you should draw on xxx
11 Henrik:     ja
12 Guest22:  xxx
13 Guest21:  og xx (.) det heroppe hahaha
                   and xx (.) it’s up here hahaha
14 Henrik:     det rigtigt
                   that’s right
15               (.)
16 Henrik:     altså Gudhjem lige i midten
                   and so Gudhjem right in the middle

When the guests talk about Bornholmian geography (Gudhjem, Nexø and Snogebæk are Bornholmian towns) it shows that to them Bornholm is a relevant meaning aspect. The server exploits the couple’s demonstration of interest to present himself as an authority on Bornholm. Thereby guests and server co-construct Bornholm as both relevant and salient in this specific restaurant encounter. This points to the general observation that in lunch recordings such contextualising information is only offered when (explicitly or implicitly) prompted. Later the couple explains their interest in Bornholm, which offers Henrik an opportunity to demonstrate not only Bornholmian authority but also authentic Bornholmness:

Example 7: The friend from Bornholm

01 Guest22:   jeg er oss veninde me:d en fra Bornholm [hun la]ver sommetider
                    I am also friends with someone from Bornholm [she ma]kes sometimes
02 Henrik:                                                              [ja]
03                 saltstegte sild det smager godt
                    salt-fried herring it tastes good
04                (.)
05 Henrik:     vi er vi e:r øh et par lokale (.) ø::hm (.) Peter der min kollega han er oss
                   we’re we a:re eh a couple of locals (.) e::hm (.) Peter who’s my colleague he is also f
06                fra: vi er begge to fra Rønne fro:m
                   we are both from Rønne
07                og så Michael der ejer restauranten er fra Allinge (.)
                   and then Michael who owns the restaurant is from Allinge (.)
08                og så har vi ø:h så har vi faktisk oss et par kokkeelever fra Bornholm (.)
                   and then we have e:h then we also have a couple of interns from Bornholm
09 Guest22:  ja
10 Henrik:     så vi e:r vi er lidt lokale
                   so we a:re we are a little local
11 Guest22:  ja

Guest22 explains that she has a good friend from Bornholm who cooks a traditional dish also served at the restaurant (salt-fried herring). Henrik replies that several staff members are Bornholmian too: ‘so we a:re we are a little local’. To establish this relation is to connect restaurant and island on a personal and (in terms of semantic dimensions of authenticity) ontological level - and of course to validate his position as an expert on Bornholm. We will return later to the effects of the couple’s demonstration of interest.

Food produce

Not surprisingly the servers’ most important authenticating work concerns the food. In all recorded encounters the servers point to Bornholm as the place of origin of (some) food elements served, i.e. applying a semantic dimension of ontology. Yet the food presentations exhibit curious differences in the types of relations suggested by the server between the object’s sign value and its value as a food item. We will look at two recurring elements in the servings: herring and pork.


Herring used to be caught in great quantities in the Baltic Sea, it is one of the few emblematic Bornholmian culinary specialities, and marinated and smoked herring is still closely tied to the island, although the fish is no longer (always) caught there. This is not a secret, but not commonly known either14. At Restaurant Koefoed it is never made relevant where the fish is caught.

At lunch herring is included in two different traditional servings; we will look at one: marinated herring. This is a traditional (even obligatory) part of the set menu of smørrebrød. Restaurant Koefoed serves Christiansø sild, a nation-wide known brand of herring, produced at15and associated with Bornholm; yet this is never made salient discursively:

Example 8: Marinated herring

01 Henrik:    og ø::hm hvis vi starter fra venstre så har I Christiansøpigens kryddersild (.) and e::hm
                  if we start from the left you have Christiansøpigens marinated herring
02              der er kapers skalotter syrnet fløde til
                  there’s capers and shallot sour cream with it

A general awareness of the indexical relation between herring and Bornholm – it is even named after a Bornholmian location - may be one reason for the server’s not making more of this. In example 8 the guests are Danish, but even the foreign guests do not receive the information. Consequently the Christiansø herring’s potential to contribute to the authentication of the restaurant is not exploited explicitly. If it works to this end, it is only because the guests are aware of traditional associations.

As herring is emblematic for Bornholm it would be an obvious choice to serve it at both dinner and lunch. (Marinated) herring however has a traditional affinity to lunch and the traditional herring dish for dinner (fried herring) seems to have escaped the hype of the NNC; it is an unfashionable type of Danish food. As a way to sneak in herring at dinner Restaurant Koefoed introduces it as a pre-dinner amuse bouche named Sol over Gudhjem ‘Sunshine over Gudhjem’ (Gudhjem is a Bornholmian town). This is the name of the probably most famous Bornholmian dish. In its traditional interpretation it consists of a hot-smoked herring served on (Danish style) rye bread, on the bone with raw egg yolk and chives, as (lunch-time) smørrebrød. Koefoed plays with this. The herring is turned into a fried fish cake and accompanied by dehydrated egg yolk, thin radish slices and a sauce of smoked cheese cream (another regional Danish (non-Bornholmian) speciality. It is served in a jar, filled with smoke, which recalls the traditional dish’ smoked herring (see Figure 2). The serving indexes both Bornholm and modern Danish (New Nordic) cuisine with a creative re-interpretation of the local, regional, and traditional. In example 9 Henrik is serving a German speaking group:

Example 9: geräuchert Hering; Guest? = unidentifiable guest

01 Henrik:   so here comes (.) erst mal ein kleines (.) Appetizer (.) ein bornholmer Spezialität
                 so here comes (.) first a small (.) appetizer (.) a Bornholmian specialty
02             (.) geräuchert Hering (.)
                 (.) smoked herring
03             (3)
04             mal kom es mit viel Beine (.)
                it comes with a-lot-of bones (.) (i.e., it has a lot of bones)
05             ein ganz (.) a:h Hering mit a:h (.) viel Beine
                 a whole (.) eh herring with e:h (.) a-lot-of bones
06 Guest?:  ahah
07 Henrik:   un dann ah müssen Sie (.) die Beine a:h wie sagt mann auch
                 and then you must (.) what do you say the bones
08             a:h (.)
09 Guest?:  xxx
10 Henrik:   ja (.) und dann (.) un: scw Schwarzbrot (.) und ein Eiergelb (.) und Zwiebel
                 yes (.) and then (.) a ry rye bread (.) and an egg yolk (.) and onion
11 Guest?:  okay (.) xxx
12              xxx
13 Henrik:   xxx hier komm das ohne Bein (.) e:hm geräuchert und (.) gebraten xxx
                 here it comes without bones (.) ehm smoked and (.) fried
14 Guest?:  wauw
15 Henrik:   und dann ein geräuchet Käsekrem Schnitlauchöl a::h getrockne Eiergelb
                 and then a smoked cheese cream chives e::h dried egg yolk
16              das a:h die kleine Gelbe wie sagt ma:nn (.) a:h
                 grated over the e:h the small yolk what do you say (.) grated over
17 Guest?:  mm okay

Figure 2. Sun over Gudhjem-serving, smoke already gone (photographed by Karrebæk)
Figure 2. Sun over Gudhjem-serving, smoke already gone (photographed by Karrebæk)

The server explains the dish’s indexical relation to Bornholm; it is “ein bornholmer Spezialität” ‘a Bornholmian speciality’. Authenticity is created with reference to (semantic) historical and ontological dimensions but it has been subject to creative re-interpretation. The essential elements – herring, smoke, raw egg yolk – are preserved; modern cooking techniques and presentations have altered the final product. In fact, the assemblage of these specific components does not guarantee that the Koefoed serving is recognized as Sunshine over Gudhjem, and thereby that the authentication (of restaurant and dish) succeeds – the success relies on the linguistic work of naming by the server.

Nonetheless, what this example clearly does communicate is Restaurant Koefoed’s aspiration to be a fine dining place as it is expected of such restaurants that they engage not only in story-telling, selection of produce and construction of terroir, but also in modern(ist) cooking and the deconstruction of tradition. The dish is both strikingly authentic – preserving exactly the elements that render it genuine -- and utterly inauthentic – as the preparation bears little resemblance to the traditional version -- thus, in a seeming paradox, producing the (perhaps) only truly recognizable Bornholmian dish on the menu. But this is the nature of deconstruction: it necessitates some kind of prior recognisability. That is, as Sol over Gudhjem is the most or maybe only (well-known) Bornholmian dish, the deconstruction of exactly this dish is the most obvious chance Restaurant Koefoed gets of doing a creative and innovative re-interpretation of food. The most important work to secure the final recognisability, which in turn establishes the links between the food served, its original inspiration, and the restaurant, is done by the name and the server’s description of it. Thereby this is a prime example of how the relevant meanings (Bornholmness) and the distinction (and value) of the restaurant emerges through the creative invention of authenticity, through performative frames and evoked semantic dimensions in a unique interpretation of tradition, much relying on language - the name, its linguistic rendition on the menu, and its performative presentation by the server.

Pork and pigs

Whereas herring has a traditional relation to Bornholm, pork is basic in the general Danish food repertoire. Pork is also a recurrent element at Restaurant Koefoed. At lunch we find a so-called Bornholmian ristepølse ‘roast sausage’ from a named butcher on Bornholm; in example 10 we meet the elderly couple again:

Example 10: roast sausage

01 Henrik:     hvordan ø::hm ken har har I smagt ristepølse fra: Hallegårdsslagteren
                   how e:hm d have have you tasted roast sausage from the Hallegård Butcher
02 Guest22:  nej det har vi ik xxx
                   no we haven’t xxx
03                (.)
04 Henrik:     det har I ik (.) nej men det er han e:r han er helt fantastisk til pølser (.)
                   you haven’t (.) no but it is he i:s he is totally amazing with sausages (.)
05                øh og det er egentlig det blevet sån en bornholmsk specialitet (.) og det e:::r m
                   eh and actually it is it has become a kind of Bornholmian speciality and it i:::s m
06                kommer med syltede rødbeder o:g og m born rørt bornholmersennep (.)
                   comes with pickled beetroot a:nd and m Born stirred Bornholmian mustard (.)
07                den har vi oss som tilvalg hvis man vil ha noget lunt på øhm
                   we have that too as an additional choice if you care for something warm on ehm
08                på den her med [øhm
                   on this one with [ehm
09 Guest22:                                                        [det ka godt være vi sku prøve det ik
                                                                         [it could be that we should try it right
10 Guest22:  hehe
11: Guest21: ska vi prøve så[n en
                   should we try one [of those
12 Guest22:                                                        [ska vi ik prøve det ja ja (.) jaja
                                                                         [shouldn’t we try it yes yes (.) yes yes
13               (.)
14 Henrik:    så blir det heller ik mere bornholmsk
                  then it doesn’t get any more Bornholmian
15               (.)
16 Guest21: nej (.) hahaha
                  no (.) hahaha
17 Henrik:    glimrende

The roast sausage is presented as something that has become particularly Bornholmian (l.05). The authentic (historical) Bornholmian character of the roast sausage is apparently debatable or not so well-known. Yet, the specific sausage is from a Bornholmian butcher (Hallegårdsslagteren), and thereby ontologically authentic Bornholmian, and when the couple decides on it, Henrik responds: “then it doesn’t get any more Bornholmian”. This refers to the fact that the couple added the two optional elements on the menu –salt-fried herring and roast sausage- which are both explicitly labelled Bornholmian as well as the allegedly very Bornholmian aqvavit honningsyp. Henrik’s comment directs the attention to the universe of interpretation that is so salient in the dinner recordings and much less so at lunch. As mentioned, this couple also entered into the creation of the restaurant visit as a Bornholmian experience from the beginning. The server’s reflexive comment thereby both points to his interpretation of Bornholm as relevant here and evaluates them as succeeding in their creation of a Bornholmian lunch. The guests respond with laughter, maybe another sign of reflexivity, indicating awareness of the entire event as a creative and performed construction of Bornholmness, and recognizing the server as signalling the frame of performative authenticity.

The sausage is attributed with further importance when Henrik returns with the serving. He presents it with a distinctive Bornholmian pronunciation of ristepølse [ˈʁœsdəˌpøls], with [œ] rather than standard [ɛ] (Thomsen 1908: §53). In this way Henrik does more than serve a sausage; he adds a metapragmatic comment, suggesting and creating this sausage as particularly Bornholmian. In addition to authenticating the sausage as a serving with a historical relation to Bornholm and a name enregistered as Bornholmian, his Bornholmian pronunciation simultaneously authenticates himself, as he is able to perform this Bornholmian dialect, and by the same token the restaurant, which becomes authentic Bornholmian through its staff, its menu and the staff members' presentation of menu choices (including, of course, the now thoroughly iconic Bornholmian sausage). The performance of Bornholmian dialect features (other than the intonation pattern) happens only this once and for this couple who went for the ‘full Bornholmian experience’. Regardless of whether it is coincidental, the dialect performance certainly tops it up.

The Bornholmness of the roast sausage was constructed through historicity, within a frame of cultural authenticity, and with reference to ontology (produced by a named Bornholmian butcher). The pork served as an evening main course is presented differently:

Example 11: forest pork for main course

01 Guest12:  og hva sir du til hovedretterne hva hva er din favorit
                   and what do you say about the main courses what what is your favorite
02               (.)
03 Henrik:     grisen!
                   the pork/pig!
04 Guest11:  er den god
                   is it good
05 Guest12:  aha
06 Henrik:     ja skovgris (.) a:h den kommer ovre fra noget der hedder Vasagård
                   yes wood pig (.) a:h it comes from something which is called Vasagård
07                og det e:r langtidstilberedt nakke (.) og så er der
                   and it i:s slow-cooked shoulder (.) and then there’s
08                syltede kantareller og rødløg (.) kartoffelskum
                   preserved chanterelles and red onion (.) potato-foam

The type of pig from which the pork is sourced is pointed out as particularly delicious. The superior quality of the meat is not only related to Bornholm (from a named, ‘local’ farm), but also to its superior life quality; it is a forest pig. All of this is illustrated by poster-size photographs on the walls and in Henrik’s further explanation: “and we have a picture of the pigs here (.) how they (.) live in a forest most of the year (.) if the weather is to it ten months a year they are outside.” (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Picture of the forest pigs (photographed by Karrebæk)
Figure 3. Picture of the forest pigs (photographed by Karrebæk)

The pictures reduce the distance between product and consumer (Paxson 2008; Weiss 2012). They evoke a more proximal and almost personal relation between the restaurant and the pigs – as did the sheep on the website. They entangle “regional legacy, ethical agrarianism, and flavorful meat” (Weiss 2014: 22) and they enable the restaurant to introduce the pigs, personally, to the guests. This intimacy is corroborated linguistically. The denotation of Danish gris covers both English ‘pork’ and ‘pig’ which creates indeterminacy between the animal-as-a-living-being and the animal-as-food. Example 12 shows how Henrik’s exploits the polysemy successfully. Henrik asks if the entire group desires pork for main course:

Example 12: We almost feel we know the pig; Guest? = unidentifiable guest

01 Henrik:      hva ø::hm (.) er det m med gris [allesammen
                    what e::hm (.) is it m with pork/pig [all of them
02 Guest11:                                              [ja
03 Henrik:      eller vil ah er der nogen øh (.) man ka (.) man ka godt ændre den til okse
                    or do ah does anybody eh (.) you can (.) you can change it into beef
04 Guest 11:  jeg tar gris
                    I take pork/pig
05 Guest12:   jeg tar [oss gris
                    I also [take pork/pig
06 Guest?:                       [nå øh
                                     [well eh
07 Guest12:  den solgte vi meget godt
                   we sold that very well
07 Henrik:      ja (.) godt
                    yeah (.) good
08 Guest?:     hahaha
09 Guest?:     godt
10 Guest12:   nu ved vi (jo/heller) ik hvor oksen kommer fra
                    now we also don’t know where the beef comes from
11 Guests:     hahaha
12                (.)
13 Guest11:   vi føler næsten vi kender grisen
                    we almost feel that we know the pig/pork
14 Guest12:   ja(ha)

The work promoting the pork dish (using the posters) is recognized laughingly as successful when all the guests ask for pork, and the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ is used to show alignment with the line pursued by the server and the restaurant. In line 13 (‘we almost feel that we know the pig/pork’), Henrik’s attempt to create the intimacy or “connection” between consumers and animals that warrant quality (Weiss 2014) is acknowledged as successful; in line 07 (‘we sold that very well’) the guest uses inclusive ‘we’ to (teasingly) identify as a responsible participant in the restaurant as a commercial endeavour. The large photos are treated as icons of the represented pigs (assuming image-identity), which makes them more familiar. Of course, the guests are (probably) not eating the pig on the picture. This could even discourage some guests from choosing it; there is a limit to how close to the raw and uncooked material one can bring the guests; as the owner remarked that some guests find it slightly disgusting (“nogle jeg har nogle gange så er der nogle gæster der har sagt adv sån lidt ulækkert men jeg plejer s plejer tit og fortælle historien om de der grise ik” ‘sometimes there are some guests who have said yuck a bit disgusting but I usually s usually often tell the story about those pigs right’) (see also Weiss 2014). The guests’ laughter may indicate that they are aware of the sensitive elements in the creation of an intimate connection to the Bornholmian pigs, or that they acknowledge that this is a performed and constructed connection. In both cases their laughter is a sign of reflexivity.

A last point concerning the meaning of pigs and pork in Restaurant Koefoed is made relevant by a text on the door of the ladies’ room. It reads: “Did you know that Koefoed’s pigs come from Svaneke [a town in Bornholm; MSK and MM] where they “make pigs” as in the old days?” (Figure 4). A line is drawn from the text to a drawing of a pig; the text reads: “a small forest pig”. Tradition is singled out. As contemporary Danish pork production is infamous for its abuse of antibiotics and the poor conditions in which the animals are raised, this serves as an instance of counter-discourse concerning the need for an ethical approach to animals and meat, thus re-valorizing at least the pork served here. Restaurant Koefoed underlines the superior life-quality of ‘their’ pigs, and they facilitate the establishment of proximate connections to these pigs, and through this to pork as a high-quality as well as ‘local’ meat choice.

Figure 4. Toilet door poster: “Did you know that Koefoed’s pigs come from Svaneke where they “make pigs” as in the old days? --- “a small forest pig” (photographed by Karrebæk)
Figure 4. Toilet door poster: “Did you know that Koefoed’s pigs come from Svaneke where they “make pigs” as in the old days? --- “a small forest pig” (photographed by Karrebæk)

The pig/pork thereby has multiple functions and sign values. All are part of the authentication of the restaurant and build on a presupposed consensus of Bornholm as a predicate that adds value. All are also creative and used reflexively in humorous ways. This adds distinction to the restaurant. One element in the process of authentication concerns the indication of the adoption of traditional (Bornholmian) modes of production (historicity). Another is the illustrated and discursively (re)constructed ontology of the produce; to make sure that everybody gets it, the place where the picture was taken is marked at the bottom of the posters. A last element concerns both the authentication and creation of uniqueness. This is the attempt to create more intimate relations between guests, on the one side, and island, produce and restaurant, on the other.


As part of the attempt at gaining (and keeping) a foothold in the difficult-because-saturated high-end dining market in Copenhagen, Restaurant Koefoed has adopted the island of Bornholm as its universe of interpretation. Thereby it – as other fine-dining places – needs to walk the fine line between claiming recognizable meanings that signal authenticity and at the same time using this regional affiliation as an offset to create uniqueness and distinction. Bornholm is widely exploited in a variety of ways, but on some occasions Bornholm is not taken to be the most relevant meaning, and at times the potential of authentic Bornholmness is left unexploited. In general the more enthusiasm shown by guests, the more signs of authenticity are performed by the server. In that way, a Bornholmian restaurant turns out to be more or less Bornholmian in different encounters, and even the authentic Bornholmian experience varies in different encounters.

The restaurant experience is multi-dimensional, and at Restaurant Koefoed phenomenologically different elements are used to index Bornholm. Relations between food, restaurant, staff and island include tradition, or historicity, and place of production and rootedness, or ontology. Yet important relations and meanings are made available discursively. As everything needs to be done with attention to the expectations and needs that guests may have, a frame of recreational authenticity is at work and potentially relevant at all times. The different expectations of guests probably also motivate why we see the Bornholmian potential being played out to different degrees and in different ways in the encounters. Surely, not everything that the guests meet contributes to the construction of the restaurant as Bornholmian. Not everything has a particular relation to Bornholm, and excessive narration of – overdoing of - authenticity could jeopardize the construction of it, as “enough is enough” (Blommaert and Varis 2013). But in general, Bornholm is made relevant less often at lunch than at dinner, and in both cases authenticity and Bornholm as a universe of interpretation may be downplayed or upgraded. The server plays a crucial part, as he guides the guests’ attention to relevant objects (e.g., food made from Bornholmian produce), semantic dimensions (history, ontology), interpretive frames (performative, material etc.), and cultural narratives (trolls, language, patriots). In our case, the server takes a central role as a mediating figure; he is both a cultural authority and knowledgeable person on Bornholmian matters and a material manifestation of Bornholm being from Bornholm himself. Thereby the authenticity of the restaurant relies on rather different types of semiosis.

The case examined presents a number of apparent paradoxes. One is the tension between authenticity as a construction and as an immanent quality. This however dissolves in practice as people accept and orient reflexively to the performance and creation of authenticity. Reflexivity is crucial to how authenticity is produced in late modernity as a meaning constructed in discourse but drawing on ideas of authenticity as inherent quality.

Related to this is the fact that there is no such thing as a well-known Bornholmian cuisine, and yet the restaurant’s brand value depends on this. But the manufacturing of locality is a global phenomenon: “(i)t took more globalization to bring local food out of the kitchen” (Wilk 2006: 166), and the Bornholmian kitchen is no more a new invention than the national dominant food movement the New Nordic Cuisine. Similarly to the NNC, an authentic Bornholmian restaurant does not need to draw on well-established traditions as long as it presents a (systemic) coherent, creative and relevant interpretation of what a contemporary Bornholmian (or New Nordic restaurant) can be. Restaurant Koefoed exploits available resources such as global discourses on terroir and more local ones such as the NNC.

It may also seem like a paradox, in the absence of a traditional Bornholmian cuisine, why one of the only well-known Bornholmian dishes – Sunshine over Gudhjem – is the object of a thorough deconstruction. Yet it makes perfect sense. In order to argue for Bornholmian authenticity, the restaurant needs to reconstruct relations to Bornholm, and in order to create distinction (and to be a fine dining place) this needs to be done creatively. Creativity of course is only possible when it is recognized, and this necessitates recognizable reference to something as re-created, re-interpreted, and re-invented. Sunshine over Gudhjem is an obvious candidate. In fact “(c)ultures may temporarily fix or freeze a particular food or ingredient, like the American Thanksgiving roasted turkey, in a ritual context that defines important ideas of identity and cultural membership, but even iconic dishes are always changing” (Wilk 2006: 18). However, the creative version of Sunshine over Gudhjem served at Restaurant Koefoed is probably as far away from the well-known as possible, stretching the limits of when a dish will be recognized as "the same" by guests, and only because of its iconic relation to Bornholm, and because it is presented by its name, recognition is more or less guaranteed.

The fourth and last paradox concerns the fact that Restaurant Koefoed is a high-end urban restaurant but Bornholm is an impoverished peripheral island. There is a fascination in urban contexts of what is seen as rural, unspoiled, ‘natural’. The non-industrial, non-global, traditional, static is the opposite of the city. Bornholm is constructed as such a place. Such destinations lend their charm to marketed products but are unpopular to live in. The place is only considered to attribute high value when selling or consuming specific products, and not as a residential place where urban people would actually wish to live. We want to buy it, but we don’t want to live it. This is the well-known paradox of tourism, where visitors buy experiences or products that are constructed as 'authentic', while staying in the place only for a short while. This process of authentication works through the exoticizing of the 'other', and is valuable because it in no way represents the everyday life of the visitor. In the Bornholmian restaurant visitors can buy the Bornholmian experience, without even having to go Bornholm.


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1. We are grateful to Nik Coupland and the editors for their careful reading of the manuscript; this improved the argument significantly.

2. Abbreviation of nordisk mad ’Nordic Food’

3. All examples are translated by the authors.



6. This is quoted from a speech manuscript, originally delivered in Paris Dec. 2010, and sent to the first author, by Meyer’s secretary. Title: “New Nordic Cuisine and the potential for a transformation”.

7.; compare the Slow Food manisfesto: “Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of fast food.” (Petrini et al. 2003: xxiv)

8. Thanks to Jillian Cavanaugh for this point.


10. Compare Bornholm’s nick-name ”the Sunshine Island”.

11. Sealand ‘Sjælland’ is the island where Copenhagen is situated, and the part of Denmark closest to Bornholm.

12. It is probably true or at least to some extent that Restaurant Koefoed serves more vegetables and beets in the winter, but we never looked into the validity of the claims the servers made during serving. Some restaurants are certainly more (ideologically) seasonal than Restaurants Koefoed.

13. Smørrebrød is usually translated as ‘open-faced sandwiches’. It denotes slices of Danish style rye bread which are buttered and topped with cold cuts, paté, herring, potatoes, chicken salad, etc., then served at restaurants such as Koefoed with elaborated decorations.

14. A critical television program in the spring 2013 about food and food production (Bitz og Frisk) featured Bornholm as a theme, and here this information was presented. But this is not the first time it has been made public.

15. In fact, not all Christiansø Sild are from Bornholm or more precisely from Christiansø – a tiny island next to Bornholm. Some are from a Sealand based factory, some even produced outside of Denmark. Yet they continue to carry the name of the Bornholmian locality.