FSF Interviews – Peter Emil Nielsen
Peter Emil Nielsen is the co-founder of the Danish Palæo restaurant. Thanks to his health-conscious partner Mads Fischer, Emil has been following the Paleo lifestyle for about 1,5 years now, and there seems to be no end in sight.
“During the week I eat only Paleo, which means there is no bread, pasta or wheat and gluten products on my plate. On weekends it’s not so strict. I personally follow the Paleo lifestyle 80/20 which works for me. Most of the people I know who follow Paleo’s lifestyle also follow it during the weekends, however when out with friends or family eat what is served in front of them. I personally feel better when I follow the Paleo lifestyle, but to me it is not a religion.”
From the Stone Age to Today’s Tables
“I believe in moderation”, Peter says, “though people died younger in the Stone Age, their bodies were certainly healthier. Their lifestyle was completely different from ours: they had to fight off nature, and lived in caves, nowadays we have medicine and live in houses etc. But there are definitely some things we can learn from. Then again, the cavemen didn’t brush their teeth. The lifestyle is a question of interpretation.”
“Cavemen actually had less plaque in their teeth than we do today but this is due to them not having access to the amount of sugary foods and drinks that we do today. Cavemen probably ate anything that was put in front of them; however the concentrated carbohydrates that plague our daily supermarkets and grocers weren’t a part of their menu! And they are what lack any form of vitality!”
The Paleo ideology is based on the idea of a complete, healthy life. To Emil, Paleo is not a fad. “I don’t think it’s a diet. People who eat Paleo as a diet are not going to get the results they want. It’s a way of life. It’s about making conscious decisions about what’s healthy and what’s not, and how to feel better overall long-term.”
The Paleo diet consists of foods that were available for our ancestors in the Paleolithic era. The strict followers of the Paleo lifestyle say no thanks to processed foods and sugars, grains, dairy products, starches, legumes and other everyday ingredients that the cavemen couldn’t get their hands on. The reasons for following the caveman diet can be various, but most usual include the view that in the good old days people were healthier and did not suffer from common diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Fast Food Cavemen-style
According to Peter, the paleo lifestyle can be customized to fit our modern society of office workers. “Recipes provide huge possibilities. To make lasagna, you can start playing around with different vegetables that you wouldn’t normally use. We have our own substitutes for common dishes, such as pasta made from vegetables with our special bolognaise sauce.”
“We want to make people aware that you can live without bread and starchy food. We create good meals from natural ingredients. Our bodies are not genetically modified to accept processed foods. We can eat and live healthy without eating the products we were grown up eating. It’s not a necessity to eat oats, bread and such.”
Photos: Bob Hongsa
What comes to the menu of Palæo, Peter states: “Palæo is a take-away restaurant. We change the menu based on what works, but we want people to be able to recognize our signature meals. We also want to keep people interested and have variety in the dishes. New recipes are developed by Googling, researching and looking through different ideas. Our chef then tests our ideas and tells us what works and what doesn’t.”
The ingredients of Palæo restaurant are as local as possible. “Obviously we can’t get woolly mammoth. We eat what’s around, so we have duck in our menu. Egg, chicken and beef are available. If we were in South Africa, we might have antelope on the menu.”
Making it happen
Pal¬æo take-away started from a need for a healthy fast lunch. Together with his partners Mads Fisher & Christian Bowall, Emil started thinking about a better version of a salad bar, followed by an idea of a café with only healthy food. After getting the Danish “Caveman”, Thomas Rhode Andersen interested in their vision, things started snowballing.
“Everything went incredibly fast from October to December, when we had a lot of meetings and planning”, Peter tells, “the opening of the first restaurant was in March.” After that, things certainly haven’t slowed down: The second location of Palæo opened in October 2012.
The dream of Palæo is to expand, first in Denmark, later globally.
“We want to open a chain. Hopefully we will be able to open more restaurants. We have been offered a franchise deal, but we want to make sure we get everything right. We dream of being big” From the beginning, the restaurant has got a lot of attention globally, both in the contemporary media as well as online, especially in blogs. According to Peter, the potential of the paleo ideology is huge growing exponentially. “Paleo and Cross fit really go hand in hand, the community within the cross fit and Paleo world seem to have grown together, and Cross fit is a big part of where our Paleo take-away was born.”
Photo: Bob Hongsa
Palæo has a strong community on Facebook, where the discussion is vivid and people post questions about the Paleo lifestyle and food. The restaurant also offers deals and promotions via their Facebook page. From online to the real life, Peter is looking forward to having people come to the restaurant and give the paleo lifestyle a chance.
“You can follow the lifestyle for 4 weeks, and many feel a new energy. Try to see if it works for you. A lot of people would be surprised to see the difference! The majority of people have got a lot of positive effects after eating 4 weeks of Paleo food. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to your old lifestyle.”
So far, there is not much competition for Palæo.
“There’s a restaurant in Berlin, but that is the only other established restaurant selling Paleo food that I know of. And we are a takeaway, fast food place. In Denmark, eating Paleo has never been as popular as it is now. There are loads of books, blogs etc., everywhere, and the movement is growing every day. The green wave is getting bigger and bigger, and people are becoming more aware that this is making them healthier. In Denmark we have the best restaurant in the world, Noma, and now the best Paleo take-away restaurant, Palæo – Primal Gastronomi.“