Leif Hedendal

Leif Hedendal
Mara McKevitt

Leif Hedendal is the onboard chef of Station to Station.

“I never really thought about being a chef,” Leif Hedendal says.

“I was just cooking for pleasure. I kind of fell into it as a job.” The culinary pioneer started cooking after his parents separated. In a classic gesture of familial bread-breaking, he would make big batches of chili for everyone to eat. He started throwing regular dinner parties in his teens, but never really considered becoming a professional chef.

From these somewhat accidental beginnings in the culinary world, he’s done quite well, cooking at Greens, Chez Panisse, in and around Barcelona, and at Copenhagen’s world-famous Noma — and now (luckily for us!), Hedendal is food tent curator for Station to Station and the onboard chef.

In a city well known for its cult-like obsession with food, Hedendal has distinguished himself by using hand-foraged ingredients and under-utilized vegetables such as morels, stinging nettle, saltbush, cardoons, sheep sorrel and bronze fennel. Inspired by local artists who incorporated cuisine into their practice, Hedendal began to consider the relationship between food and art.

That idea, which started in his San Francisco apartment grew to become “Dinner Discussion,” an ongoing dinner series that has taken place in Copenhagen, New York, Chicago and at Harvard University. The goal is to inspire collaboration between artists and food activists and investigate the possibilities of chef as artist, or farmer as artist, while engaging critically with ideas of community, progress, nature, nutrition, food sovereignty, food security, agriculture and culture.

At a recent event for SFMOMA, Hedendal designed a dessert based on the Guerrilla Art Action Group, a radical collective that attempted unsuccessfully to save the life of revolutionary poet Michael X during the Vietnam War. The dish consisted of frozen rhubarb, dandelion, strawberry, kaffir lime, thai chile and vietnamese herbs. The result was cold, sweet and very spicy.

Want to taste some of Hedendal’s work? These days, he spends most of his time working as a caterer at various pop-up restaurants, farm dinners, openings, fundraisers and meal-based collaborations with artists. Send him a note at cavolonero@gmail.com for more info. You can also follow him on Twitter @LeifHedendal.

Click here for Hedendal’s recipe for Sea Bream Cucumbers.