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Although chef and food creative Kai Semple has lived in Copenhagen since 2017, he moved into an apartment entirely his own for the first time in 2020. Drawing on what Copenhageners call “good apartment karma” (i.e. finding an apartment just when you need it from someone in your network), Kai got his 62 square meter, one-bedroom home in the northern neighborhood of Nørrebro when a friend from his native London left the space. “It’s nice…to make it my own style,” he says, “It’s a work in progress.”
Kai’s apartment is largely neutral tones and minimalist lines, with the occasionally quirky detail. “For me it’s more about textures and the ‘off-notes:’ it gives it a little bit more character,” Kai explains.
Semple began cooking at 15, and went to culinary school at Westminster Kingsway College in London. His maternal grandmother is from Jamaica, while his father’s side is originally from Trinidad. “I have quite a lot of broader influence from Caribbean food. With Jamaican food, we like to use allspice a lot and marinate meats. In Trinidad it’s more curry-based from the Indian influence. Even though they’re quite close island-wise, they’re completely different cultures. So I think that has made me quite experimental,” says Kai.
Semple enjoys multiple aspects of food, from the making of it to the styling. He explores both of these elements in his own food concept, YAM, a takeaway, event, and catering business.
He explains, “I never thought I’d be working with Caribbean food, ever. But for me, I took a step back and saw that I have this heritage and this knowledge of food, so why can’t I apply that to something that I love? Drawing on my pride in being Black British, I realized that my grandma’s food is amazing but might not look the most appealing. Having my educational and work background, I can make it more visually appealing. I don’t have to worry about the taste, I’m very confident in that!”
So Kai came up with the concept, YAM. The name comes from the root vegetable that is grown primarily in Africa and in Caribbean. “Yam” in Jamaican Patois means “to eat.”
Semple adds, “the final meaning of YAM, I just made up because I thought it would be quite cool to have the acronym, is Y.A.M: you and me. It plays into the idea of eating being a social activity.”
He’s currently concentrating on jerk chicken, which is a fundamental Jamaican dish.
“It’s really about reinventing jerk chicken, because I don’t have a barbecue. I have to use a blow torch! I’m currently deciding whether to open a space, or do products, because the hot sauce and the tamarind sauce that I make is really popular, to the point where people want the sauce now, separately from the food,” Kai says.
Though YAM operates through Instagram, it is currently on-hold while Kai decides on next steps. Luckily, he’s still cooking things up in his own kitchen, where he cooks, bakes, and listens to music.
Take a look at Kai’s minimalist, organic style:
“Another favourite piece is my trusty Tagine that I bought in Morocco. I’ve had it for over ten years and I paid the equivalent of 20 DKK for it.
I love it! My cousin’s dad is from Morrocco, so he did all the negotiating for me.”
“These are from Frama and the others are from ceramic studio called Apato.
I just have a mixture of those two brands, except for the bowls which are from a Japanese ramen restaurant. Once they get a chip they’re not supposed to use them. I’m really interested in ceramics.”
Kai Christiansen Chair
“My favorite piece in the apartment is probably this chair.
I got for a good steal. The store below the apartment, to the left, is a little antique store. I found this there and he sold it to me for 100 DKK. I’m repairing it. It’s from the designer Kai Christiansen; same name as me, so I thought that had quite a cool ring to it, and for 100 kroner you can’t leave that one.
It’s quite sentimental for me and I love to use the chair.”
“When I moved in here there were no mirrors. A friend of mine was at her grandma’s in Nørrebro, and she told that her grandmother had loads of mirrors, and she could get me one quite cheaply.
This one has a little bit history. For myself was like something to build around, because I want to take out the original glass and and put new one in. I love the frame; it has a lot of character. The mirror has so much history because my friend’s grandmother had it since the 1940s or 50s.
I like the whole “haunted-looking” situation! It’s original, even the glass; you can’t take off all these specks!
The mirror is something I can take with me if I ever move again; now I have a mirror.”
“The table is from the homeowner’s parents. It’s just got a lot of character to it and something that I personally love. I think it probably makes the apartment.
I love how they bought the marble first then constructed the table. I think it’s super cool because then you can play around with the legs. It’s a timeless piece.
It’s super functional, looks great in pictures, great for hosting; it’s the ideal table.”
Børge Morgensen J39 Folkestol
“They have to be fixed up, they’re a bit shaky, but they’re timeless. Some objects don’t really go out of fashion. They’ll be classic forever, more or less. And they’re actually comfortable.”
“It’s a great speaker! I’ve always liked Sonos as a brand. As far as bluetooth speakers go, I can’t complain one bit!
I’m looking forward to the summer. I’ll be blasting it much louder, because the sound quality is great. I think it’s quite easy to move around and it’s compact. I have found it to be the best portable speaker on the market. The design is slick as well.
Some speakers have a good sound but don’t really fit with my aesthetic, but this does both.
And the battery is good! That’s why I like it as well. With other speakers you play it between medium and high volume, you give it an hour and it’s dead! It’s frustrating because you have to charge it. So this is perfect. I think it lasted over six hours. I’m that kinda guy, I tested it!
Overall, the Move is a great functional speaker. And I like that you can also use the USB if necessary; it’s just really convenient.
Summerhouse 2021: that’s gonna be definitely the sound!”
Poster by Accept and Proceed
“This is another favorite thing of mine. It’s a little bit chipped.
It’s from a design company called a Accept and Proceed. They do product design, they work with Nike, and so on. The poster is a psychedelic ring.
Accept and Proceed are a really cool studio based in London. They helped me by designing the packaging of my first-ever project. I’ve never really told people this, but I started a soup company in London when I was about 19. And it was really good!
I couldn’t keep up with the demands; it was a lot of cafes and delis, and I was 19 and I kind of lost focus. I learned a lot from that experience. Sometimes I think about restarting it.”
Frama Adam Barstool with Frama E27 Light
“And it’s sitting next to the Frama stool. I’ve always had a hobby or passion for interior design and objects.
I got the light from a friend for my birthday. I love it, and I’d love to mount it up somewhere in the apartment. It’s just functional and cute.
For it’s size, it can light up this whole room!”
Books on Display Shelf
“My books: everything from Kinfolk to cookbooks. I have a bigger collection, but there’s only so much I can bring from London.
I’ve got a big collection of books back home. Every time I go home, I try to bring at least two or three. One of my favorite books is this one here: Today’s Special by Anthony Demetre. He signed it as well, which is really nice. He used to have restaurants called Honey and Our Beauties. They’re both closed now.
The book and its recipes are simple, not overly-complicated. It’s just nice to open up once in a while for basic dishes. It’s not too chaffy; something you can do at home.”
Frama AML stool with a Maison Louis Marie Candle – No. 4 Bois de Balincourt
“I just love this stool as an object, it works anywhere. At my last place, my bed was on the floor so it was the bedside table. It’s just a cute, friendly stool! Cool legs.
Thankfully, a friend who worked there got me a sweet little discount. I have also worked with Frama in the past, doing pop-ups.
The candle is from Maison Louis Marie. They do candles, perfumes, different scents. It’s really hard to find and there’s only one stockist in Copenhagen at the moment, a new concept store called Tadaima.”
Black and British: A Forgotten History
“This is another favorite book. It was given to me by my friend’s Sister.
I think it’s super important. This my heritage, and there’s so much information I didn’t know. It’s a lot of history that we didn’t learn growing up. You have Black British history from the 1950s after the war; my grandparents are part of the Windrush generation.
This book is more about the history beforehand. There was a Black community from around the 1890s; it’s a really in-depth history about being Black and British.”
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Disclosure: Kai Semple is Scandinavia Standard’s Monthly Bite contributor.
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