Origins of Anna Hansen

Anna’s New Zealand parents were in Montreal, Canada, when she was born. While maple syrup will always be a part of her life due to numerous visits she made back there, Anna’s food education really began in New Zealand. The kitchen of her Danish grandmother was undoubtedly her biggest culinary influence, long before she went on to work in Australia and Britain


As a child I would sit on the end of the kitchen bench and talk to my Danish grandmother as she made things, always explaining why she did things a certain way. Why she did a figure-of-eight motion with a wooden spoon; how she cut the sinew off meat; why she ground mince twice. She was very particular.

Danish kitchen

Even in New Zealand, my grandmother did things the Danish way. She made amazing lemon soup with little puff-ball dumplings. She wouldn’t do roast lamb like everyone else, Christmas was roast pork with braised red cabbage and parboiled new potatoes finished in caramel. There’d be pickled herrings and remoulade. I ate differently from my friends.


Danish relatives arrived loaded with food: stinky cheeses, vanilla beans, salami, tinned fish. We had open sandwiches – smørrebrød. We’d construct our own – it was a competition to make the most outrageous, with salamis, pickles, fried shallots, cheeses and Danish eggs. They're like scrambled, but you don’t move the egg in pan, so it’s all silky.

The French House

I went travelling then got a job dishwashing at The French House with Margot and Fergus Henderson. One of the chefs convinced them to give me an apprenticeship. I loved it. I was skinning rabbits, plucking and gutting birds and boning out lamb shoulders. It was endlessly interesting. I’d even go in on days off, because I didn’t want to miss out.


I discovered so many varieties of fish and birds in the UK. I remember having to cook a woodcock for the first time. It’s so expensive. You just have this scrawny bird and have to split the head open to serve, so they can just scoop out the brain. You have to cut the head open just right, and you only get one shot.

Smoked paprika ice cream

I worked for Peter Gordon and he was all about experimentation. It was terrifying to begin with. I did make a few horrible things like smoked paprika ice cream – truly horrific. I learnt about balance and how important it is when using a whole lot of intense flavours and trying to match them all up. We made a lot of good things; a coconut and banana upside cake with saffron was unexpectedly delicious.

The Providores

I travelled through Spain and Asia and, of course, my palette of ingredients expanded. I opened The Providores and Tapa Room in London with Peter. We split the restaurant's menu. There were things like a smoked chicken latkes and, because of my Danish heritage, pork belly was always on the menu. Our brunch was huge, people would queue up the road.

Modern Pantry

I wanted to write a book about demystifying the ingredients in the modern-day pantry, but a friend said it wouldn't sell unless I had bricks and mortar. I opened Modern Pantry in 2008. I wanted it to be all-day, because I never understood why we made people eat between 12-2pm and 6-9pm every day.


Liquorice has always been a theme for me. One of the Modern Pantry desserts was liquorice and chocolate, like a set custard. It came from when I was at my aunty's eating salted liquorice and she gave me a piece of chocolate and stuck it in my mouth at the same time – a wonderful taste sensation.

New Zealand

I left the Modern Pantry in 2020 and I’ve been locked down in New Zealand since last year, seeing my mum. I’m still cooking though, in fact for a dinner party recently I used New Zealand wagyu with my tamarind and miso marinade. That was a winner and such a good match. I got a standing ovation for it!

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