“Bite It Before It Bites You” | The Man who Made Ants Into Michelin Star Cuisine

Thomas Laursen makes his living selling live ants - and other foraged ingredients - to some of the world's best restaurants

by Kieran Morris
Dec 12 2019, 12:58pm

Launching on Amuse today is the first episode of our new video series, How I Got Here, which opens in the forests of Denmark with the forager Thomas Laursen, known in the food world as ‘The Antman’. Laursen has been supplying wild ingredients to some of the best restaurants on the planet since 2011, and is most renowned for his prized ingredient: the orange carpenter ant, found burrowed in trees around Aarhus.

We spent a day with Laursen, travelling with him on his route around Aarhus and Silkeborg as he plundered the bounties of nature for all manner of herbs, mushrooms, and, of course, ants. On our travels, we talked extensively about his life, his line of work, his experiences, and just how it came to be that he made a living out of selling - and eating - live ants.

"When Laursen introduced Moran to the flavour of a jet ant, he transformed the restaurant’s approach"

Laursen cultivated his hobby of foraging and botany throughout his youth and into adulthood, before a chance encounter in 2011 with René Redzepi’s right-hand man at Noma, Trevor Moran, led him to supplying the world’s best restaurant (as it was at the time) with live jet ants.

Laursen identifying wild herbs in a patch of grass. Photo: Screenshot from 'How I Got Here: How I Became the Antman'

Noma had been toying with the idea of using live insects on their menu after encountering Alex Atala, and his São Paulo restaurant, D.O.M, who uses Amazonian ants on his menu as an expression of Brazil’s indigenous culture and history. When Laursen took Moran on a foraging mission and introduced him to the flavour of a jet ant, he transformed the restaurant’s approach - which was already trailblazing - into an even more challenging and provocative style of cuisine.

Laursen’s abilities are not merely limited to identifying ants: he can also identify all manner of wild herbs and edible plants (of which the Danish forest has many) as well as telling you which mushrooms are safe to eat. A walk with Laursen - as we discovered - can have you coming away not just with a basket full of purslane or woodruff, but with an entirely new perspective on what is and is not edible. Preparing us a stunning meal at the end of the day, Laursen gave the perfect demonstration of how to use his produce, serving us razor clams, langoustine, and wild mushrooms - all served, of course, with ants.

Thomas Laursen is a forager and wild food supplier, based in Silkeborg, Denmark. Keep up with him on Instagram.

‘Nordic by Nature: Nordic Cuisines and Culinary Excursions’, where Laursen is featured, was compiled by Borderless Co., and published by Gestalten. It is available to buy through their respective sites.

How I Got Here