An Interview with Peter Hogh Pederson

peter høgh pederson

villa copenhagen dining area

view of the brasserie at villa copenhagen

peter høgh pederson

Peter Høgh Pedersen is the Managing Director of Villa Copenhagen, a unique hotel that is opening in the former Central Post & Telegraph Head Office building in 2020. Epicurean is designing the F&B areas in the hotel, including the brasserie, bar & playroom, bakery and meeting rooms. In this interview we ask Peter about his career and the values underpinning Villa Copenhagen.

how did you get started in the hospitality industry?

I started off as an apprentice chef and waiter, before studying for business and hotel management qualifications and working my way up. I got my first general manager posting in Stockholm in a hotel by the airport with a limited F&B offering. So I was forced to throw myself into other aspects of the business like marketing and revenue management. It was good for an F&B head like me to understand that the whole world doesn’t necessarily revolve around the kitchen!

where in the world has your career taken you?

I opened a Hilton Hotel in Sharm El Sheik and spent 5 years in Egypt. Like most other hoteliers the dream was to go to Asia, so my next move was to the Philippines with Hilton, where I worked at a seaside resort in Cebu before moving to China with Banyan Tree. With three sons still in nappies, I next moved to Nigeria to open the Hotel Intercontinental in Lagos. After three years the opportunity arose to launch the InterContinental in Davos, Switzerland. My wife is Italian and we decided to spend some time in Italy, where I worked as a consultant, before we returned to my native Denmark 18 months ago. 

what’s been one of the highlights of your career?

I was General Manager at the InterContinental in Davos during two World Economic Forums. They were the most exciting events I’ve ever managed as a hotelier. You’d have five or six heads of state visiting your hotel on any given day, across five days. With the security concerns and everything else to consider, they were really interesting times. It’s also a spectacular hotel.

what attracted you to the general manager role for Villa Copenhagen?

I didn’t know much about Nordic Choice when I was contacted about the role but I caught up fast and was very impressed with the people, company culture and the project. I thought, if ever there was a project that could keep me enthusiastic and passionate as a General Manager coming back to Denmark, this was it. I can say I have the best project in Scandinavia with a twinkle in my eye. I always say that and then laugh so people don’t think I’m bragging, but I am!

villa copenhagen dining area

we are a london-based design studio and have learnt a lot about dining out in copenhagen to inform our designs for villa copenhagen. what do you think is one of the main differences between the restaurant scenes in the two cities?

If you go to one of the classic cafés in Copenhagen you might see one person in a black suit, and they’d be sitting at a table with someone wearing jeans and maybe also a Hell’s Angel. I think that tells you a lot about the diversity of the business world here. London is very different. If you go to The Ned you’ll see a lot of black suits. We don’t have that type of environment even in the luxury restaurants. Shoreditch is the part of London with the most in common with Copenhagen.  

what kind of restaurant appeals to you? 

I’m allergic to the thought of fine dining! I’ve been back in Copenhagen for 18 months and haven’t been to a Michelin-starred restaurant yet. I like to go to great restaurants once or twice a month, rather than saving to go less frequently to those with Michelin stars. I think that goes for most Copenhageners. However, the Nomas and Alchemists and others at the top level make the slipstream very interesting and help keep the offer really fantastic for people who live in the city and visitors. 

what do you think about putting fine dining into luxury hotels – does it work in copenhagen?

The classic approach is to do fine dining with a chef who is the new star in the industry, and after eight months they get a call from someone who wants them in New York and they’re gone. And all of the money invested in them is gone and the hotel has to start over. We’ve seen that happen. I think the fairytale of having a luxury hotel with a fine dining restaurant remains a fairytale. It doesn’t work in Copenhagen – maybe for one or two hotels, but not for the others who try to copy the model.

tell us about the Head Chef you’ve chosen for Villa Copenhagen?

It was very important to me to find somebody who would be with us for a while and who had worked in the restaurant business as opposed to the hotel business. I want to give that person the autonomy to run the restaurant as if it were their own. Tore Gustafsson, who is the chef we’ve chosen and thankfully has chosen us also, will have his culinary footprint on everything we do in the hotel. He joins us from a famous restaurant in the Meatpacking District called Paté Paté. The cuisine will be Southern European, with influences from North Africa. He’s like a Swedish Viking and we’re sure he’ll make it a success!

view of the brasserie at villa copenhagen

what was the thinking behind the villa copenhagen name?

The name ‘Villa’ came from Italy. It emphasises our intention to take the drama out of the big hotel – to make it a home and to make it feel residential, with the palette of an upper class villa. I wanted to do away with the word ‘hotel’ which brings many connotations with it.  

what are the values that underpin the hotel and its design?

We have three defined values:

1. Contrast: we are operating a new hotel in an old building. We’re not a museum – the building itself speaks to its history – our design needs to be timeless. And while we’re rooted in Copenhagen, we are opening up the ‘house’ to everyone, making it a destination for the citizens of Copenhagen as well as the visitors to the city. 

2. Conscious luxury: Villa Copenhagen will be a luxury hotel, but with a focus on the environment that leads the way we operate. This is really redefining the concept of luxury. 

3. Happiness and hygge: visitors may come to the city to see the Little Mermaid and Tivoli Gardens, but more than that they come to see the ‘Happy Danes’ they’ve seen on BBC and CNN – Dads on paternity leave, biking around and paying all their taxes! We think that tourists understand the lifestyle here, and that’s what guests need to experience within the hotel. 

Villa Copenhagen will be a home that embodies all these values without causing unnecessary harm to the planet. We care for the environment and we love Copenhagen – these are two of the most important qualities that everyone working on the project brings and that visitors will experience at Villa Copenhagen.