The Specials is an ongoing series of interviews with the unsung heroes of hospitality — from managers, waiters and sommeliers to dishwashers, farmers and foragers.
Virginia Anne Newton is director of media relations and special events at Geranium. Located in Copenhagen and co-owned by chef Rasmus Kofoed, it has three Michelin stars and was named the world’s best restaurant in 2022.
Dining at Geranium changed my life
A decade ago I was working for an aeronautical engineering firm in Munich. I got into fine dining and started travelling around Europe, eating at top restaurants. A friend recommended Geranium, so we booked for lunch. At the time, they offered a short and a long menu. As we were eating at so many places during our stay, we opted for the short menu. About two or three courses in, Rasmus came to our table and said, “Are you in a hurry?” We were like, “No, why?” He said, “Well, I’d like to bring you some more dishes.” He ended up bringing us the entire menu and only charged us for the small one. I thought, this guy's different. It's not about the money for him. He truly wanted us to have the full experience.
I loved it so much that I asked Rasmus for a job
I fell in love with his style of cooking and started coming back three or four times a year. In January 2015, I turned 49. I’d been in the same job for 10 years and wanted to do something I felt passionate about. A friend of mine said, “You have to write a letter to Rasmus. Your face lights up when you talk about that place.” So I wrote to him and said, “I want to move to Copenhagen. I want to work for you.” By August I was here.
I wear many hats now
I handle all media requests for Rasmus and co-owner Søren Ledet, and if we have a special event or a chef comes to cook with Rasmus, I have a big role in organising it. Likewise, if Rasmus goes to cook with another chef or to present at a conference, I usually travel with him and help organise it. My role has expanded over time, too. CVs for kitchen jobs come to me and I answer every single email that comes in because I think it's important to do so.
You’ll often find me on the door greeting guests
I did that a lot when I started because it was a great way to learn about the restaurant. I recently started on the door again on Fridays. I love meeting people and it’s fun to make connections with guests. I’d only been here a few months when a couple came in and I noticed that the area code on their phone was the same as where my family lived in Florida. We got talking and, long story short, they ended up taking me to dinner at their favourite restaurant in Jacksonville when I went back to visit my family.
How you say goodbye is as important as how you greet them
Petit fours are an overlooked part of the guest experience. It’s so important to me as a diner as it’s my last bite. If you serve too many or make them without any imagination or forethought, just because you feel you have to, that’s my last impression of you.
I used to work in Hollywood
I worked behind the scenes in Nashville and California, doing things like logistics, cash flow and budgets. I also worked for the TV Guide Channel and interviewed celebrities such as Slash, Ja Rule and Michael Caine on the red carpet and backstage. That was one of my selling points to Rasmus — I’ve been press and know what it's like to be on the other side.
John Travolta once gave me a seafood recipe
I was on the red carpet for the premiere of a film he starred in called Swordfish. Everyone was trying to grab him for an interview, but I knew he’d been asked the same questions a million times — “Tell me about the movie. Is it exciting? Why should people see it?” — so when he and his wife Kelly passed me, I thrust out my mic and said, “What's your favourite swordfish recipe?” I’d done my research and knew he was a foodie. They both stopped and laughed, and John came over and said: “Grilled on a wood plank with a little lemon butter.”
Chefs are also asked the same questions over and over
When you ask them something they haven't been asked before, they just light up and engage with you. To encourage that, I’ve included answers to the most commonly asked questions in Geranium’s media kit — like, how Rasmus came up with the name Geranium or why he took meat off the menu.
Restaurants can post too much on social media
If I’m seeing two or three posts from you a day, it's too much for me. I check out. I become less interested. I don't want to see that much of you or your food. We try to post twice a week, maximum. Another pet peeve is not telling me what the dish is.
As told to Superb. The interview has been edited for clarity and concision.