At his Michelin-starred restaurant, Ekstedt, located in downtown Stockholm, chef Niklas Ekstedt brings the natural world inside. Considered one of Sweden’s most famous chefs, he turns raw ingredients into fine cuisine only through the use of fire, ash, soot and smoke – no gas or electricity allowed .
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“Because I feel strongly connected to the lakes, the forest and the nature that surround me. I find inspiration for my dishes when I pick mushrooms and berries outdoors and research herbs and aromatic plants. In Sweden we are fortunate to have wild nature to Respect, caring for and connecting with this nature will make us stronger and better. ” – Niklas Ekstedt, conductor
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For Ekstedt, this method takes Swedish cuisine back to its roots. “Fire to me is like the story of humans. It’s how we cook most of the time,” he said. Ekstedt recalled his childhood memories of being in the woods with his parents – in the small town of Järpen in northern Sweden – and brought them to a modern restaurant setting to evoke a sense of nostalgia, a feeling that he believes shared and appreciated. by his guests.
Once part of a Scandinavian cooking revolution in the 1990s focused on contemporary molecular cooking techniques, Ekstedt rose to national and international stardom, hosting a Swedish cooking show called Niklas Mat, author of several books (his latest being Happy Food, a deep dive into plant-based diets) and as a judge on Netflix’s Crazy Delicious alongside American chef Carla Hall and British Heston Blumenthal.
However, despite all his success and feeling a little unsure of what he wanted in a new restaurant business, Ekstedt decided in 2011 to take a break and live in a wooden cabin in the forest with his family, without electricity or gas. , and learn the ancestral techniques of cooking over an open fire. According to his restaurant’s website, Ekstedt said: “I walked the land around our summer cottage in Ingarö in the Stockholm archipelago, dreaming like a melancholy character in a black and white film by Ingmar Bergman. “
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After deep introspection, he was inspired by birch trees and the qualities their hot wood lent to ready meals, which sent him on a new mission: to bring wood-fired cooking techniques to the city. Once back in Stockholm, he researched old Swedish recipes, but found that they left out a handy ingredient: instructions on how to cook food.
“What was interesting was that the techniques weren’t written down,” he said. “The recipes were written down but the techniques they took for granted, because they just assumed that people knew how to start a fire, how to smoke, how to use the charcoal and the stove.”
Through trial and error, he finally learned to apply the techniques to his rustic yet refined menu, his own take on New Nordic cuisine. Now armed with a fire pit, wood-fired oven and wood-burning stove, he has mastered the ability to create dishes like smoked cod with juniper branches as well as tasting menus with items like oysters, scallops and reindeer.
While vegetables are certainly part of his culinary canon, Ekstedt believes that eating meat and fish can be sustainable if done consciously, and he was inspired by the Sami, an indigenous group of Scandinavian people who “make a living from reindeer, meat and dirt. “He continued,” And praising their meat will have wider cultural significance in Sweden. “
The pandemic taught us in the food world that nature can really come back quickly
Eating locally sourced food from sustainable sources has become Ekstedt’s philosophy, whether it’s cooking meat on an open hearth or searching the woods for blueberries or mushrooms. While concerned about the stress humans have placed on the planet’s soil and waters, he offers a sense of hope, convinced that the lessons learned from Covid can show us how to take better care of the Earth. “The pandemic has taught us in the food world that nature can really come back quickly,” he said.
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