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Stockholm chef sees food as personal, ingredient driven

STOCKHOLM: Everything about the Stockholm restaurant Frantzen, which serves just 120 diners per week from menus created daily, is personal. Head chef and owner Bjorn Frantzen wouldn’t have it any other way.

In his cookbook, “World-Class Swedish Cooking: Artisanal Recipes from One of Stockholm’s Most Celebrated Restaurants,” which he wrote with his former pastry chef and co-owner Daniel Lindeberg, Frantzen weaves together their recipes, culinary theory and personal history.

“Keeping it small and intimate gives me great opportunity to create unique opportunities for my guests,” Frantzen said, adding that it’s all about the ingredients.

Opened as Frantzen/Lindeberg in 2008, the bistro-sized restaurant has garnered two Michelin stars and is ranked No. 12 on the World’s Best Restaurant list of 2013, which is organized by Britain’s Restaurant magazine and sponsored by mineral water company S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.

Frantzen, 37, spoke in a phone interview from Stockholm about his Asian-influenced Nordic cuisine, his gardens and his first career choice: football.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: Sooner or later, after a couple of years, you believe you have something to say.

Q: Who is it aimed at?

A: Industry people, foodies, someone who might give it as a present. The book is more like a philosophy of cooking, so obviously you need to have some sort of food interest.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a chef?

A: Since I was 11. I used to be a professional football player, but had to quit at 19 because of injury. When I was 11, I decided that if I can’t do football, I will do cooking. Cooking was my second choice. It was fairly easy once the football career failed to know what to do.

Q: Where did you train?

A: I did two years in the culinary institute, but at that time, I was still playing football so school wasn’t my biggest passion in life. Culinary school in Sweden was pretty bad, if you want to be honest. I went abroad and did five years in London ... and then I went to Paris and worked in a three-star Michelin [restaurant]. I learned by working, basically.

Q: What would you like to say about Swedish cuisine?

A: It’s a very giant gastronomy, and there’s a lot happening. We don’t have the same strong tradition as Italian or French cuisine, so it’s a very exciting time in Sweden at the moment. ... People are really improving and becoming proud of their own gastronomy.

Q: How would you describe the cuisine at Frantzen?

A: I would call it Nordic kaiseki [traditional multicourse Japanese meal]. Very ingredient-driven.

Q: Your restaurant is known for its white menus. Exactly what is a white menu?

A: You don’t really have a menu when you arrive in the restaurant. It’s more day-to-day that we decide what we do, driven by what we have. We have two gardens so that’s a big part of what we do.

Q: Do you have any tips for the home cook?

A: [There are] two things that will improve your cooking big time, and they’re not salt and pepper. They’re salt and acidity. And that could be anything from the most basic thing, which is fresh-squeezed lemon, but it could be wine and vinegar. And get a cooking thermometer so you can see the temperature because you can overcook big time at home.

Q: Any future plans?

A: I always have plans. At the moment, we’re building our own test kitchen. I’m very excited about that. That’s what I’m into right now.

 

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