Did you always want to be a chef? What draws you to food?
I grew up in Sweden in a hard-working family with four siblings. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen together. As soon as I was tall enough to reach into the sink on a kitchen stool, I was taught how to peel carrots and potatoes. We’d help set the table and clear after dinner. The ritual became important to us as a family, and I began to love its social importance. We had fruit trees in the garden and a little field with berries, carrots and cabbages. I’ve always had quite curious mind and loved how versatile cooking was, there was just no end to the adventure
You have worked in some big name restaurants, what is the greatest lesson you have learnt over your career thus far?
The biggest lesson I learnt from Heston Blumenthal was there are no rules. A bit like the opening scene in The Matrix when Neo is taught that ‘there is no spoon’. The only physical end to the adventure is the end of your imagination. A pretty great lesson to learn as an eager young chef.
Thomas Keller showed me a new level of organisation, discipline and hard work. His ethics where impeccable. He’d be the first chef in the kitchen with the morning crew and leave just as the evening service settled down. Keller would wear his chefs clogs and blue apron with pride. The head chef and sous chefs would only put their white aprons on during service. In the kitchen, we were all equals, followed the same set of rules and enjoyed the same level of respect. Joining the crew was a bit like doing a Culinary Boot Camp. You had to unlearn what you had learnt. And fall in line with the rest of the crew. A fascinating experience.
Mark Best showed me the power of simplicity. That true greatness can come from the most mundane products. He’s very visual-oriented and taught me not to let too many flavours distract from the natural ones. When I put suggestions to him, he would always ask me whether a component of a dish was adding or subtracting from the dish. It takes a lot of confidence and experience to shine with simplicity. We’d work hard on something that at first glance would be hard to grasp, but as soon as you ate it, you’d get the full power of the efforts put in. I liked that a lot; the power of simplicity reigns supreme.
What are the five things you can’t live without in your kitchen?
- Music!! – I live and breathe through music and usually have something floating in the background at all stages. Whether in the record player at home, the kitchen stereo or in the dining room.
- My Misono knives – Japanese crafted knives using the finest Swedish steel. Brilliant to work with, sharp, sturdy and reliable. Bought my first ones from Korin, a legendary knife shop in NYC. They make their own knives in the shop. A must visit if you ever make it to the Big Apple.
- Discipline – I demand and supply both professional and personal respect within the crew. Both back of house and front of house. I treat all my colleagues the same way I want to be treated. At the same time, when service comes around, I’m in charge. When we’re in service, there’s no time for emotions or conflicts. It’s game time and we all step up to make the machinery run as smooth as possible. I’m firm but fair and I find the formula works well.
- Passion – I’m a very passionate person and I bring that to work every day. If you’re working in my team, you better bring yours too, or a key element of your motivation will be lacking. We all cook because we love what we do. Some of us even get completely obsessed with it. Like Charles Bukowski phrased it – ‘find what you love and let it kill you’. A life without passion is no life at all.
- Humor – At the end of the day, we cook to feed people; to fuel their fires and keep them alive. If we aren’t having fun doing it, the result will lack in taste. We have great atmosphere in the kitchen at Bouche and I think humour is a very important ingredient in everything we cook.
What can guests expect with you the helm of Bouche on Bridge?
Seasonal and delicious food and wine with comfort and confidence. We use local produce to the furthest extent possible. Most of our vegetables actually come from the Hawkesbury River region, just outside of Sydney. The rest is preferably within NSW and never outside of Australia. We cook a fine dining fair but without ego and tablecloths and with a European accent. You can pop in for a little bite down in the bar, a quick lunch or relaxed dinner. Or you can book in for a tasting menu at the chef’s table. We seat up to 9 people very comfortably on our kitchen counter, and you’ll be smack back in the middle of the action.
For more information, see Bouche on Bridge website here