The chefs leading the revolution in modern Swedish cuisine
The modern Swedish kitchen continues to evolve thanks to a strong community of chefs, all working in individual ways but with many common traits – not least sustainability and creative flair.
Here are the chefs at the forefront of the Swedish gastronomy scene.
Alexander Sjögren, Mutantur, Malmö
Born and bred in Småland, Alexander Sjögren represented Sweden in the Bocuse d’Or international gastronomy competition in 2016 and went on to bag the European bronze medal, before coming 7th at the world final in 2017. Following this career-changing experience, he cut his teeth at renowned Skåne restaurants Mötesplats Österlen and Vendel Ales stenar. Since then, he’s been running his own Malmö restaurant – Mutantur. The epitome of the modern Swedish kitchen, it focuses on seasonal ingredients, incorporated in dishes that blend Nordic and Asian influences – think ox tartare with shimeji mushrooms.
Thomas Sjögren, Grano, Gothenburg
In tune with modern Swedish cuisine, Thomas Sjögren likes to mix things up. His in-demand Gothenburg restaurant Grano, which opened in 2018, is a high-end but casual affair offering sophisticated sharing dishes, like pizza. Sjögren has made it his mission to upgrade the status of this culinary mainstay with a crisp, thin sourdough base topped with quality ingredients sourced locally and in season, often infused with unexpected spices from across the globe. The sharing dishes adhere to the same formula – you can expect anything from roast cauliflower with truffle and almond to yuzu-flavoured fish tartare with shiitake mushroom. After winning the key Swedish gastronomy competition “Årets Kock” (Chef of the year) in 2015, and being crowned 2018’s winner of blockbuster TV show “Kockarnas Kamp” (Battle of the chefs), Sjögren is a much buzzed-about name, and for good reason.
Florencia Abella, Ekstedt, Stockholm
Argentina-born chef Florencia Abella served as restaurant Esperanto’s creativity leader before stepping in as head chef at Michelin-starred Stockholm restaurant Ekstedt in 2019. She’d been lending her creativity behind the scenes in their test kitchen since the summer of 2018. Ekstedt’s forward-thinking approach, centred on Nordic cuisine cooked exclusively over an open fire, entirely abandoning electricity and gas – matches that of its head chef. Abella’s take on the modern Swedish kitchen is unique, and the dishes she’s come up with include inventive variants such as filo dough-wrapped Jerusalem artichoke sprinkled with black truffle, topped with a dollop of charcoal cream.
Paul Svensson & Elvira Lindqvist, Fotografiska (Museum of Photography), Stockholm
Zero-waste is the watchword in the modern Swedish kitchen of Paul Svensson and Elvira Lindqvist, the eminent chefs behind Fotografiska’s restaurant. Svensson previously worked for celebrity chef Marco Pierre White in London and Mathias Dahlgren at Stockholm’s Bon Lloc, while Lindqvist served as head patisserie chef at the prestigious Operakällaren. Everything on offer at Fotografiska is developed around the raw ingredients available at any given time. Svensson and Lindqvist’s waste-free ‘semla’ – a traditional Swedish cream-filled bun eaten in February and March – created quite a stir. The almond paste of this fika classic was made from leftover almond pulp, while unused cardamom buns were transformed into fresh semla rolls. The same principles apply when you sit down to sample dishes from the ever-changing menu, described as “traditional with an edge”.
Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr, Gastrologik, Stockholm
Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr are the culinary brains behind Stockholm restaurant Gastrologik – an uncompromisingly sustainable venture that has garnered countless awards and a global reputation. Since the start in 2011, they have not deviated from their small-scale local produce philosophy. The pair worked together for the first time in Gothenburg in 2001, before stints in Oslo, Dubai, Seoul and Parisian restaurants L’Astrance and Pierre Gagnaire. At Gastrologik, they work closely with local producers to harvest whatever is available. Given the spontaneous nature of this kitchen, there’s not even a menu. In a country where wintertime is a vegetable-free zone, Holmström and Bjuhr make sure they pickle and ferment enough home-grown produce to last throughout the colder months.
Linnéa Liljedahl & Peter Eriksson, Linnéa & Peter, Örnsköldsvik
Linnéa Liljedahl studied gastronomy at the University of Umeå and went on to work at a string of top restaurants, including Stockholm’s Aquavit, Landet, Djuret and Paul & Norbert – where she met Peter Eriksson, her partner in life and business. In 2014, Liljedahl – a “Kockarnas kamp” finalist in the 2014 edition of the major TV show – joined forces with Eriksson to set up the restaurant Linnéa & Peter. The Swedish cuisine you can expect here is traditional with a European twist – think entrecote with cabbage and caramelised onion, followed by blueberries with salted caramel and a dollop of yoghurt. Ingredients are sourced locally both in the wild and via nearby food makers and farmers.
Johan Backéus & Birgit Malmcrona, Naturaj, Sundsvall
Johan Backéus and Birgit Malmcrona are the chefs behind renowned Sundsvall restaurant Naturaj, established in 2019. Spanish-born Malmcrona honed her skills at top Stockholm restaurants such as Gondolen, Shibumi and Ichi. At Gondolen, she learnt the art of cooking traditional Swedish food (‘husmanskost’), while her culinary sensibility was given an Asian slant at Shibumi and Ichi. Backéus, meanwhile, was named “Årets Kock 2017” (Chef of the year) and has a CV studded with renowned restaurants such as Lux in Stockholm. Many of the vegetables used in Naturaj’s modern Swedish kitchen are grown in the married couple’s garden, and the duck eggs originate here, too. To boost supplies, the pair and their staff are often found out in nature with baskets in hand, picking mushrooms, berries and herbs. Keen to offer a personal, intimate experience, Naturaj’s Swedish cuisine is expertly cooked in an open-style kitchen, allowing guests to witness the chefs at work.
Malin Söderström, Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Chef and food innovator Malin Söderström is one of Swedish gastronomy’s brightest stars. Having worked at top restaurants such as Paul & Norbert, she was the first woman to join the Swedish National Culinary Team. In 2011, she led the chef line-up behind the Nobel Banquet. Söderström – who was named “Årets Krögare” (Restaurateur of the year) in 2014 and has several cookbooks under her belt – serves as Moderna Museet’s head chef, and also runs another three eateries, including The Fishery and M/S Gustafsberg VII. Her creative take on Swedish cuisine is celebrated for its all-encompassing appeal, with focus on the best ingredients Sweden has to offer. Dishes that sum up her style of cooking include fried fish taco with wild garlic, tomato salsa and shallots.
In 2018, she was celebrated in the culinary bible, White Guide, for her long-standing contribution to Swedish gastronomy.
Restaurant Mutantur in Malmö
Mutantur in Malmö focuses on seasonal ingredients with a Nordic style and Asian influences. Here is a dish with lightly pickled silver onion with black truffle and a vinaigrette.
Photo: Oscar Wettersten/Restarant Mutantur
Restaurant Mutantur in Malmö
Photo: Oscar Wettersten/Restarant Mutantur
Restaurant Grano in Fjällbacka
Photo: Thomas Sjögren
Restaurant Ekstedt in Stockholm
Photo: David Loftus/Ekstedt
Fotografiska restaurant in Stockholm
Restaurant Gastologik in Stockholm
Restaurant Linnéa & Peter
Photo: Bianca Brandon Cox
Photo: Rania Rönntoft