WIN: A signed copy of Happy Food by Niklas Ekstedt

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th September 2018


Michelin-starred chef Niklas Ekstedt and journalist Henrik Ennart have created a cookbook unlike any other! Happy Food is perfect for time-poor chefs who need a boost in both body and mind – why? Simple, we are what we eat!

Niklas spoke to Cara Houchen, editor of The Staff Canteen, about why food is so important for your mental health, how chefs can implement easy changes in their kitchens and why he is so fascinated by this vast topic.

WIN: A signed copy of Happy Food by Niklas Ekstedt

Happy Food book jacket low res

We have two signed copies of Happy Food by Niklas Ekstedt and Henrik Ennart to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is comment on this article 'I'm in it to win it'.

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You have until 5 pm on Sunday, September 23 to enter. All winners will be notified directly after a live draw which will take place on Facebook on Monday, September 24.

* Full terms and conditions

Niklas is famed for his natural, rustic, open fire cooking techniques so it is no surprise he wanted to explore the natural connection between what we put into our bodies and what effect that has on us internally. He is also no stranger to publishing books, with several under his belt you would think he would be a seasoned pro, but he admits the nerves still kick in!

“It’s really scary!” He said. “But I love it and I already have an idea of where the second book on this topic is going. This topic is so big it’s almost incomprehensible. And this book is not about looking at the dishes and saying, ‘that’s really cool’, you need to be mentally prepared to learn something new.”

Niklas Ekstedt and Henrik

Henrik Ennar tand Niklas Ekstedt 

Niklas wanted to do something which had more depth to it than ‘just another cook book’, he wanted to do something ‘which did good’.

“I wanted it to open up people’s minds towards gastronomy – we’ve got two types of chefs those who are healthy and put kale and blueberries in all their recipes or the cool tattooed chefs with sharp knives,” he joked.

“It’s been very split, and I could tell among my chef friends and my staff that they put a lot of love into their ingredients, recipes and dishes but then when they ate, they ate too fast, they ate bad food and had a lot of bad drinks.

“I thought it would be nice as a restaurant chef to do something completely different. Other diet books are full of ingredients and recipes which don’t really turn chefs on.

“All chefs love fermented, funky food – that’s great, continue eating that! I wanted to focus on delicious, flavourful things – it’s what gastronomy was based on.”


Roast chicken with mojo rojo,

almonds and fried lettuce

Niklas wrote the book with friend and journalist Henrik who already had a column in a newspaper in Sweden. He previously wrote one of the columns on the link between ageing and food, Niklas provided him with recipes for this and it sparked his interest.

“I joked with Henrik that when people eat well they seem to have a better mindset and they seem to be happier. We realised we might be on to something.”

And so, after looking into vast amounts of research around food and it’s link to wellbeing, happiness and your gut – Happy Food was born.

The book is based on wide-ranging and independent fact collection. It is split into two parts the gut and the brain – and how everything is connected and presenting: superfoods.

The chapters within each part break the topic down into more manageable chunks and alongside this fascinating research you’ll find examples of ingredients and recipes which will set you on the right track to improving what you eat.   

In the book Niklas and Henrik wrote: “The conclusions reported were clear. According to solid research, the same sugar-rich industrial food that has caused global epidemics of obesity and diabetes, and exponentially increased gluten intolerance, stomach and bowel diseases, is contributing ever more to the current rise of mental illness.”

Niklas explained that the links to mental illness were very interesting to him as a chef who doesn’t want to leave the industry but understands the effect the lifestyle can have.

He said: “As you know we work really hard and long hours. We have a very stressful life and I’d been thinking a lot about aging and getting old in the industry, because we have a very young industry.

“Most of us who work in the restaurant business are under 40. I’m now turning 40 and I’m looking at the second chapter, I’m not young anymore in my industry.

niklas quote

“I don’t want to leave this industry, I want to continue working as a chef and with the restaurant for the rest of my life….I want to do it until I die. But not so I die!”

He has implemented changes within his own lifestyle, restaurant and team after spending two years researching and writing Happy Food and he said: “I’ve changed my way of eating and living dramatically. There are some really easy things you can do to become more healthy – obvious ones are drink less alcohol and eat less sugar.

“Staff food is a simple thing to start off with changing. If we are going to feed great food to our guests, then we need to feed our staff with great food. Another thing is to encourage your staff to do other things than drink. A lot of staff parties and weekend finishes are all about alcohol.”

He added: “One of the biggest problems in restaurants in Europe is the lack of competent staff. One of the things our industry really needs to be focusing on is keeping staff and making this industry more enticing to young people.

“A lot of parents don’t want their kids to choose our industry because of many different reasons but one is the long hours and the hard work and they are afraid their kids won’t be happy. We need to make work more enjoyable for kitchen staff and that’s a big task.”

Kimchi salad
Kimchi salad

Niklas does not claim to be an expert which is why the book is full of opinions of leaders in their field – although many have conflicting opinions! He says the book is for people who are curious - for people who are interested in how food and our body is linked together.

“Scientists and doctors all have different opinions on this subject and it’s massively complicated.

“Food is linked to all diseases, to all our wellbeing, to our entire body,” he explained. “We are what we eat, we’ve always known that and it’s nothing new.

“I wanted to highlight to people it’s not only about obesity or losing weight – it’s about focus, wellbeing and mental health. Eating well can really make you more focused and maybe even prevent depression.”

Niklas says that he main message is ‘eat more food!’.

He said: “Eat more funky fermented food, delicious shellfish and seafood, meats, vegetables – proper food. If you do that and skip all the other things, it’s fascinating how quickly you become more stable both mentally and physically.

“The trouble today with gastronomy is it becomes repetitive. People end up doing the same thing and something which is not good for your gut and your mental wellbeing is a slim or boring diet.

"You can still have a day eating chocolate and cake, the danger is when you eat it everyday.  You need to have a variety – humans eat everything!”




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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th September 2018

WIN: A signed copy of Happy Food by Niklas Ekstedt