NEW VIDEO: Niklas Ekstedt, Ekstedt, Stockholm

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th January 2018

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Niklas Ekstedt is the chef and restaurateur of the Michelin starred, Ekstedt in Stockholm, Sweden.

In the midst of the new Nordic food movement, one chef chose to go back to basics making food from fire which resulted in a new dining experience dripped in nostalgia. The chef in question is Niklas Ekstedt, whose eponymous restaurant earned him a star in the Michelin Guide Nordic Countries in 2013, an achievement the chef still holds today.

Ekstedt Photography by Helen Pe
Ekstedt Photography by Helen Pe

Born and raised in a small village in Jämtland in the North of Sweden, Niklas started his culinary journey studying gastronomy at Racklöfska high school. Barely out of his teens, the chef went on to open his first restaurant simply titled, Niklas, aged just 21. A second eatery, Niklas i Viken, followed in 2003 along with the chefs’ very own cookery programme, Mat, which was aired on Swedish television.

With the likes of former two Michelin starred chef, Rene Redzepi pioneering the new Nordic Food Movement in the 2000s to critical and commercial success, Niklas felt he had to do something to stand out amongst the new throng of emerging chefs taking centre stage in fine dining.

“Instead of doing the new Nordic cooking I wanted to do old Nordic cooking techniques," says Niklas.

And that’s exactly what the acclaimed chef set out to achieve. Selling his aforementioned restaurants in 2011, Niklas opened Ekstedt that same year in the centre of Stockholm. Rather than conform to the new Nordic food scene which was sweeping the nation at the time, Ekstedt goes back to Niklas’ ancestry roots favouring wood fire ovens and stoves as opposed to gas and electricity. Instead of using a conventional oven, Niklas relies heavily on traditional methods of cooking, something many said would be too difficult for the chef to achieve. As well as the wood fire oven and stove, specialised chimneys have also been fitted for smoking and baking. In fact, the only piece of equipment housed in the restaurant powered by electric is the ice cream maker.

Niklas explains: “We completely dedicate our time and gastronomy towards the unique and original Nordic cooking techniques.”

Oyster cooked Flambadou
Oyster cooked Flambadou

A prime example of this new, yet old way of cooking would be Niklas’ oysters flambadou, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. To create the dish the chef uses a cast iron cone to collect beef fat, a longstanding technique that was used in old Scandinavian cooking. The oyster is placed underneath the cast iron cone collecting fat which drips onto the oyster cooking it in the process. A particular method Niklas affirms was used by his ancestors before pots and pans were invented.

His knowledge of historical cooking techniques stems from regular trips to the local library, which has since become Niklas’ main source of inspiration. Flicking through cook books of yester-year, Niklas uses his findings to replicate cooking methods used in Scandinavian countries centuries ago.

An approach not too dissimilar to former mentor, Heston Blumthal (Niklas had previously spent time working under the chef at The Fat Duck) whose restaurant, the two Michelin starred, Dinner by Heston uses historical text to revive period classics with a modernist touch.

Despite being set in the heart of the capital of Sweden on Humlegårdsgatan, Ekstedt is small in stature seating approximately 35 at any one time. There’s also a small knit team, between five and six in the kitchen with an additional five to seven front of house.

When it comes to his food simplicity is key with dishes rarely being taken off the menu or being replaced, unless dictated by the seasons. Rather than fret about changing the menus on a regular basis, the main focus for Niklas and the team is remaining true to their aesthetic, using traditional methods of cooking presented with a contemporary flourish.

Of his unique cooking style, Niklas said: “I usually compare my cooking to a sailing yacht competing against a motor yacht.”

Niklas Ekstedt Photography by Helen Pe
Niklas Ekstedt Photography by Helen Pe

Despite feeling like he’s competing against faster, more technically advanced chefs and restaurants it seems the chef has little to no intention of changing his approach to fine dining for the foreseeable future.

“Success for me is just to continue doing what I really love and that’s serving a unique dining experience and being able to cook without any pressure from investors or guests and just continuing cooking what we really love doing as a team," says Niklas.

And with a prestigious Michelin star already under his belt why would the Swedish chef have any reason to change? His traditional way of cooking may be something of the past but it also looks set to be the wave of the future.

By Michael Parker

@canteenparker

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th January 2018

NEW VIDEO: Niklas Ekstedt, Ekstedt, Stockholm

IN ASSOCIATION WITH