A Culinary Culture Clash In Stockholm

13th July 2017

Video: Yousef Eldin & Adam Park
Words: Killian Fox
Photographs: Dan Dennison

The Gannet X Visit Sweden

At 9.30pm on a warm Thursday evening, in the outdoor seating area at Babette in central Stockholm, no fewer than 13 top chefs – five of them local, eight just off the plane from London – are debating what to cook for dinner tomorrow night. “Do we have any fresh trout roe?” asks Alex Jackson, chef-owner at Sardine in London. “We could serve it with cream and radishes – yeah, that would be good.”

This gets a nod from Marksman head chef Tom Harris. “As soon as they sit down,” he says, picking up the baton, “a platter of radishes, a platter of asparagus, then the mackerel.”

“Should the mackerel be grilled or tartare?” wonders Billy White, a Yorkshire-born chef living and working in Stockholm.

“Tartare is more practical,” reckons Harris’s business partner Jon Rotheram. “Though we could give it a little cure in Douglas fir oil, then grill it and serve it at room temperature.”

“What about pasta?” interjects Jacob Ker Lamb, head chef at Stockholm’s Café Nizza. “I think we should do ravioli with goat’s curd.”

The wine is flowing. Pizzas have been landing on the table and vanishing in seconds flat. As more and more suggestions fly around, Babette’s owner Olle T Cellton sits back with a slight grin on his face, watching the menu expand. “Isn’t that too many now?” wonders Londoner Florence Knight at one point, tapping the notepad critically with her pen. “How about we take a couple of dishes off?”

It’s a bit of a gamble, this meal. The idea behind Cooks Connect, a new event devised by Cellton and White and staged for the first time here in Stockholm, is to celebrate “good, unpretentious food” away from the Michelin star circus. But even those of us without kitchen experience know what can happen when a broth is surrounded by too many cooks. Cellton and White are well aware of the risks, but that hasn’t stopped them from gathering 11 fellow chefs to create a dinner for 120 people tomorrow night at Rosendals Trädgård.

The night wears on and the notepad is set aside in the hope that, with a fresh start tomorrow morning, the menu will become clear for all to see. Miraculously, this is exactly what happens. When the chefs troop to Rosendals at 10am, blinking in the dazzling May sunlight, the dishes rapidly begin taking shape: the mackerel will indeed be cured and grilled, then served cold with wild fennel and spruce shoots. Jacob’s pasta plan will go ahead, though Florence seems mildly apprehensive at the prospect of hand-filling 500 ravioli with goat’s curd. The rest of the menu – 11 dishes in total – comes together in the light of day, fuelled by several jugs of strong coffee.

Florence Knight midway through making 500 goat’s curd ravioli with Jacob Ker Lamb

Jon Rotheram, Tomos Parry and Alex Jackson cooking 14-year-old dairy cow beef

The 16-ton wood-fired oven

It helps that tonight’s venue – an airy greenhouse café in the middle of a stunningly beautiful nursery garden on Djurgården, the old hunting island of Swedish kings – couldn’t be more inspiring. The chefs begin with a guided tour. They inspect Rosendals’ bakery and the magnificent 16-ton wood-fired oven at its heart. They check out the very advanced composter out back. Then they strike out into the bountiful gardens and greenhouses, where they are invited to pick and choose whatever they want for dinner.

They return bearing herbs and edible flowers and bunches of wild garlic. Meanwhile, the supplies ordered yesterday evening during a trolley dash around Grönsakshallen Sorunda and Fällmans Kött – a wholesale greengrocers and meat supplier in nearby Västberga – have started to arrive. Here come Alex’s radishes, and the pickled spruce, and the strawberries and rhubarb for the dessert that Sarah Johnson, senior pastry chef at Spring in London, is masterminding. Here are the giant hunks of 14-year-old dairy cow that have been promised to the three London chefs – Alex, Jon and Tomos Parry – who will be manning the barbecue outside. And here’s a load of mackerel that one of the suppliers, also called Jon, went out and caught at first light while the rest of us were sleeping off our headaches from Babette.

Now, with the sun high in the sky and the clock ticking towards the guests’ arrival at 7pm, everyone snaps into action. Tom Harris and Paul Weaver, who runs the kitchen at London’s Noble Rot, are in charge of the fish dishes. Marianna Leivatidaki of Morito in east London, and her Stockholm counterpart Linn Söderström, a talented freelance chef, have decided to make a beetroot snack, followed by flatbreads with trout roe, crème fraiche and brown butter (one of the night’s star dishes). The three boys get the fire going so they can grill their meat, while Sarah recruits Olle to help her with the dessert and the tea and biscuits (or rather, sweet cicely tisane and pain d’amandes) that will bring tonight’s meal to a close. Billy White, in the role of conductor – for he is the head chef at Rosendals Trädgård and these are his kitchens – surveys the action, making sure that everyone has what they need to maintain the rhythm.

Tables set for dinner in the greenhouse

By the time the guests arrive at 7, the dinner is well in hand and the kitchens hum with a nervy sort of confidence – they know they’ve done a good job but they’re not quite sure what the 120 diners congregating on the other side of the greenhouse will make of it all. Will the simple, stripped-back approach favoured by the London chefs appeal to Swedish palates?

As it turns out, the diners are very enthusiastic indeed. We loiter outside the greenhouse watching the drama unfold within. Every so often, a guest comes out and remarks on the course just gone. The beetroot! The flatbreads! That beef! Not to mention the oysters with fermented beet ice, or the grilled asparagus with Bredsjö hård cheese, or the grilled zander with fennel. By the time dessert is served – and savoured – no one in the greenhouse can claim they haven’t been fed like a Swedish king after a long day’s hunting[footnote]If there is one criticism, indeed, it’s that there was too much food – Florence’s suggestion to remove a dish or two was probably on the money [/footnote].

This dinner at Rosendals Trädgård proves a lot of things. It proves that Swedes and Brits can work well together in hot kitchens. It proves that good menus can be conjured out of thin air at the eleventh hour with the help of pizzas and gallons of wine. And finally it proves that the proverbial broth does not in all cases get spoiled by the presence of too many cooks. Roll on the next meeting of Cooks Connect.

Linn Söderström

Freelance chef, Stockholm. Follow: Instagram

Marianna and I are making roasted beetroot with dukkah and goat’s curd, then flatbread with fresh trout roe. We’re going to cook the flatbread on the grill and serve it with burnt butter, lemon zest and herbs & flowers from the gardens here.
“It’s an interesting idea putting 13 chefs together in one room. Yes it could be a recipe for disaster, but that’s what makes this really interesting. And everybody here is really talented and working hard, so I know it’ll be a success.”


Tom Harris

Head chef & co-owner of the Marksman pub, London. Follow: Instagram

“Was this all planned in advance? No, it came together an hour and a half ago! Paul and I are doing the fish courses. We’ve got some beautiful oysters which we’ll serve with fermented beetroot water ice. Then cured mackerel with wild fennel, spruce shoots and spruce oil. (We’ve been using the fresh spruce shoots in London but I’d never thought of pickling them.) The zander we’re just going to roast whole in the bakery ovens. It’s going to be delicious!”


Jacob Ker Lamb

Head chef at Café Nizza, Stockholm. Follow: Instagram

“None of us really cooks fine-dining food, so the idea here is to make something down-to-earth that’s easy to share with lots of people. Me and Florence are making ravioli with fresh goats’ cheese in a tomato consommé. We’re doing 500 ravioli. No sweat! Well, actually, it’s really really hot, so a lot of sweat. One thing I like about the London chefs is their very simple approach to using produce. Sometimes in Sweden we cover up the flavours and the character of the ingredients too much. Us Swedes, we like a lot of salt and vinegar, because that’s what we’re brought up on – pickled herring and cured meats and stuff. So this is going to be interesting.”


Alex Jackson

Chef-owner of Sardine, London. Follow: Instagram

“It was quite funny having 13 head chefs in a room going: ‘I’ve got an idea!’ We drew up a rough menu last night eating pizza and drinking wine. Then we started trying stuff out this morning – ‘What do you think of that?’ – and it evolved from there. I’m doing the main course with Jon and Tomos. We’re roasting retired Swedish dairy cow and serving it with brown butter, anchovies and thyme from the garden. Then some rape greens and turnip tops, and potatoes with butter sauce and seaweed. We’re grilling the beef really slowly over birch wood – it’s going to be great.”


Tomos Parry

Ex-head chef at Kitty Fisher’s, London; currently working on a new project. Follow: Instagram

“For the course I’m cooking with Jon and Alex, we wanted to use mainly Swedish ingredients and try something new. So we’ve sourced a retired dairy cow and we’re roasting it over birch wood. Fourteen years old, hung for three months… We don’t often get meat like that in the UK so it’s quite a treat to be able to cook this incredibly old animal which has an amazing depth of flavour. It’s been really nice to bounce ideas off other chefs, because normally I’m just working through them on my own.”


Sarah Johnson

Senior pastry chef at Spring, London. Follow: Instagram

“It’s been really incredible seeing the ingredients before you and letting that dictate the dishes. Olle and I are making the dessert course today and it will come in two parts. The first is a honey and Sauternes cake with roasted rhubarb, strawberries and blossom cream. Then we’ll serve sweet cicely tea with pain d’amandes biscuits to end the meal. We decided on the menu throughout yesterday and into the night – I had the idea to serve tea in the taxi last night when I heard there was fresh sweet cicely in the Rosendal gardens.”

The Participants

Olle T Cellton, Babette, Stockholm

Billy White, Rosendals Trädgård, Stockholm

Florence Knight, London

Marianna Leivaditaki, Morito, London

Jon Rotheram & Tom Harris, The Marksman, London

Jacob Ker Lamb, Café Nizza, Stockholm

Isabella Morrone, Stockholm

Alex Jackson, Sardine, London

Sarah Johnson, Spring, London

Paul Weaver, Noble Rot, London

Linn Söderström, Stockholm

Tomos Parry, London

The Itinerary

Grönsakshallen Sorunda (wholesale greengrocer)
Elektravägen 15, 126 30 Hägersten, Sweden;

Fällmans Kött (meat wholesaler)
Elektravägen 15, 126 30 Hägersten, Sweden;

Babette (restaurant)
113 55, Roslagsgatan 6, 113 55 Stockholm;

Rosendals Trädgård (café/restaurant)
Rosendalsvägen 38, 115 21 Stockholm;

Bageri Petrus (bakery)
Swedenborgsgatan 4B, 118 48 Stockholm; Facebook

Tyge & Sessil (wine bar)
Brahegatan 4, 114 37 Stockholm;

The Winery (hotel)
Rosenborgsgatan 20, 169 74 Solna, Sweden;

Follow Cooks Connect: Instagram

Thanks to Visit Sweden for supporting this post. For everything you need to know about visiting Sweden, go to

Posted 13th July 2017

In Video


Video: Yousef Eldin & Adam Park
Words: Killian Fox
Photographs: Dan Dennison

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