Unhealthy food has become everyday food for billions of people. Together with an inactive lifestyle and the perception that healthy food is complicated and inaccessible, this is a ticking health bomb on a global scale. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Natural and healthy food can be just as tasty and easy to make as anything else. And cooking it in nature can also give you the positive health effects that a close-to-nature lifestyle comes with. That’s why we’ve turned Sweden into the world’s largest gourmet restaurant.
A Star Among The Trees
Chef Titti Qvarnström is one of the four chefs in the culinary-focused campaign, bringing her appreciation and knowledge of the Skåne region to the table. A native of the southern Sweden community, her years of local foraging often lends itself to her creative direction in the kitchen. In her previous role at Malmö’s Bloom in the Park, Qvarnström became the first female chef in Sweden to lead her kitchen to a Michelin star.Q: What initially brought you into the kitchen?
A: I ended up in a kitchen by coincidence. I needed a job while I was studying chemistry and thought it would be something I could do during the summer between semesters. Soon, I fell in love with the restaurant – the creative, hands on, honest work. It was very rewarding. There was something very satisfying in producing something substantial and seeing it come to fruition immediately!
Q: You attended culinary school in Copenhagen, and worked in kitchens in Berlin as well, but returned to your native Malmö?
A: Yes, my father became ill and I decided to move back home. Making the decision, I was prepared to leave my career behind as I didn’t consider Malmö a worthy culinary scene (I was younger and more arrogant). The Malmö I had left behind a few years before was a city in financial depression, a real blue collar place where it was considered obscene and decadent to dine out – not a place for elaborate cuisine. [When I made the move] I had come to terms with the idea of cooking for a living, not as a passionate lifestyle.
Q: Bloom in the Park received a Michelin star in 2015, but you left in 2017 to pursue opening your own spot. Was it difficult to leave? Where are you in that process?
A: It was a very difficult decision as I consider Bloom to be my baby. I had put my heart and soul in to the restaurant for eight years. I called it home. At the same time, I was more than ready for a new challenge. My business partner and I had come to the end of our path together and were already heading in different directions, which was making us both miserable.
Today, I am the creative leader for Folk Mat & Möten (People, Food & Meetings). My vision is to put this location on the map as a destination for food and gastronomy. This weekend, we finally opened a restaurant together with my good friend, Daniel Lindgren, called “1 bord och kök” (“one table, one kitchen”): 1 theme per evening, 1 table, 1 chef, 1 sommelier, 12 guests. The drinks determine the menu. It is important to us that every evening is authentic, so we’ll be limiting dinners to only a few nights per month.Q: In addition to Folk Mat & Möten, you’re also coordinating culinary adventures with Pure Food Camp, a week-long opportunity similar to “The Edible Country” campaign.
A: I have often thought about how distant we are getting from the produce – where it comes from and where we come from. We live in a world where we are afraid to trust our senses – our highly fine-tuned pieces of machinery, so complex we do not yet fully understand how it works, having been perfected over the last thousands of years to help us judge what food is good for us and what is not. And yet we prefer to trust a “Use Before” number combination made up by god-knows-who before we turn to our own nose and tastebuds! Meat is the best example – who can relate to pre-packed meat products as part of a fellow being having once had thoughts and emotions? Something that, just as us, has suffered from heat and cold, hunger, thirst, and pain. I believe it important for us to stay connected and be aware that our actions have consequences for other creatures, the environment, and climate.
Q: A few years back, you competed in a televised culinary competition series. What was that like for you?
A: To compete on TV was a surreal experience because it is all fake: no guests, no restaurant, no atmosphere. Just a bunch of blown up egos with too much testosterone. But it was also one of the most interesting experiences I have had – you learn a lot about yourself in competitions like that. About your weaknesses and strengths. I made friends for life with some awesome chefs, just because we did it together.
Q: You’re also part of a cooking duo. How do you balance the kitchen dynamics?
A: Yes, my husband is also a chef. We met in a kitchen, and because we knew each other as colleagues before we became romantically involved, we had less pretension between us in the kitchen. I have the greatest respect for him as a craftsman, and he for me. However, it is as important in a home kitchen, as in a professional one, that a strict hierarchy is maintained. Say I want pasta for dinner tonight – that makes me project manager of “Operation Dinner at Casa Q” and my husband is my commis. If tomorrow, he wants pancakes, then he is project manager and I commis. As a commis, you don’t question – you just do what you are told. It works just as equally well in a professional kitchen as it does in a private one. Of course, being commis and keeping your opinion to yourself is the hard part anywhere!