I feel like I have been cooking all my life. Growing up, my sisters Anna and Linda and I spent summers in Smögen, on the west coast of Sweden. Every morning I went fishing with my dad, Lennart, and my uncles. We caught crayfish, lobsters, and mackerel, and often smoked and preserved the catch. My grandmother, Helga, would gather us in the kitchen to teach us how to pickle fresh vegetables, and make meatballs, ginger snaps, cookies, and apple jam. These experiences taught me to love and appreciate fresh and local food.
My other window into food came from my relatives and my father, Tsigie, in Ethiopia. Spices are the key element driving taste in Ethiopian cooking. In Ethiopia, food is often viewed through a strong spiritual lens, more so than anywhere else I know. I appreciate my Ethiopian roots because I see how hard people have to work there to survive, and I understand just how fortunate I am to live in this country. I am inspired by the way the people of Ethiopia lead their lives, and how everyone tries to help one another in the community. Their drive inspires me to work as hard as I can to take the knowledge I have about food and to share it with those who want to learn how to prepare fresh, affordable meals.
New York City feels so much like home I almost feel like I grew up here. I love all the diversity that this city has to offer. I love meeting new people and learning about different cultures, because this helps me expand my knowledge of different foods, spices, and techniques. Different sounds and colors influence the way I design a dish. The creative process is always fun for me, whether in food, art, music, writing, or fashion. I'm heavily influenced by music and art, and whenever possible, I take those experiences and place them in my creations.
My mission with each project– whether it be a new restaurant, book, or TV show– is to celebrate the food, the culture, and hopefully inspire others to be adventerous, learn something new, and get cooking!