When people ask me about my background, I always describe myself as a Swede-iopian, part Swedish and part Ethiopian. Having such a diverse background has influenced my life in so many ways, especially my cooking. I find myself drawn to the Swedish food traditions from my childhood and intrigued by the flavors of my birth country. Both are constantly combined in my cooking to make my own unique cuisine. Here are some recipes that are either Swedish, Ethiopian or Swede-iopian.
Ginny's Supper Club is proud to host the Cardigan's Nina Persson for a very special private event on Wednesday night. Nina will be performing songs from her forthcoming solo debut album, set to release in January, for a crowd made up of VIP media and guests. Stay tuned for images and video from the night.
Sitting down with Chef James Carpenter is a delightful mid-morning interlude before what is sure to be a sweltering afternoon ahead. He treats me to a glimpse (metaphorically, unfortunately) of his enviable gig at the boutique hotel c/o Maidstone in East Hampton where he plays executive chef at The Living Room, a restaurant flush with Scandanavian flair in architecture, decor and food.
Always harboring a love affair for the water with many years spent in the Navy, Chef James was certain that cooking would be his profession from a young age. Both of his parents worked full-time and he landed his first job as a dishwasher in a five-star restaurant, providing an impressionable insight into gourmet food. Today, his culinary approach as executive chef is highly concentrated on the slow food movement and using fresh ingredients he gets to pluck from The Maidstone's backyard. His menu (which even includes a dog-friendly "Yappy Hour") touts Long Island's most bountiful natural resources: plump Peconic Bay oysters, artisan cheeses from the Art Ludlow family farm, delicately cured gravlax, heritage chickens and Natura filtered water. Perhaps sensing my mind wandering to a glossy vision of playing hide and seek among apple crates and haystacks, Chef James is quick to tell me that being a chef is far from a luxurious job.
"It's all very dreamy," he says of errands that include taste-testing the Ludlow's Jersey cows' milk, "but being a chef is about managing a restaurant." He likens it to being an orchestra conductor. "If I didn't love it, I'd be insane for doing it for 27 years." But love it he does (and insane he might be) but he has surely found his calling in culinary leadership.
A lover of French food, good wine and the beach-side bliss of The Hamptons, Chef James provides a wealth of no-nonsense wisdom for cooks with their sights set on the top. "You have to be a very driven person. You're orchestrating everything from salad people to pastry people, and you have to be on your game. If not, the whole thing is very sloppy." With these tactics down to a science, he's cultivated a loyal crew ten years in the making who have followed him from restaurant to restaurant. With a combined blend of practicality and experience that has no doubt brought him his current success, he stays true to the notion that each worker from dishwashers to the sous chef, must be treated with the utmost respect. He acknowledges his own cooking talents, but humbly concludes with "I'm only as good as my team."
Learn more about The Living Room here and taste Chef James Carpenter's locally-sourced and elegantly prepared dishes year round at c/o The Maidstone.
Photos Courtesy of c/o The Maidstone
During a month of jet-setting across the U.S., Marcus is naturally stopping in the city that touts the largest enclave of Swedish residents. Surprising to most is that this thriving populace nestles in the city as the colossal Mall of America; truly a collision of worlds. Minneapolis has long been the destination for migrants since the 1850s and continues to draw modern waves of Swedes looking to make their home in a communal environment that shares cultural familiarity. On this leg of the Yes, Chef tour Marcus will hold a talk and book signing at the American Swedish Institute. We were able to snag exclusive insight on the fun facts and history of ASI, so read on for fascinating trivia about the craftsmanship of glass-blowing and tile-making, the delicious custom of taking not one, but two dessert breaks during the work day and the best places to grab a bite in downtown Minneapolis. Som ar hungrig? (Are you hungry?)
The obvious question--why so many Swedes in Minneapolis?
In the 1850s-60s, Minnesota was the edge of the frontier. This time period saw a huge wave of immigration from Sweden into what land was available. Once these communities started to form they would write letters back home and from then on it was essentially word of mouth where to settle.
When did the ASI come into existence?
A very savvy Swedish business man, Swan Turnbald, made a few good calls in his day with his sharp and visionary talent for jumping on the opportunity to serve the growing immigrant population. He purchased a struggling Swedish language newspaper and managed to successfully turn it around and make a fortune.
In 1903 Turnbald commissioned the building of his mansion (or castle, rather) on Park Avenue, also known as Golden Mile where the rest of the city's opulent homes were perched. After his wife passed away in 1929, the mansion was donated to the community to maintain the cultural preservation of Swedish customs and sustain the links between newly American Swedes and the homeland.
What does the ASI do today to keep Swedish pride alive?
The purpose is still to keep people connected to the country and to help them keep up with contemporary Swedish culture. We provide Saturday morning language classes and a strong emphasis on handcrafts like wood carving, tile making and glass blowing.
Now let's talk food. What would you say is the quintessential Swedish dish?
People of course know meatballs with lingonberries (and hopefully those other than IKEA's) but it's more than that. Seafood is important and right now at Cafe FIKA we're serving variations of open faced sandwiches and salads. Right now Nordic cuisine is using fresh ingredients and the cafe is combining gravlax, beets and shrimp, just to name a few key ingredients.
For a culinary adventurer in Minneapolis looking for a great Swedish meal, where do you suggest?
2) Eat Street: This is a ten block stretch on Nicollet Ave. where there are only three chain restaurants in the entire area. What you'll find instead is a mix of fantastic German, Chinese, Vietnamese and Greek cuisine.
3) The Bachelor Farmer: Owned by the Dayton brothers, sons of Minnesota's governor, the Bachelor Farmer is a new spin on the best of Nordic cuisine, where they clearly state there is no serving of lutefisk. Sorry to disappoint.