Niklas Ekstedt

From the Flames to the Tables

\\ Text Estela Ataíde

A shining light in Swedish cooking, Niklas Ekstedt was only 21 years old when he opened his first restaurant and ever since then he hasn't stopped amazing the world with his restless daring, which has already earned him an array of awards, including a Michelin star, given to the Ekstedt restaurant in 2013.
Born in 1978, he found his inspiration in more traditional cooking methods: ever eager for new challenges, he relinquished all electricity and gas sources, using firewood as his only source of heat in an unusual approach, quite the opposite of molecular, modernist or futurist cooking, which takes his guests, in his own words, «on a journey through the history of Swedish cooking».
He was destined for a career as a professional snowboarder, but an injury kept him away from the sport and steered him towards the world of flavours. Having inherited an interest in food from his father, who was also a chef, and after stints with names such as Alain Ducasse, Heston Blumenthal and Charlie Trotten, Niklas Ekstedt enjoyed immediate success in the Restaurant Nicklas, in Helsingborg. The success of his first venue spurred him on to open Niklas i Viken, a summer restaurant in Viken, a small seaside town, and six years later to go to Stockholm, where he opened the restaurant 1900, now called Niklas.

«I wanted to discover what the flavour of food was when it was cooked using old techniques»

Always on the lookout for new challenges, it was on a trip to San Sebastian, in Spain, when he came across a local chef making sophisticated dishes over a grill, in the traditional Basque style, that Niklas discovered the motto for the Ekstedt restaurant, opened in 2011. After thinking about how things were cooked before the influence of modern techniques, before electricity or gas, Niklas began to consider Nordic food as a technique. It was at that moment that he decided to build a replica of an old Scandinavian kitchen. «We built a kitchen that would have existed 200 years ago», the chef says, explaining that he wanted to «discover what the flavour of food was when it was cooked using old Swedish techniques of open air cooking». Winner of a Michelin star in 2013, for the Ekstedt, everything, from the smoked lobster or the roast reindeer, to the waffles, is cooked over the restaurant's magnificent fire, in the wood oven, or on the wood burning stove.
Taking inspiration primarily in classic recipes from his country, the chef, together with chef Gustav Otterberg, only uses Scandinavian firewood, with the aim of giving the food a unique character, the flavour of the freshest of ingredients, perfected by the heat of the flames.