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Acclaimed chef Frida Ronge: Stockholm has ‘truly fantastic restaurants’

It’s fair to say chef Frida Ronge is excited about the Stockholm food scene.

Acclaimed chef Frida Ronge: Stockholm has ‘truly fantastic restaurants’
Photo: Frida Ronge

“The most amazing thing has been the incredible explosion of new restaurants. Even in the last five years it seems like the number of great places to eat has at least doubled.”

There’s a great communal vibe, she says, where everyone cheers everyone else on and the result is some truly fantastic restaurants.

“Take A Bowl in Södermalm, for instance. It’s such a simple idea. All they do is serve food in bowls, using brown rice, and other grains as the base. They combine really interesting ingredients such as chicken thigh, pickled cucumber, chili oil, yogurt, and parsley in the chicken dish. The food is really high quality but really inexpensive and very healthy. They change the menu quite regularly. And I also love it because it feels like sort of a neighborhood type restaurant.”

Click here for a Stockholm restaurant guide compiled by Sweden’s top chefs, also available as a step-by-step audio guide for the visually impaired

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by A BOWL @ Blecktornsgränd 8 (@abowlrestaurant) on Feb 8, 2019 at 11:47am PST

Frida’s enthusiasm for Stockholm food and its practitioners is genuinely infectious. There’s none of that false bonhomie you might encounter with other chefs when discussing London’s or New York’s restaurant sector.

And Frida is a major player in the Stockholm food scene. She’s culinary director at the famous TAK and UNN restaurants in Stockholm and a winner of White Guide Rising Star of the Year. She’s at the heart of what makes the Stockholm scene tick.

She explains that Stockholm might be a large city but there’s a feel right now that its restaurant scene is a tight-knit community of creative chefs, from a vast array of backgrounds, willing each other on towards success. 

“I think some of this comes down to the fact that most of us have travelled and have become more open-minded as a result. We love to introduce international flavours to Stockholm cuisine.”

Indeed, Frida’s specialty is Japanese food made from Nordic ingredients.

“The first time I prepared sushi was when I worked at Sälens Högfjällshotell in 2005. Then the sushi looked very different than it does today: the fish was sent vacuum-packed from Japan. I grew up in Gothenburg as a fisherman’s daughter and wondered why we didn’t use local fish in sushi. But I was young and didn’t dare to ask. It was only when I became chef de cuisine at Råkultur in Stockholm, that I began experimenting with making sushi with fish from Nordic waters. We were the first in Sweden to do that. It became a big really big hit!”

Photo: Frida is known for her Japanese-Nordic culinary creations

Frida’s also spent time in Japan, an experience she found eye-opening. “It’s much more formal there in sushi restaurants. Some chefs there, they end up being the rice cook for five or six years before they move on to the next section. Stockholm is much more open. We play a lot of music in our kitchen and we talk and shout a lot. But in Japan, everyone was really quiet just getting on with the work. No chat and no frivolity. But I learned so much there.”

Get a restaurant guide compiled by Sweden’s top chefs, also available as a step-by-step audio guide for the visually impaired

Frida’s international experience may even result in a brand new take on Sweden’s traditional Christmas rice pudding.

“I picked up loads of ideas when I was working with five different chefs at an event recently in Berlin. This chef from Sri Lanka was using tapioca in a very interesting, innovative way. And it just suddenly clicked with me that I could use the idea for this year’s Christmas rice pudding. I’m definitely going to try it this Christmas.”

Stockholm’s innovative food landscape has excited interest internationally. Publications as diverse as Vogue, The New York Times and the Daily Telegraph have sent glowingly positive dispatches back to their readers from Stockholm.

Photo: Frida Ronge

 But for Ronge it’s the friendliness of Stockholm’s restaurants that is most beguiling.

“Many of the most interesting new restaurants, such as Babette’s, are on the cozy, snug side. I really like that because I work in really big restaurants and when I hang out and chill out with my friends and have something to eat, I love going to these small, intimate places. They’re great because, even if you go on your own, you’re guaranteed a good chat. It makes food feel like a real communal experience. And that’s what’s really great about the best Stockholm restaurants. They may be innovative and exciting – but they’re friendly and atmospheric too.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Visit Sweden and Visit Stockholm.

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TOURISM

Sweden launches bid to become world’s top tourism destination by 2030

Forget the pyramids, the canals of Venice or the Eiffel Tower – the Swedish government has presented a plan to make Sweden the world's most attractive tourism destination by 2030 – but it's not yet clear how.

Sweden launches bid to become world's top tourism destination by 2030
Many tourists are attracted to Sweden because of its nature. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

In a press conference on Monday, Sweden’s Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan outlined the new strategy, which aims to make Sweden “the world’s most sustainable and attractive tourism destination built on innovation” by 2030.

Baylan referred to Sweden as a country which “is usually ranked as one of the world’s most innovative countries”, which he argued can “create value for the tourism industry”.

According to Baylan, the strategy builds on “sustainability’s three dimensions – it has to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable”. The strategy will also “tie into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030”, he said.

Topics covered by the new tourism strategy include the climate impact of tourism, equality and inclusion in the tourism industry and the importance of preserving shared resources such as national parks and sustainable nature tourism such as fishing and hunting.

The press release highlights the importance of natural tourism, explaining that the pandemic has led to people visiting natural and cultural environments “to a greater extent than before”, increasing wear and tear to natural areas.

DISCOVER SWEDEN: The Local’s guide to Sweden’s top destinations and hidden gems

Tourism is an important industry for Sweden, providing employment in both urban and rural areas, as well as generating wealth – before the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry represented on average 2.7 percent of Sweden’s GDP per year. The tourism industry also employs a high amount of people from foreign backgrounds – making up over a third (34 percent) of all employees in the industry.

During the pandemic, overnight stays declined in almost every Swedish municipality, with the biggest declines seen in Sweden’s larger cities and border municipalitites.

The government’s plans also include a focus on jobs and skill development, so that workers have the right qualifications for the industry – this reflects issues currently faced by the restaurant and hotel industry in finding skilled workers in the wake of the pandemic. 

There are currently no details as to how the government will achieve this strategy, or indeed how it will measure success. But Sweden is aiming high if it wants to be the world’s most attractive tourist destination by 2030. In 2019, it was ranked the 54th top tourist destination in the world by the UN World Tourism Organisation.

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