Art of London speaks to Jonas Karlsson, recently appointed Head Chef at Aquavit London to discuss the Art of Scandi Cooking.
In Conversation with Jonas Karlsson
Jonas Karlsson has been appointed Head Chef of Aquavit London. Born in Sweden, but having lived in London for 21 years, Jonas’ style of cooking is heavily influenced by his Swedish roots. Known for his style which fuses modern European and Scandinavian influences, Karlsson has created a refined Nordic menu for Aquavit with an emphasis on using quality local ingredients.
What inspired your journey to become a chef?
I always knew I wanted to be a chef. I grew up in Sweden exposed to the finest wild foods and ingredients, and I think it’s this that shaped me and made me want to be a chef. I have fond memories of my childhood, picking berries in the summer and turning them into jams and jelly, as well as foraging for mushrooms in the autumn, or going fishing even in the depths of winter when the lake was frozen over. All year round there were incredible ingredients to be found and cooked with, and I found this so inspiring and exciting.
Your food creation is heavily influenced by your Swedish roots, tell us about some of the principles of Nordic cooking that have inspired your style.
I have always believed in simplicity. I think food is at its best when you don’t overcomplicate it, and let the flavour and quality take centre stage. At Aquavit, I do a lot of marinating, smoking, fermenting and curing, as it helps to preserve ingredients at their best and avoid wastage. It’s quite a traditional Swedish way of cooking.
How would you define the Art of Scandi Cooking/ What would define as being the Art of Nordic Cuisine? (What makes Scandi cooking an art-form)
I would define Scandi cooking as simple, fresh and elegant. There are typically fewer ingredients to be found in Nordic counties compared to elsewhere around the world so dishes are often more pared back, but the ingredients that we do have are exceptional quality.
What would you classify as your influences and is there anyone in particular that has inspired you?
My grandparents have always been a huge inspiration, as well as some great chefs I worked with through the years, such as Andrew Garret and Chris Galvin, and also many chefs I haven’t worked with, like Philip Howard. I have a huge collection of cookbooks at home too – around 200 in total – and these also provide lots of inspiration.
How would you define your style of cooking?
Light and tasteful. I’m classically French trained and I combine that with my Swedish roots.
What was it that drew you to Aquavit London?
Aquavit is one of London’s most unique dining destinations. To be able to offer a high-quality menu of Nordic-inspired dishes and sensational Scandinavian staples in the bustling heart of St James’s Market was an easy choice.
Aquavit London is centred in St James's, the heart of the West End. How does being situated in London’s West End inspire your cooking?
I have been working in the centre of London for over 20 years. You have easy access to so many local food markets and suppliers bring you food twice a day if needed. This is such a luxury and outside the centre of London it can be much more difficult to rely on a quick delivery. This allows me to be more creative with my menus as there is so much on offer, but also ensures a consistently high quality of food.
Banner image Thomas Alexander
Singular food imagery Jodi Hinds
a month ago
by Emma O'Connor