During the ongoing Sweden-India Nobel Memorial Week, we got a chance to meet Chef Mark Phoenix, who recently visited the capital and gave a fantastic master class on Swedish cuisine at the Swedish Embassy. He holds the title of “Nobel Chef” as he uses his excellent culinary skills to prepare delightful menu for the prestigious Nobel Council since a few years. Apart from this he often travels and shares his kitchen experience with foodies around the world. We caught up with the witty Nobel Chef, who answered our queries in a candid tete-a-tete. Here are the excerpts from our quick chat:
Q: Tell us something about the Swedish cuisine.
A: Swedish cuisine comprises of a lot of seafood like shellfish and meat like any other Nordic cuisines. Vegetarians have few options as meat is usually the key ingredient in most of our dishes. For the rest you can check Google like we do (laughs).
Q. Are there any similarities between Swedish and Indian cuisine?
A: Indian cuisine comprises of vivid spices and sauces whereas in Swedish cuisine we rarely use any spices apart from seasoning. The similarities lie only on basic ingredients, but the approach is very different.
Q. What are the key ingredients that complete a regular Swedish meal?
A: Vinegar, lemon or anything acidic is the key ingredient of a Swedish kitchen.
Q. Have you ever tried to fuse the Swedish cuisine with other world cuisines?
A: Never. Fusion destroys the essence of a specific cuisine and I only stick to the roots.
Q. What is one special entrée or dessert that originated in Sweden and is now world famous?
A: I think it has to be Meat balls with mashed potatoes. We don’t have any special dessert originating from Sweden but our version of Saffranspannkaka (saffron cake, originating from Ireland) is well known.
Q. Do you like Indian cuisine? Tell us about your favourite dishes from our country.
A: I lived in India from 2003-2005 when my wife was working here. During that time I ate many Indian dishes like Murg tikka masala, Rogan Josh and Vindaloo. Though too spicy, they are among my favourites.
Q. Which is the staple food of Sweden?
A: Hotdogs! One can find a hotdog stand everywhere in Sweden. Frozen Pizzas are quite common too.
Q. Do you regard any chef as your idol?
A: Chef Marco Pierre White. He is brilliant and might be the only guy who made Gordon Ramsey cry in the kitchen.
Q. Did you do any special training to become a chef?
A: I am actually British and I went to a culinary school in London for three and a half years.
Q. How did you get the opportunity to cook for the Nobel Council?
A: I had to sleep with someone and he was not that good at all (Giggles). Well actually the restaurant I was working shut down and I lost my job. My daughter was only 4 months old at that time. Luckily I was headhunted by the council and since then I am a part of it.
Q. What makes you different from other chefs?
A: I am very patient and friendly in the kitchen even at the rush hours and I handle stress very well.
Chef Mark lists his top three famous Swedish dishes that are unique and very easy to prepare, so guys do try them out and tell us about your experience.
An elegant combination of Tiger Prawns and Mayo on a small crunchy toast bed. With a sprig of dill on top this dish serves as an outstanding appetizer.
Beetroot cut in carpaccio-style (thin slices) with sour cream and horseradish on top with crunchy Rucola (rocket salad). Sprinkled with some Vasterbotten cheese, this dish could easily be a vegetarian’s favourite.
Crispy potato galettes topped with sour cream, finely diced onions and Swedish caviar. This simple dish with splendid textures can surprise anyone with different combination of flavors.
(The writer is a doctor turned aspiring chef, who considers food an art. After honing the skills in hospitality from several restaurants in Europe, he is currently residing in Delhi and pursuing hotel management and culinary science from IICA. A passionate cook and foodie, he has written about 200 restaurants of New Delhi in past six months. When not cooking or eating, he usually spends time composing songs on his guitar. To reach out to him mail us as firstname.lastname@example.org)