Chef of the Month: Titti Qvarnström, Scandinavia’s First Female Michelin-star Chef
Women have made great strides in the culinary world in the past two decades, but female chefs who have won the highly coveted Michelin star are still a rarity.
Titti Qvarnström’s skills and determination have put her, and her home town – Malmö, on the world’s gastronomy map.
Let’s see what she is up to now and her thoughts on Swedish cuisine and food trends.
1. What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was about 18, I got a random summer job in a kitchen and seriously fell in love with the motion of the professional kitchen! I just loved everything about it immediately, the sense of meaningfulness, the pace, the craft and creative part, even the perishable nature of the art of cooking.
2. Where did you train to cook?
I trained at the Hotel and Restaurant School of Copenhagen and was taught by head chef Paolo Guimares at restaurant Aura – also Copenhagen.
3. What is something that few people know about you?
How a dish is presented is often nearly as important as how it tastes and it is not always possible to get the perfect plate off the shelf. For this reason I have learnt to throw pottery just to be able to design just the right plates for my dishes.
Super nerdy but very satisfying.
I have learnt to throw pottery just to be able to design just the right plates for my dishes.Chef Titti Qvarnström
4. Tell us about your work at Bloom in the park. What is the concept and what was the inspiration for this season’s menu?
I let go of my part in bloom a couple of years back to be able to focus on other projects such as Pure Food Camp and the super local drinks festival Skånska Drycker and pop up restaurant 1 bord & kök (translating to 1 table & kitchen).
This season is of course extraordinary because of the virus, on the up-side: it has given me and my team time to reflect and plan ahead for future progress.
5. What’s the most popular item on the menu?
I work with secret menus and often the most popular item is the odd one, the one that very few guests would dare to order, if they were to choose for themselves!
6. You were the first female chef to earn the highly coveted Michelin-star. How did this impact your career?
The impact on my career was not as great as the impact on the city of Malmö, which finally got included in the guide, and on the trade that suddenly got a little bit more equal, even if there still is a lot to wish for.
7. You are an incredibly successful Chef in an industry traditionally dominated by men. What were the challenges you faced as a female chef in the kitchen?
There is a particular feel to a workplace dominated by men, or women for that matter. However, I have always loved the talk, the hard words, the pace and the rhythm of a restaurant kitchen.
I have always loved the talk, the hard words, the pace and the rhythm of a restaurant kitchen.
It has suited me perfectly and I still find it entertaining, but I have also always had a strong focus on the product and the craft and not so much on relations.
8. Tell us a bit about Swedish cuisine? What makes it special and what are the top Swedish dishes we absolutely need to try out?
Lots of traditional dishes like Swedish meatballs, gravlax and smorgasbord have an international reputation, but personally I find the new Swedish cuisine more interesting as it is still in the process of being established!
You see, we live in a part of the world that has long, cold and dark winters and a very short period of growth, so the traditional Swedish foods are based on produce that can be conserved or just keeps exceptionally well with the addition of lots of fat and carbs to make it thru the winter.
Unfortunately, for the traditional cuisine, our need for energy rich food has decreased and the demand for fresh and healthy food has increased, forcing us to reinvent what is Swedish cuisine, an exiting process.
9. What do you regard as the quintessential Swedish ingredient?
There are no produce more Swedish than the ruthabaga, or Swedish turnip, even its name states the fact! The cross between turnip and kale was made in Sweden.
I have seat no 17 in Kålrotsakademin “the Rutabaga Academy” and we have facilitated tastings of up to 50 different varieties of this excellent root!
10. What does the Swedish fine dining scene look like?
It is not until now that Swedish cuisine has begun to be appreciated by international guides. Every era has had its vanguard restaurants, but the restaurant scene seems to be extra dynamic and interesting at the moment, producing fantastic restaurants that are also getting the attention and stars they deserve.
11. You worked for several restaurants in Berlin, Germany. What are the differences between the food scene in Berlin versus Malmo?
The larger the city, the more decadent the food scene! In general restaurants of Malmö take greater responsibility for the environment, but the biggest difference between Malmö and Berlin are behind the scenes in the dynamic of the workplace.
In Germany a strict hierarchy is maintained from head chef to apprentice, but in Sweden it is not so important to have a head chef, we are all chefs, we work together and sharing tasks.
In Sweden it is not so important to have a head chef, we are all chefs, we work together and sharing tasks
12. Do you have a signature dish or a favorite dish that you enjoy cooking?
I used to have a hang up on cauliflower and scallop, it’s a wicked combination. I guess that would make my signature dish.
13. Do you follow food trends? If so, what is the top trend for 2020 and what’s next for 2021 and onwards?
We will change our ways of travelling, exploring our close surroundings rather than flying far away. This will make local cuisine bloom, but it will also make exotic produce exotic again, creating a new demand for well cooked ethnic cuisine.
14. What are your future plans?
I’m working on a new dining experience, can’t say much more now…
15. What advice would you give someone who wants to become a successful chef?
To be successful it’s important to have a strong vision and develop a unique food profile. Practice makes the master!