Fine Dining

Björn Frantzén, the best Swedish chef: "The dining room should be entertaining. We're not in a library."

Alessandra Meldolesi
copertina bjorn frantzen 2024 01 04 15 35 38

The expansion of Björn Frantzén's restaurant group continues, from Scandinavia to the Far East, passing through London. Different formats, lively and convivial, with a focus on the dining service and a dogmatic adherence to seasonality, understood as a zenith of quality.

Cover photo: @Lars Pehrson- TT

The opinion

Acclaimed as the greatest Swedish chef ever, with six Michelin stars (three at the eponymous restaurant in Stockholm, the country's first, and three at Zen in Singapore), Björn Frantzén has contributed to the triumph of Nordic cuisines without dogmatically adhering to their principle. A former professional footballer, he honed his skills in London at Chez Nico and Pied à Terre, and at the legendary Arpège in Paris, before opening his own place in 2008, earning the first star in 2009 and the second in 2010.

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But he's not the typical stoic Nordic chef, painting the cliché. "Going to a restaurant should be fun," he says in an interview with CNA Luxury. "If you're super stiff, super quiet, like a library, I don't come. I love the energy and the buzz." He also curates the soundtracks for his establishments, such as a mix of Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, and European indie pop at Zen, while at the Brasserie Astoria in Singapore, you might hear Stevie Wonder, the Commodores, and the Rolling Stones. Then there's Villa Frantzen in Bangkok and Studio Frantzen in London; soon, a fine dining opening in Shanghai and two more at the Atlantis the Palm Hotel in Dubai. Whether it's fine cuisine or informal concepts, the attention is the same: even though the Astoria serves 1100 main courses a day, the preparations remain expressive, in an effort to highlight the skills of the waitstaff, as in the tableside flambéed beef.

studio frantzen harrods london
@Studio Frantzén

Certainly, the ingredients are not the same everywhere, but what bothers Frantzén the most is the decline of seasonality: advanced agricultural technologies allow everything to grow anytime, and markets are flooded with tasteless tomatoes ripped from the endless Dutch greenhouses in continuous cycles. Not to mention prized white and black truffles, once available for a couple of months, now practically year-round, perhaps coming from Argentina or Tasmania.

bjorn frantzen piatto di Zen
Un piatto di Zen

"We are missing the beauty of waiting for ingredients to develop," he complains. "I think our responsibility as restaurateurs and chefs nowadays is to use ingredients only when they are at their best, in season, so that people can appreciate the difference, even though everything is always available." The rules don't change in the employee nursery, transitioning from the flagship in Sweden, maturing and advancing in different establishments, where they acquire flattering responsibilities.

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"We try to select collaborators not because they come from a starred place, but for their personality. When I eat out and see a suitable person, I ask if they would like to join us. At first, they are a bit intimidated by the opportunity to work in a three-star, but once they understand how it's done, they grow and become excellent. That's why we are expanding organically. If we didn't offer new opportunities, employees would leave us."

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