While in Stockholm, Matt and I had the pleasure of dining at Frantzén/Lindeberg, holder of two Michelin stars and ranked as one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to sit down with Chef Björn Frantzén.

ME: “Tell us about the creative process in developing the menu.”

BJÖRN: “You have to start with the ingredients that are in season. Then it’s a process of looking at what else is on the menu, and how the rest of the food is prepared so that you get a variation there. For example, you don’t want everything to be pan fried – that would be boring. Sometimes, the ideas come to you in an instant; sometimes it takes a long time. 

I do all the savory courses and Daniel does all the sweets. He has to follow me because there must be a rhythm in the menu. Sometimes I think the biggest mistake in fine dining restaurants with a pastry chef is that when it comes to dessert, it’s something completely different. It’s like going into a different restaurant. So we try to look at the menu in a circle rather than from top to bottom.”

{ macarons | buttermilk ice cream with roses, hibiscus flowers + jasmine tea }

ME: “Which season do you look forward to the most for its ingredients?”

BJÖRN: “Well I love all seasons, but now is the first week of the Swedish white asparagus. I like this time. In Sweden, it’s cold and especially dark for a very long time, about 6 – 7 months a year, so when summer finally arrives it’s amazing for us. You know, people get depressed with the darkness all the time. So I like it now but then give me a couple of months and I’ll start dreaming about the girolles and all the wild mushrooms and then I’ll start wishing for the root crops. I would say my favorite season might be the end of September because we have two gardens on our own and by then, both gardens are running at full steam. However, at that point, we’re only a couple months away from the white alba truffles and périgord truffles. So, I don’t know. I see possibilities in everything. That’s what I like about this because if the weather was warm and sunny all the time, it would be boring in that way. There would be no variation and it’s nice when you’re dreaming, waiting and hoping until something comes around.”

{ baked turbot and white asparagus with pine, lemongrass + mint }

ME: “How much of your time do you spend on sourcing ingredients and can you provide some examples of the lengths you go to acquire them?”

BJÖRN: “70% of my time is about finding ingredients. The lamb we have on the menu now – we’re the only ones who have it. It’s a South African breed called the Dorper. It gets really marbled with a lot of nice fat because they are used to standing out in open landscape. So they have to have a lot of fat on them because it’s so windy. And also, sometimes people think lamb tastes like wool, like eating a shirt, but these lambs shed their wool themselves. People especially appreciate this because it results in a very mild tasting lamb. That one is a big job. We also fly in scallops by ourselves from Norway. It’s very, very expensive. But they are significantly fresher than all the other restaurants in Sweden. Also in Sweden, there is no good chicken, so we breed our own. To have two gardens on your own is such hard work and costly.”

{ diver scallops with shaved truffles }

ME: “Based on what you are telling me, it seems as though you are almost undercharging your customers.”

BJÖRN: “We are, but we can’t charge more. We put the gastronomic goals before the economic goals.”

I had read somewhere that F/L is able to keep langoustines alive until moments before being served, resulting in the freshest ones available. They use a Swedish technology where they are packed in small individual compartments that mimic the natural cavities in which they live on the seafloor. Naturally, I was curious if the restaurant would be serving langoustines for dinner.

BJÖRN: “Unfortunately no, you will not be getting it. When it was Easter, we were supposed to get scallops from Norway but they decided to not send any at the last minute. So I got ahold of lobsters and then took the sauce, which we use for a cod dish, and put together a dish called “Janssons Temptation”. It’s a Christmas classic, which is horrible but this is our take on it. Since it was so many peoples’ favorite dish, we decided to keep it on the menu instead of the langoustines.”

{ Janssons Temptation }

ME: “If I could only afford to have one dish that would sum up my culinary experience in Stockholm, what would you recommend I try?”

BJÖRN: “You should have the standard dish that is on the menu all year round, that’s the only dish that changes everyday. It’s called “Satio tempestas”, which is Latin for satisfactory saturation after season. That’s basically the best from the gardens and it differs everyday. Today it’s 45 ingredients, but in September and October it can be as many as 60 – 70 ingredients and in the winter, it could be around 27. That one really sums it up, I would say. It’s basically a pure vegetable course, with one exception for the crispy fish scales, which is added for saltiness and was inspired by my trip to Tokyo. They have a fish in Tokyo, which you don’t descale beforehand and pan fry with the skin side down. When you flip it over in the pan, the scales stand up almost like a hedgehog and it’s so delicious! When you eat it, you get this lovely salty crunch, almost like crunchy rice crackers. So we have that texture to the dish. Other than that, everything is more or less from our gardens or from Sweden.”

{ Satio Tempestas }

Thank you Björn for taking the time to do this interview with me. Also, many thanks to Daniel and the rest of the F/L staff for creating one of the most memorable experiences for my husband and me. It was so good that I would go as far to say that it was the best meal of my life.

Stay tuned for a full recap (20 courses) of the entire evening!