Chicago Gourmet - bio: Stefan Karlsson
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Stefan Karlsson

Fond Restaurant

When I ask my friends about the very earliest memories they can recall regarding the sense of taste, they invariably mention something “sweet”. They usually use words such as chocolate ice cream, strawberry cake, or their favourite sweets from the bowl on a table in Grandmother’s drawing room. They just laugh at me when I tell them that my earliest memory. At the age of three, during the summer, I can recall the taste of pickled herring with onions and boiled new potatoes. It was at that very moment – when Swedish summer is at its warmest, most magical and enchanting mood, in the very heart of the Småland countryside – I decided that I wanted to be a chef when I grew up. I guess that time has added a bit of spice to this story – but admit that it does have a good ring to it. But the memory remains as clear as a bell and its contents are exactly what I would like to communicate to my guests when they sit down to dine at Restaurant Fond in Gothenburg. 

At Fond the Swedish culinary heritage continues, characterised by the use of raw ingredients, governed by and closely interlinked with each season – and a level of hospitality that makes our guests feel comfortably relaxed as if they were at home in the welcome arms of their family. Dining with us should essentially be a pleasant and simple, but memorable and personal experience. This feeling, the ambience itself, is the very essence of it all. Even though mother’s cooking is a distant memory, in time and place, those pleasantly warm feelings can nonetheless be recreated, given the right touch. In reality everything can be summarised in one single word - authenticity. At home, in our kitchen in Småland, everything was fresh and home-cooked. Without any fuss, plain and simple – and absolutely delicious. Mother was a housewife at home with us children, and I can still recall all those delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. I awoke early each morning to the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread. And when I returned home from school, I was greeted by the welcoming smell of a delicious dinner awaiting us. Basic raw ingredients were available everywhere around us, at all times. 

I helped pick vegetables from our own kitchen garden. My father and I stealthily crept up on moose and deer in the dense forest. We caught pike, perch and crayfish in the deep lakes, with only the big, round moon as our silent witness. It was a typical Swedish upbringing with typically traditional Swedish cooking – which has impressed its permanent stamp on my personality. And, fortunately, I have not left any of this behind. Restaurant Fond lies in the very heart of Gothenburg, in the famous Götaplatsen, at one end of the most fashionable street, Kungsportsavenyen. To be more central and urban is impossible. And, I must admit that I seldom go wandering in the forests. But in our hearts and souls, behind the scenes, in the kitchens and the cold-storage rooms, we are still very much out and about in the countryside. We live with the changes going on in nature and compose menus that pay homage to the distinctive features of the Swedish west coast seasons; a continuous struggle between light and darkness, the warmth and the cold, against a backdrop of green landscapes and harsh cliffs. 

The warmth of summer tempts us with new potatoes, strawberries, lettuces and other greens. Followed closely by late summer offering an abundance of mushrooms, berries and apples. Not to mention the wealth of delicacies from the waters around; lobsters and other shellfish. As the darkness of autumn and winter begin to close in, we allow ourselves the luxury of enjoying the savoury delights of venison, fish from the colder northern waters and root vegetables from the soil. In the spring, once again we are awakened to a new life by all the herbs and shoots that enthusiastically affirm their youthful energy; asparagus and rhubarb are just some of these superb ingredients. In other words authentic Swedish raw materials are still the ingredients of choice used in the kitchens at Fond – even though in more recent years I have come to discover the joys of including culinary delights from other cultures to add new dimensions to the Swedish cuisine. There is an element of excitement in daring to be bold enough to embrace the globalisation and invite the increasingly multi-cultural culinary traditions into the most Swedish of kitchens. 

This is not about upstaging or replacing what is Swedish, but rather about giving it the chance to become even more distinguished by adding exotic flavours and delights. In keeping with this philosophy, I have introduced a modern interpretation of the classic Swedish Smörgåsbord. A culinary adventure that has been on a successful tour of the United States, for example. Entering gastronomic competitions – as well as being privileged to participate at the truly great events - have been wonderfully stimulating experiences for a man with his roots in the Småland mushroom forests. Winning the title of Swedish Chef of the Year 1995 – with the archetypical Swedish dish of grouse served with lingonberries – has opened many new and exciting doors for me. Over the past few years I have been called upon to compose the menu for the Nobel Prize Dinner on a number of occasions. I was awarded the Swedish Gastronomic Academy’s Gold Medal 2000 and I was a member of the Swedish Gastronomic Team for a number of years. But no matter how much time I may spend out in the world, or stirring the pots in the kitchens at Restaurant Fond, it is those special moments at home with my family that mean the most to me. In our home, it is important for us that each and every day we share at least one meal together. It is these small golden moments that bind and keep us together.

Millennium Park   |   Sept 26 - 30