Your time at Enigma will represent Dubai’s first real taste of Nordic food. Can you tell us a little bit about the cuisine?
Food from the Nordic region doesn’t have the same gastronomic heritage as in, say, France and Italy, and we have to really battle against the seasons. Barely any produce grows during the long, cold winters so preserved ingredients play a big part in our cuisine.
And how much of that produce will be brought over with you?
Well, coming to the desert means bringing lots of stuff with us. We will go round the local markets here and see what we can take advantage of but we’ll mainly be using Scandinavian ingredients.
How similar will the food and dining room at Enigma be to Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm?
The restaurant set-up will change – at Frantzén, there are about 14 chefs serving 20 diners, whereas at Enigma we’ll be seating something like 50 to 70 guests per night. I’ll have a four-man team from Sweden based here the whole time. As for the menu, we’ll be serving dishes from 2008 to now, so it’s all about looking in the mirror and seeing what’s happened in gastronomy over the years – which is a lot.
How do you feel your food has evolved in that time?
The older I get the simpler my dishes become. Chefs in the Nordic region can pare back their food because producers are now supplying us with better and better ingredients.
You’ve spoken about the importance of eating food within seconds of it being ready – how will that philosophy be implemented here?
At Frantzén, the entire restaurant – kitchen, dining room, even the toilet – is a shoebox. It’s tiny, so the chefs themselves serve our diners out of necessity. But at Enigma, the space is much bigger so we’ll adapt accordingly. We might finish more dishes at the table and the experience will be a very open, interactive one between the chefs and guests.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a restaurateur and running multiple places?
Maintaining standards. You need to have a very good group of chefs who have been with you for a long time and understand your philosophy and the level you expect. I’ve been lucky with my teams across all four of my venues which helps give me great stability.
Where do you like to eat in Dubai?
I’ve visited the city five or six times before (though I’ve never cooked here, so that’s going to be interesting). I think that anyone could come to Dubai and not be disappointed; the food scene is fun, exciting. I enjoy La Petite Maison, Jean-Georges and obviously Zuma is great. But my wife and I have two small kids, meaning we tend to go to pretty noisy places where we don’t stand out. I haven’t eaten much Emirati or Arabic food, which I hope to try this time.
If you had to have your last meal at any restaurant, where in the world would you choose?
Masa in New York. I love Japanese food and Masa offers an almost Americanised take on kaiseki (the classic multi-course Japanese meal). It’s not so hardcore as some places in Japan.
Which ingredient should be in the kitchen of every home?
I would say there are two: salt and lemon. They really enhance and balance flavours, even in desserts. What home cooks often miss or forget is the acidity level of their food. Even the simplest of things can benefit hugely from a drop of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Björn’s Journey of a Nordic Chef will be served at Enigma, Palazzo Versace, from 20 April to 30 June. Visit palazzoversace.ae for more information