People 3 minutes 21 February 2018

The First Day We Got Our Stars: Björn Frantzén

Once a professional footballer, Swedish chef Björn Frantzén says getting three stars for his eponymous restaurant in Stockholm was something "you just don't think about".

Sweden Chef Interview First Day

Contemporary European restaurant Frantzén was one of the three restaurants that was bestowed with the highly-coveted three Michelin stars in the MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries 2018. The restaurant in in Stockholm, Sweden stood out from the other two restaurants – Norway’s Maaemo and Denmark’s Geranium - by achieving this feat for the first time. We catch up with chef-owner Bjorn Frantzén, who shared his thoughts on his freshly-minted win. 

It was 8.50am on February 20 in Sweden – one day after the MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries 2018 was announced – and chef Frantzen was already having a busy day. In a phone interview from Stockholm, he exclaimed with a laugh, “I have already completed four television interviews this morning.”

Chef Frantzen has every reason to beam about. His restaurant, Frantzen has risen up the ranks from its two Michelin star rating to being the first Sweden-based restaurant to be lauded with three Michelin stars. He admits that he has not completely grasped the significance yet.

He says: “I never imagine that Frantzen would get three Michelin stars, you just don't think about that.” He adds that he received a call last Friday from Mr Michael Ellis, International Director of the Michelin Guides to invite him to the MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries event in Copenhagen without elaborating.

“You do not get a call from Michael Ellis every day so I thought to myself that it could be a good day. Like everybody else, I only knew the results at the same time when it was announced onstage.”

The journey of a chef

Before his career as an award-winning chef, chef Frantzen was a professional football player for five years. Later, he enrolled in culinary school and started his cooking career as a chef in the Swedish Army. He went on to work in restaurants such as the two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in the United Kingdom by the celebrated French chef, Raymond Blanc and Alain Passard’s three Michelin-starred restaurant L'Arpège in Paris, both specialising in classic French cuisine.

In 2008, he co-founded Frantzen/Lindeberg restaurant in Stockholm. The restaurant soon received critical acclaim with its first Michelin star in 2009, and a second one followed the next year. The restaurant was rated two stars till 2013. That year the restaurant was renamed to Frantzen as his business partner, Daniel Lindeberg, left.

“There are a lot of quality Nordic produce,” he says. “My cuisine revolves around the use of excellent ingredients, coupled with my background in classic French cooking and influences from Asia and Japanese cuisines.”

A new chapter

Restaurant Frantzen was located in Gamla Stan, the old quarter of Stockholm. But in the summer of 2016, chef Frantzen closed his restaurant to move to a more accessible location - a 19th century building in Klara Norra kyrkogata in central Stockholm.

Opened in August 30 last year, the restaurant re-opened with three floors – five times larger than its previous site. The restaurant comprises lofty dining and lounge areas, and still sits 23 diners like in its previous location. “The new bigger restaurant allows us to experiment with cooking techniques, such as open-fire cooking, that would not have otherwise been possible previously,” he explains. He adds that the goal of the new restaurant is to spawn a new dining experience that could not be created in the old space.

When asked what is the biggest change in his restaurant in the past decade? Chef Frantzen notes that there has been a sea of changes. He recalls that there were only three staff - two cooking and the other entertaining guests - when the restaurant first opened. The team has since grown to 30 people. 

He says: "Every day is a learning process. I am glad to see that some chefs who used to work with us have gone on to set up their restaurants, which have won a Michelin star this year. It is heartening to see everyone progress together." 

We invite chef Frantzen to reflect on his restaurant's Michelin-starred journey.

What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?

My parents once took us to a one Michelin-starred restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. At that time, there were a few Michelin-starred restaurants in Sweden and I didn't know much about the Guide then. My impression of those restaurants was that it had a very stiff and formal ambience, which is very different from the Michelin-starred restaurants these days. 

How was it like when your restaurant received a Michelin Star for the first time? 

That was in 2009. Back then, everyone was expecting the restaurant to receive a star, so I was relieved that we got the achievement. When we received the second star in 2010, it was joy. 

How do you feel now with the restaurant receiving three Michelin Stars?

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel now as my emotions are still not settled as the event was so recent. I never imagine that I would be able to share my thoughts on receiving three Michelin Stars with the MICHELIN Guide website one day. 

How did you celebrate?

We had to travel from Copenhagen back to Stockholm and it was late at night. My restaurant crew were all ready to celebrate. Everyone was happy and it’s pure joy. We went to a pub to drink and enjoyed our time together.

How will the Michelin stars change the direction of your restaurant?

Getting three Michelin stars will attract more diners from all over the world to visit our restaurant. We will have to do better, but the stars will not change the restaurant's direction. It will be the same for our restaurant, Frantzen's Kitchen in Hong Kong. 

What advice do you have for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. There is only one way: put your head down, be ambitious, be serious and work very hard.

This story was originally written by Mandy Li and translated by Kenneth Goh. Click here to read the original version of this story.


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