Swedish chef, Frederik Berselius knew he wanted to own his own restaurant right from the moment he first decided to cook for a living.
Two Michelin star, Aska, housed in a restored warehouse at the edge of the Williamsburg Bridge in New York is the embodiment of his culinary vision. Capturing flavours and memories of his native home in bustling New York, the city he fell in love with.
Minimalist and simple, intimate yet spacious and with an open plan kitchen at its heart turning out a seasonal menu full of surprises and with a strong central narrative and attention to every detail. It’s the restaurant he’d envisioned in his mind for years.
Berselius’ elegant new debut cookbook, aska, published by Phaidon, is an ode to the fruition of his dream restaurant, about how he built it from the ground up, “this is a cookbook with recipes, but it also includes glimpses into the process behind building a restaurant and creating an experience that goes beyond just the menu” Berselius writes.
While the book offers up 85 recipes along with stunning photography from Gentl & Hyers, it’s also Berselius’ narrative into his creative journey from native Sweden to upstate New York and Brooklyn. Berselius recounts personal stories from his childhood, from mushroom hunting with his grandmother in northern Sweden to embracing the sensorial qualities of the seasons in Upstate New York as an adult.
While the recipes might make your head spin when it comes to ingredient hunting, think lamb heart burnt in bedstraw, pigeon and blood and squab hearts. There’s a more accessible pantry section at the back of the book with recipes for preserving, fermenting, pickling and curing, shedding light on some of the foundational techniques that deliver Aska’s distinctive tastes and textures.
And while some of the recipes might seem out of reach to the average homecook, that would be to miss the point. This book is so much more than re-creating Berselius’ flavours from his native home, but more about provoking imagination and inspiring creative processes with insight into Berselius’ brilliant mind and meticulous restaurant creation.
Here’s a glimpse inside Aska at some of the enchanting recipes (click on the images to enlarge):
All the photos © Phaidon and Gentl and Hyers