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Member of the so-called New Nordic Cuisine, the 31-year-old Bosnian-born chef Edin Dzemat is an emerging talent in the Swedish culinary scene. After leaving his homeland at the age of 20, he experienced at René Redzepi's Noma, playing a key role when the restaurant gained the second Michelin star. Today he's captain of the Swedish Culinary Team competing the Culinary Olympics in October 2016, recipient of 2014 Acqua Panna and S.Pellegrino Rising Star Award, in collaboration with White Guide.
Dzemat currently directs the Linnéa Art Restaurant in Gothenburg, where he expresses himself in the art of contemporary food, served in a spectacular setting of artistic glass objects. Not by chance Dzemat's business partner, Torsten Jansson, owns an important factory and is an art collector: the duo turned the restaurant into an experience that combines art and gastronomy.
Fine Dining Lovers had the opportunity to catch up with the chef during the recent 2015 Chef's Cup in Alta Badia: but it was difficult for him to sit still long enough even for a very short chat. His body is a bundle of restless energy and his eyes never stop darting around the room searching, hunting for something. "I only concentrate when I'm on duty," he confesses. "I'm a bit like a surgeon: my customers place themselves in my hands, so they deserve my utmost respect and attention."
The first hint of your cuisine is found on all the tables: Edin's house-churned butter, made with fermented milk. Why is it special?
It's a flavour from my childhood. The Bosnians call it kaymak. The DNA of my food is from Bosnia, where my mother was born. I'm convinced that at the beginning of every story about food there is always a mother or a grandmother.
One of your most important experiences was the time you spent at the Noma restaurant. What are your memories?
My stint with René Redzepi was extremely stimulating; I was constantly learning. I am much indebted to him today, and every time I think up a new dish, it comes spontaneous to me to follow his greatest lesson, which has also become my approach to food: thinking outside the box. Every time I discover a new ingredient, I want to make the most of it and ask myself in how many ways I can reveal its essence. This is exactly what I try to do every day: uncover the very soul of a vegetable, a cut of meat or even a root. Once you have extracted the quintessence, you can and must replicate it in different nuances, consistencies, colours, varieties and forms.
Which ingredients, the very stuff your cuisine revolves around, inspired your signature dishes?
Apple vinegar is an ingredient I love and I use it in many variations. Beets, too. I even enjoyed combining the two in a dessert: one of my most popular signature dishes uses dehydrated beets, puréed beets and glazed beets. Then I add a yoghurt-based crème, an egg yolk cooked at 60° centigrade, and a weave of crispy potato. Another signature dish I love is the Blackberry ice cream with crispy beetroot and Pödör balsamic foam. To experience and create dishes this far up in the northern hemisphere can be difficult. It means constructing a world of flavours despite almost impossible climate conditions and temperatures. I do not use Italian ingredients, but I envy the temperatures there – they give long-lasting intensity to flavours.
How important is presentation? What makes a combination of ingredients become a perfectly attractive dish?
The balance of forms makes a dish visually appealing. The finishes and the graphic elements are fundamental and intertwined. Food is art. It must be so to remain coherent with the setting here, where we are surrounded by artwork. That's why I have created an Art Menu.