The Unn restaurant at TAK in Stockholm has a Masters level in the White Guide. One of the key people behind this success is just 23 years old. What’s his story? We had a chat with the king of the kitchen – the young and highly acclaimed chef Albin Edberg.
Growing up in Småland
At just 23 years of age, Albin is now one of Sweden’s most highly acclaimed chefs. How did it all start?
”I grew up in a big house in the country outside Jönköping in Småland, where both my grandparents lived on the ground floor. I think that was the start for me. Food was important. Everything was made from scratch and there were always many of us sat around the table,” says Albin.
Albin explains that during his time at senior school he started working in the kitchen at the Sjön restaurant in Jönköping, for TV chef and restauranteur Tommy Myllymäki.
”At first I worked evenings and week-ends, and then when I finished my secondary school exams in 2013, I began working full time at Sjön. Cooking is best learnt in the kitchen. That’s where you learn what’s important and how to prioritise.”
Gold in Bocuse d`Or Europé
Albin’s collaboration with celebrity chef Tommy Myllymäki was about to take off. Tommy wanted Albin as his commis assistant for the Bocuse d’Or Europé competition.
”I was only 18 and we spent five months preparing. The days were long and tough, but we won gold! Later I competed with Tommy in Bocuse d’Or, the most prestigious cooking competition in the world. We won third place,” he says.
The call from Frida Ronge
Frida Ronge. Photo: Mattias Lindback
After the competition, Albin had the opportunity to work with another celebrity chef, Thomas Keller, at the 3-star restaurant Per Se in New York. As one of few apprentices, he was offered the chance to stay on after the three months, but was unfortunately unable to get a work visa. Back in Sweden, he went to Stockholm and worked briefly at a number of well-known restaurants. That was until he got a call from Frida Ronge. Could Albin recommend a suitable sous-chef for her restaurant TAK?
”I had met Frida a couple of times previously. I really liked her, both the person she was and her way of cooking. So I put myself forward!”
Albin got the job. He brought with him all he knew about kitchen workflow, which he had learned the importance of in the competitions and the giant Per Se kitchen. He already had Unn in mind while planning TAK.
A restaurant that would seat 32 guests a week and with a dinner price tag of 2 690 kroner. What were your expectations?
”We obviously had certain expectations; we knew that we were working on something unique. But I never thought that it would be so successful!”
Unn in White Guide
At the end of August 2017, a couple of months after opening, the first reviews began coming in. Unn was awarded a Masters level in the White Guide. The restaurant guide in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri gave the restaurant 22 points, placing it in the top spot. At the end of November, Unn and TAK were named ”Business restaurant of the year” by the same paper.
How important is it to have the food critics on your side?
”Even though it’s just me and a couple of others who greet the guests at Unn, it’s a major team effort all the way. That’s when good reviews are nice to have – because the whole team gets praised,” says Albin.
There is little doubt about where Albin likes to spend his time. Photo: Bobo Olsson
No room for error
What are the biggest challenges of standing and cooking on a teppanyakihäll – a frying pan – in front of eight guests in three and a half hours?
”That there’s no room for error. The guests have paid a lot of money for the experience and the exclusive ingredients. Everything has to work – always. That’s the level we have to work at. It’s also my responsibility to ensure that the social side between the guests, and between the guests and me, flows easily. Here too we have to be on top form.”
What does a day at Unn look like?
”It starts at 12:00 and ends at around 00:30. Up until dinner, the day is mostly about prepping. Making sure that all the important stuff, the ingredients, the china and the equipment is all in order. When guests arrive at 19:00, we start cooking and serving. By about 22:30, we will have cooked 13 dishes and the guests will have left. Then we clear up and start prepping for the eight guests coming the next day.”
Would you like to compete again?
”Yes. It’s my goal to compete in Bocuse d’Or again. And win.”
Experience the restaurants Unn and TAK
By: Per Olsson, Creative Director, Nights & Hanne Kristine Vederhus, Strawberry
This article was first published in the member magazine Nights no. 14.