THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEFS: FREDRIK BERSELIUS/RICHARD KUO
The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.
This pop-up concept, more and more permanent, comes from the chefs Fredrik Berselius and Richard Kuo. Two chefs, one from Stockholm and the other raised in Australia, who decided after passages from among the best chefs (Per Se, WD-50 and Corton) to start their own restaurant. A small space of 18 chairs in Williamsburg where you can enjoy a tasting menu for $ 45!
It is said Frej is a “Nordic cuisine in NYC”, I would rather say after talking to Fredrik Berselius that the two chefs have a unique creativity influenced by certain characteristics of the “New Nordic Cuisine”, by excellent basic techniques and by their environment (New York, producers etc.). A “cuisine” that makes me sometimes think at James Lowe & Isaac McHale (London).
…Or when New York becomes the meeting point of Sweden, Australia and … products of New York State, this gives Frej’s cuisine!
Q+A WITH FREDRIK BERSELIUS/RICHARD KUO (www.frejnyc.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at Frej?
FBerselius/RKuo- Our food is simple and local, the flavors are heavily influenced by Scandinavia. Cooking techniques are mixed of old traditional ways and modern new ones. We wanted to serve a meal in a way we like to eat and make it more accessible to younger people and others who normally don’t go out and eat tasting menus.
We focus on trying to build relationships with suppliers who are passionate about what they do. We try and work with directly small producers rather than working with big distributers, working with people who can help us understand what they do best and in turn we learn how to understand our products better.
2-(Scoffier) Can we feel your origins in the concept? (Is there a bit of Australia and Sweden in your cuisine…)
FBerselius/RKuo- Because we want to work with local ingredients and believe there are many similarities between New York, the Northeast and Sweden, having a Scandinavian approach wasmost natural. Australia has amazing produce, seafood and meat, the overall knowledge just help us understand the quality of ingredients better.
3-(Scoffier) Frej is a pop-up concept, the goal is to open a permanent restaurant?
FBerselius/RKuo- Our goal was always to open a restaurant but when things didn’t work out as planned this approach was the second best. We planned for a restaurant and adapted Frej to being a food concept within an existing space. We wanted to look at it as a collaboration with a space or bar until we found our own place. People soon started calling it a pop up because we did not know how long we would exist there.
4-(Scoffier) I had the chance to do several interviews with excellent chefs for two years, and most have made a stint in New York but they left to open their restaurant in their country… Why New York, what do you like?
FBerselius/RKuo- Its hard not to fall in love with NYC. There are so many great things about this place but eventually it always seem to turn into a love hate relationship. So many good things out weigh the bad stuff but working in NYC can be hard and tiring. You very likely work very long days, don’t do much other than work and sleep and when you want a vacation you quit your job . European chefs are often here on a visa that is difficult to renew. I worked with so many great people who left NY not liking it very much, totally burned out, just to come back a few months later visiting.. and wanting to move back.
5-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
FBerselius/RKuo- There are so many flavors from child hood. I miss things like wild strawberries and milk in the summer or a house that smell of baked bread. Or simply being able to pick mushrooms or go fishing a few minutes from your house.
6-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires your cuisine?
FBerselius/RKuo- There are so many people who inspire us. I don’t have that there is one mentor out there but there are always memories of those moments when a chef tell you something.. and it gets stuck in your head. So every time you peel your carrot you or chuck on oyster you can hear your chef standing behind you saying them words again. Many of the the people who have influenced us are just amazing cooks we have worked with in other restaurants.
7-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes for your menu? What are your source(s) of inspiration ?
FBerselius/RKuo- Dishes normally grow over a period of time but we also try and change menu often enough to keep ourselves motivated. Our food start out simple with a look at whats around us, in the garden or market or in the wild. There is always an idea of what will be available at a certain time a year so we plan around that. Then there are cases where we buy a whole animal and you have to figure out what to do with all the parts. A dish can grow from a memory of food or memory of an experience or just trying to figure out an ingredient or animal part.
8-(Scoffier) Some describe your cuisine like “Nordic cuisine”, is this possible in New York?
FBerselius/RKuo- Because we want to work with local ingredients and because we believe there are so many similarities between New York and the areas north of New York and Sweden, having a scandinavian approach was the most natural thing to do.
9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Frej?
FBerselius/RKuo-Recipe: Sunchoke, pear, hazelnut, beef liver.
10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef and for your restaurant?
FBerselius/RKuo- We want to try and push Frej forward. We want to do everything better everyday. Building better relationships with our suppliers and people we work with help. We are working on new plates with our pottery lady Jane Herold.
We are finding better and fresher fish with our fish lady. We are making little steps but trying to make them in the right direction.
RECIPE: Sunchoke, Pear, Hazelnut, Beef liver (no photo for this recipe)
INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS
-2 Kg sunchokes
-500g beef liver
-115g shallot, sliced
-40g apple cider vinegar
-200g veal stock
-150g pork stock
-Oil for cooking
-2 Bosc pear
-200 g Elderflower vinegar
-100 g Sugar
1. Scrub and wash sunchokes. Peel skin into big strips and keep in ice water.
2. Place flesh in bag with oil and season. Cook in bag at 93 celcius until tender. Puree and check seasoning.
3. Blanch skin in salted water until translucent. Shock in ice bath. Dry skin in dehydrator for 5 hours or overnight. Toss with hazelnut oil and salt.
1. Clean liver and dice into 2 cm cubes. Sear in hot pan in oil until you get color, transfer liver to cold tray and chill. In the same pan add shallot and butter and cook until soft. Add sugar and thyme and let caramelize lightly.
2. Deglaze with vinegar and stock (Reduce by 1/3).
3. Cool cooking liquid to room temp and mix with cool liver at full speed until sauce consistency.
4. Pass through a fine sieve and season. Keep sauce at 54 celcius.
1. Peel pear. Slice pear 2 mm thick slices and cut with a small ring cutter. Bring sugarand water to a boil and add vinegar. Pour over pear and let cool. Cover and let sit for at least one week.
1. Clean hazelnut of skin and blacken them lightly with a torch. Season with hazelnut oil and salt.
Arrange proportionate amounts of sunchoke puree and sauce to pear and hazelnut on plate. Add skin and thyme. Finish with hazelnut oil.
FREJ (inside Kinfolk)/Chef (s) Fredrik Berselius+Richard Kuo
90 Wythe Ave (North 11 street)
1. NY Times (Review by Peter Wells), May 8, 2012
2.Eater interview (by Gabe Ulla), April 6, 2012
NOTE: Copyright for the photo ©Frej.
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