The blood’s country

Joachim Borenuis

Being Scandinavian, I grew up in a highly developed dairy culture. With everything that comes from a cow – whether it’s milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter – time is spent refining it for flavour enhancement and depth. 

Born?

Falsterbo, on the south-western tip of Sweden.

Education?

I have a bachelor degree in culinary arts, and a half completed degree in mechanical engineering (I started this degree first, and later realised my passion for cooking was a lot stronger than my passion for math). I studied at Lund University, one of Europe’s oldest universities – the Swedish version of Oxford.

Best kitchens worked?

The Fat Duck (2005) and Per Se (2008).

Favorite cheap eat?

Spice I Am – the original one. I went there in 2006 and it absolutely blew my mind. I’d never had food like that before. The spice, the intensity, the aroma, the pungency, the textures. Unbelievable.

What keeps you going?

What all chefs have in common – passion. It might sound cliché, but it’s true. It’s so much more than a profession. It’s the way you breathe, live your life.

Advice to future young chefs? Don’t believe the hype about cooking. Cooking is really hard work. And you never stop learning. If cooking becomes “just a job”, it very quickly becomes challenging to get what you want from it. If you work hard, make a career of it, it’s definitely very rewarding.

Favorite kitchen tool?

I have an old German steel. It’s a 34-year-old Victoria Stahl. It used to be my mother’s – she used cook with it. So it holds sentimental value. And it does something magical to my knives.

Most controversial menu item?

A dessert at Marque which used venison blood and chocolate. That was probably the most confronting one, but it was absolutely delicious. 

Favorite thing about life in Sweden?

What really impresses me about Sweden, and it’s something I’ve appreciated more with age, is the social structure of society. Basic things like houses, roads, buildings. The infrastructure. Sweden has great urban planning.  Certainly when compared to Sydney. My half mechanical engineer degree coming into play here.

Favorite family meal?

Eating Chinese, especially back in the day when I was working with Victor Liong at Marque. Absolutely delicious! One day his mum even cooked and brought in fried bread for the staff meal because they wanted it to be right with whatever it was Victor was cooking for us.

Career turning point?

My summer at The Fat Duck. It was a massive eye-opener, in the aspect that I realised how far outside the box you can think when it comes to cooking. It showed me that there are no rules. From what I’d been experiencing and expecting, cooking had been set in a framework. Heston made me realise it’s all just made up. It was really liberating to see someone who is so passionate about what he’s doing, so in the zone, so used to pushing the boundaries that he just continues to evolve. And that was back in 2005.

Most useful cookbook?

The book that meant most to me would be The French Laundry. It’s a brilliant piece of work. Back when I had just starting cooking, one of my chefs put it in my hand. And it was a bit of a wow moment for me, and I still love reading it to this day! 

On classic vs. modern cuisine?

It would be pretentious not to recognise the symbiosis between the two. To be a great chef, you need to work with top quality produce and utensils. Same goes for knowledge. By acknowledging the weight and importance of all the knowledge gathered over centuries of traditional cooking, you can build yourself a strong foundation to stand on.

How can we keep attracting chefs into the food world?

It’s important to sell cooking for what it really is, without the bullshit. It’s fast paced, high pressure, stressful, physically demanding, and yet tremendously rewarding. It’s an intense life to live. Rather than selling the vision or the hype of what cooking is, we should sell the craft.

Obsession ingredient?

Cultured butter. People think they know what butter is but until they’ve experienced the real thing.

Purveyor tip?

Invest in your relationships with your suppliers. Find the suppliers that are doing what they do for the right reasons. A great example for me is Julian Parisi from Waterside Fruit Connection. He used to be an investment banker. His heart wasn’t in it. 

He left and picked up the old profession that his father had, and that his grandfather had before him – supplying exceptional fruit and vegetables. Julian’s not selling carrots to make money. It’s for the love of it. To just see how passionate he is. He understands what I need. You can’t really buy that. The relationship becomes less about price. It’s about trust, belief and support

Joachim’s TOP 10 favorite Swedish food ingredients:

1.  Lingon berries - Works with everything!

2.  Chantarelles - By the tonne, 'The gold of the forest'

3.  Pheasants - Delicious game bird 

4.  Dark Molasses - The excellent addition of bitter and sweet

5.  Fil mjolk - Imagine a cross between buttermilk and yoghurt  

6.  Rye flour 

7.  Cumin 

8.  Swedish garden apples - They're everywhere at the end of the summer and absolutely gorgeous, sweetness and acidity perfected! 

9.  Kalles Kaviar - a bread spread with salted roe and potato 

10.  Strawberries – You don't taste anything like it anywhere else in the world!

Importance is placed on elevating the produce to what it should be – cared for loved and nurtured, rather than industrialised. And that’s what I feel is missing sometimes.