The kitchen is his stage

Opening a new restaurant.
A sentence that should bring to mind the red carpet, freshly printed menus, dining room staff at attention. For Jonas Svensson at Miss Voon, it's a personal thing and he doesn't hesitate to make the comparison with the hit series The Bear - panic attacks, arguments and exploding water pipes . Yet he's doing it again: opening a new restaurant.

Jonas Svensson could just as easily have exhibited paintings in Sara Kulturhus, or played music from one of the stages.

- What they have in common is that it's about creating something. Running a restaurant is just as personal and revealing. There's a strange pleasure in it all, in delivering something that people really like. Ultimately, it's about putting on a show, a memory, an experience," he says.

Jonas has of course seen the TV series "The Bear". It follows young chef Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto, who returns to her Chicago home to take over her family's sandwich shop after her brother's suicide. Carmy, who previously worked in top fine dining restaurants, faces a series of challenges as he tries to modernize and raise the quality of the old and financially struggling restaurant.

And of course, it all goes wrong.

- It's not a relaxing show, it's all at once, and that's just how it is in real restaurant life.

Right now, Jonas is working on the Indian restaurant India's, which is taking over Vassa Eggen's premises on Birger Jarlsgatan in Stockholm. They will of course serve chicken tikka masala, the world's most cooked dish, which was actually invented by a restaurant owner in Scotland in the 1970s. The gastronomic wasteland that ironically shaped our view of Indian food.

- We're going to make our version of it because everyone will be asking for it anyway. Unfortunately, Indian food, but also Thai, has been ruined over the years with sauces that are as sweet as a luss bun. We should know more about these cuisines in 2024.

In a way, the opening of Miss Voon up in Sara Cultural Center stood out. It was a high-profile restaurateur from Stockholm who was responsible for the new establishment.

How did the idea of Skellefteå - of all places, perhaps some colleagues thought?

- "That's definitely how it was, when I was asked, I thought so too. At that time, we already had Miss Voon in Stockholm and Uppsala, and it felt like a long way to just go to Uppsala. Going to Skellefteå was like getting on a plane to New York for the first time," he says, laughing.

Fittingly, Miss Voon was offered a room that at least gives a small glimpse of a Manhattan skyline, there at the top with a view for miles.

Jonas Svensson

Photo: Maria Cruseson

- When I understood the whole picture around the city building, the cultural center, the investments in battery and everything that happens in the immediate area, it felt interesting. As soon as I checked out the premises, I immediately fell in love and we have really been well received by the guests and the municipality. People want to move forward in Skellefteå, the drive is tangible, he says.

Now there were no burst water pipes and Jonas seems to have managed to avoid a panic attack, but there were challenges in Skellefteå.

- "There was some hassle when it came to building a team and recruiting, it took some time. When we open a new Miss Voon, it's important for us to be actively involved in the operation and not just leave it to others.

Jonas Svensson is one of the country's most profiled and recognized talented chefs. Many of us have hunted for katsuobushi in Asian shops and dreamed of food trips to Tokyo's back streets in search of that perfect hole-in-the-wall place, after Jonas' missionary work on Japanese and Asian cooking in TV4's Nyhetsmorgon.

Or seen him swinging sauces in Kockarnas kamp.

- "It has become a bit of my signature. I still hold the record for the number of sauce duels, so you could say I got the most TV time of all," he jokes.

His love of sauces comes from his grandmother, sauces that he remembers from his childhood days as "unbeatable". Like many others, it's strong food memories and experiences that still shape a first interest.

Like when little Jonas, aged five, learned to cook mannagrynsgröt and started working on it on weekend mornings before the rest of the family had woken up at home in Sollentuna.

As an adult, he can dream back to the harbor district in Tokyo.

- "My best food memory is probably from a small fish restaurant run by an old man, where he stands at 9 o'clock in the morning and cooks a ramen and the guests line up on the street. He has a pot that has been there as long as he has and the broth is like nothing else. A slice of pork, some scallions, and it's so good it makes you gag.

Anton works as a chef in the kitchen at Miss Voon

Miss Voon's profile is to combine the flavors of Asian cuisines with a Scandinavian foundation. What appeals to him about Japanese cuisine is above all the quality, that nothing is left to chance.

- "Of course, it's all about the ingredients and what raw materials you have, but it's incredibly important how you master the quality and the details. You can't hide anything in your food," he says.

Jonas met master restaurateur Melker Andersson at the age of 18 and had the privilege of working for him for 20 years. Both at the iconic Fredsgatan 12 and later as head chef at Miss Voon, which he opened together with Melker before taking over Miss Voon himself three years ago.

Were you a natural talent or did you struggle?

- It's so difficult to measure talent. I have invested a huge amount of time and energy in my profession. I had a similar passion for football as a youngster in Sollentuna United and always dreamed of being part of something bigger, something similar to the feeling in a football team. It's that excitement, energy and challenge that I recognize in the restaurant world. You could say that I had some natural talent, but behind it all there is a huge amount of work and commitment," says Jonas.

Perhaps he recognizes himself in young Anton Elingstam. The 20-year-old from the village of Myckle just outside Skellefteå, who last year became sous chef at Miss Voon in Skellefteå.

- "We immediately felt that this was a guy we wanted to work with. He has the same commitment and accuracy, the same values as us. It's important to find people who think like you do, and we hit it off," says Jonas about his mentee.

The restaurant Miss Voon

Photo: Jonas Westling

Anton's journey began as an intern and extra worker in the kitchen at Pinchos during high school, then he was lured over to Miss Voon by people he got to know in the industry. Actually, Anton went to technical school, but when he talks about "his school" he means Miss Voon.

- "I've been in the pub for two years now, and looking back at how much I learned in the first six months is incredible. Since then, I have honed my skills. It just goes to show that with the right will and discipline, you can really absorb a lot of information and knowledge in a relatively short time. I really like it here," says Anton.

The position of sous chef is considered the second highest in the kitchen hierarchy after the head chef. Anton is basically involved in every plate that leaves the hatch for service and he is passionate about teamwork and pace.

- It's hard to put your finger on and explain in an understandable way, there's almost something romantic about laughing with colleagues, tinkering with crafts and "sitting in the shit" for an evening. I did the Vasaloppet this year and it's a bit the same - it hurts so much, but once you reach the finish line it's the best feeling ever! It's like standing in a kitchen and being passionate about good service. It costs money, but it's worth it in the end," he says.

Text: Olov Antonsson

Photo: Patrick Degerman