“As the premier Scandinavian dining destination in New York since 1987,” says Marcus Jernmark, “we wanted to participate in Made in America because it is a positive reflection of America’s culinary legacy and future.” Only 3 years old when Aquavit opened in a beautiful townhouse on West 54th Street, Jernmark has accomplished many things in his 28 years.
I meet Jermark at Aquavit. He’s wearing his Happy Socks, one of many Scandinavian products he likes to promote, tells me how excited he is by the rise of food blogging and the interest in food because he explains he now feeds herring to tables of young women in the Bistro, “People are intrigued by food experiences and want to try.”
“Sweden has a 500 year old culinary tradition based on fresh ingredients served at the peak of their short seasons, combined with pickled, cured, and preserved foods that sustain us from harvest to harvest,” says Jernmark. He has embraced the variety and abundance of produce in the United States which may have only been available back home in Europe for a limited season.
Perhaps his biggest ‘import’ from his homeland is the “Manifesto for the New Nordic Cuisine” that began in Denmark with principle architects Claus Meyer and René Redzepi of NOMA (voted top restaurant in the world 2010):
The aims of New Nordic Cuisine are:
1. To express the purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics we wish to associate with our region.
2. To reflect the changing of the seasons in the meals we make.
3. To base our cooking on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly excellent in our climates, landscapes and waters.
4. To combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge of health and well-being.
5. To promote Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers – and to spread the word about their underlying cultures.
6. To promote animal welfare and a sound production process in our seas, on our farmland and in the wild.
7. To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.
8. To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.
9. To combine local self-sufficiency with regional sharing of high-quality products.
10. To join forces with consumer representatives, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, the fishing, food , retail and wholesale industries, researchers, teachers, politicians and authorities on this project for the benefit and advantage of everyone in the Nordic countries.
Jernmark has used all of the above and merged it with American classic comfort food – to come up with a salmon burger for Made in America. Pretty little pink patties infused with dill and a hard cheese are topped with curry remoulade and crispy anchovies on a brioche bun. When I met with Jernmark in his kitchen at Aquavit he made up some of the burgers – which were delicious – lots of salmon, dill and a little greens on a mini brioche bun.
A perfect blend of the Swedish Chef in New York City is his take the American hamburger using a more classical Swedish flavor profile. This Swedish Chef has very little in common with the character who starred in the Muppets. Jernmark was the youngest chef I met on my travels around America for Made in America. So young in fact that he probably wasn’t even born when the muppets were on the television and he didn’t grow up watching the Swedish Chef, although he was familiar with the character.
I had to revisit this blast from the past – and what better dish for him to be cooking up than a fish that talks back?