With his chef's whites, horn-rimmed glasses and three-day stubble, the top Swedish chef Magnus Ek doesn't bear much resemblance to a castaway. But he again landed on an island when trying to find a new spot for his famous restaurant Oaxen Skärgårdskrog, which was situated on a small isle: Oaxen Krog, which opened in 2013, is now located on an archipelago island of Djurgården in the centre of the city.
Discerning gourmets just love to go ashore there to taste Magnus's innovative and regionally rooted New Nordic Cuisine, which is among the best in the world. "I don't have a mentor. But I am inspired by people who are passionate about what they do..." Ek's transformation into one of the world's best chefs was as calm and down-to-earth as the man himself. His CV boasts neither renowned top chefs in Paris or London, nor unusual cooking adventures on foreign soil. Instead, Ek developed his very own range at an early stage and came up with a kitchen philosophy firmly based on regionality and sustainability long before starred chefs like René Redzepi. Ek moved to Oaxen with his partner Agneta Green in 1994, after spells in several other restaurants. It is more by coincidence that the couple landed on this small island, which lies around an hour from Stockholm and can only be reached by ferry: "We were aiming for southern Sweden but ended up in Oaxen." The couple eventually opened their Oaxen Skärgårdskrog restaurant there. The fertile, remote island supported Ek's cooking philosophy of only using sustainable and, above all, regional produce. He found delicacies such as wild herbs, seaweed and berries right on his doorstep. One of his main priorities: "It makes me very happy when I find my ingredients in nature. For me, cooking is primarily about finding the best ingredients."
Word quickly spread about Ek's cooking talent, making the small island a real hotspot on the gastronomic scene. Discerning gourmets were only too keen for Ek to spoil them here with his modern and innovative cuisine. With perfect craftsmanship, he created dishes such as his Arctic char with herring broth, puffed grain, egg yolk and artichoke, his spider crab cooked in kelp with shellfish jus, fennel purée, rhubarb, asparagus and semi-dried carrots with burned pepper, and his chopped calf's heart and beef fillet with beef marrow, green juniper, grilled cucumber, and char-grilled onions and wild flowers. These and other unusual creations saw Ek's restaurant grace the World's 50 best restaurants list five times between 1994 and 2011. The restaurant was also awarded the title of Sweden's best restaurant by the White Guide magazine. In 2011, after almost 17 years, Ek and Green closed down the Oaxen Skärgårdskrog and went in search of a new location in Stockholm. The reasons: Due to the weather, they had to close the restaurant on Oaxen for several months each year. Furthermore, their cooking on the island was hidden from the Michelin Guide, which only rates Stockholm-based restaurants in Sweden. Shortly after closing the restaurant, Ek opened his own butcher's shop, where he cures and smokes meat himself. In May 2013, Ek wrote another chapter in his culinary success story when he finally opened his new restaurant, Oaxen Krog, on an archipelago island near the city – much to the delight of many gourmets.
When it comes to the location for a restaurant, Magnus Ek is like a castaway: sooner or later, he will run ashore on an island, as was the case with his Oaxen Krog restaurant in Stockholm, the successor of the world-famous island restaurant Oaxen Skärgårdskrog. On the small archipelago island near the city, he currently celebrates his modern and regional cuisine, which is among the best in the world and therefore has been awarded with one Michelin star.
A different top chef each month. It doesn‘t matter which continent or country they come from or whether they serve traditional, fusion or molecular cuisine. What matters most is the variety. And, of course, the high quality of the dishes.
Eckart Witzigmann, Chef of the Century and patron of Restaurant Ikarus, implemented the concept successfully from 2003 to 2013, together with Executive Chef Roland Trettl. Since January 2014, the Ikarus Concept has been continued under the patronage of Eckart Witzigmann and guidance of Martin Klein, who for many years was the partner and Chef de Cuisine of former Executive Chef Roland Trettl. Unique instead of mainstream, multi-faceted instead of simplistic, bold instead of boring, and cosmopolitan instead of narrow-minded will continue to be the motto under Martin. The result? Satisfied bons vivants who relish fine cuisine.
For the chefs of Restaurant Ikarus, the guest chef concept means adapting to a new menu, a new top chef and a new philosophy each and every month. This demands a high degree of talent, versatility and team spirit.
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Images © Helge Kirchberger / Red Bull Hangar-7