Chef Bengtsson grew up in a small town on the west coast of Sweden and became interested in the culinary arts at a very young age, thanks to her grandmother, who was an avid home cook. The baking and cooking of Bengtsson’s youth grew into professional aspirations when she enrolled in Stockholm’s Hotel and Restaurant School, where she trained in every restaurant role, from savory and pastry to waiting tables and hostessing.
It was during an internship at Edsbacka Krog–the only Michelin two-star restaurant in Sweden at that time–where she discovered her love specifically for pastry, and continued to work in the kitchen there for four years after graduation. She then took a position at Restaurant Prinsen, one of Stockholm’s oldest and busiest bistros. From there Bengtsson joined Operakällaren, the award-winning historical restaurant located in Stockholm’s Opera House, where she remained for nearly five years.
Former Aquavit Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark recruited Bengtsson in 2010 to join the restaurant as Pastry Chef. Bengtsson quickly became known for her creative interpretations of classic Scandinavian desserts, as well as establishing a new bread program. Her style was reflective of the region’s penchant for local products, progressive techniques, and continuing traditions; and it was well received, as Aquavit was recognized with one star in the Michelin Guide New York City in 2013 and 2014.
Håkan Swahn, the owner of Aquavit, saw talent and fresh perspective in Chef Bengtsson’s skillset and offered her the role of Executive Chef in spring 2014. She accepted the job, and since then has injected the critically acclaimed menu with her personal style and experience. In October, her work garnered a second Michelin Star for Aquavit, making her the second female chef in the US to run a two-star kitchen and the first ever Swedish female chef to do so.
Describe your culinary philosophy in 4 words…
Seasonal, traditional, approachable, beautiful
What is your greatest inspiration?
The world around me.
If you could take a plane ride to any restaurant in the world, just for one meal, where would you go?
What four things would you take to a desert island?
My favorite knife, rope (to build a hut or a raft), coffee (I simply can’t live without it), and my older sister (who is also my best friend)
- 2 Michelin stars
- 3* | New York Times
65 East 55th Street
Find Emma’s recipes from FOUR USA Winter 2015 here
Images by Signe Birke