Michael Björklund is a chef from Åland who became known in Finland from the lifestyle TV show Strömsö. He has been voted Chef of the Year both in Finland and in Sweden, and he also took fifth place in the Bocuse d’Or World Championship. Michael runs his own restaurant, Smakbyn, located by the famous Kastelholma castle in Åland. Michael has created the sea-themed menu for Strömma’s dinner cruise this year.
Michael, you’re are a well-known chef in Finland, Sweden and especially in Åland. How did you become a chef?
I love cooking and have always done it. Both of my parents worked with food. So it was quite natural, although I probably had plans for a while to become a carpenter. Luckily my grades did not get me into that schooling! I consider myself very lucky, I have cooking as both profession and hobby.
You’re originally from Åland. What can you tell our readers about Åland?
Åland is a collection of over 6,700 islands, the archipelago here is absolutely remarkable. If you get the chance, go out to one of the small islands and enjoy. Rent a cottage, throw out some fishing nets and enjoy the sun. That is something you cannot get anywhere else.
What is your cooking style like?
I like home cooking based on our wonderful Nordic ingredients. If you use good ingredients, you don’t need to complicate it. Simple, robust and thoughtful, I would say are characteristic of my cooking.
Theme of our July issue is Sea & Shores. How would you say the sea or archipelago has affected your cooking?
I love fish and everything that comes from the sea. My burning seafood interest took me to Gothenburg to work for several years. Fish are not just divinely good, they are also healthy.
You have created menus for Strömma Cruises this summer. How would you describe those menus?
The menus are based on what I myself like. Which are simple, good tastes with coarse honest food. Where there should be something for all tastes.
What is your opinion about Helsinki?
I love Helsinki and am there often, both for work and with the family for fun. Much is done, of course, in the name of food. I like to stroll around and watch people and have a beer at a café. I highly recommend the covered market, of course, or the market by the sea. There are many restaurants to choose from, but remember that it’s a good idea to book a table beforehand.
What are your summer plans?
In that it’s now high season for us on Åland, we are busy taking care of our wonderful guests in Smakbyn. I try to be there as often as I can. I’m also planning a restaurant in Vaasa and even other things in the Helsinki area, so there will surely be some travel. And, of course, a tour with Strömma, we don’t want to miss that!
I have also promised the family a long weekend in Gothenburg, where we go on a short trip every summer. We will take a longer summer holiday in the winter. I think that our Finland is so wonderful, especially during the summer, so I don’t want to travel far away then.