Meet Bronte Aurell, food writer and co-founder of ScandiKitchen, the café and grocery shop found in the heart of Fitzrovia. We chatted with Bronte to find out more about her ‘food with love’ cooking philosophy, inspirations and what’s waiting inside her latest book, Essence of Hygge.
What inspired you to launch ScandiKitchen?
My partner Jonas and I both missed food from home – so we decided to create a place where we could get the food we missed – both in terms of groceries as well as good, basic lunch food. We wanted to create a place not just for ex pats but for everyone curious about Scandinavian food. We always wanted to be simple and just exactly what we eat back home – never fancy or complicated.
Tell us more about your culinary background…
I’m a foodie. I’ve worked with food since I was 14, but I went the traditional way and got a more academic education. It’s funny, though – I always came back to food, like it was a calling!
My life is spent in the kitchen. In my kitchen, this is the heart of my family life. We share, we love and we live in the kitchen. Food at work, food at home – because the food we make is personal and a part of our culture, it doesn’t stop being personal just because I go to work.
What can readers expect from the new book?
Essence of Hygge is my little contribution to all the books about hygge. Because to be frank, quite a number of the ones published got it wrong. I just couldn’t sit back and not have my say and watch good old Hygge be misunderstood. So, I wrote the book I wanted to write and we decorated it with my favourite recipes from my cookbooks. It’s less of a cookbook but more of a book about hygge and what it really is.
Describe your cooking philosophy in three words.
Food with love.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
I don’t have just one. I am grateful and proud every day for the big stuff as well as the small. The journey is amazing.
Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
I think my advice is more for female chefs: Diversify. The industry is unfair in how it practises, leaving little time for a family balance, for balanced work hours… and if you want to both cook and have a family, you need to branch out and be different, or you might lose out.
Educate yourself not just in the making of food but also the stuff alongside it. There are many careers in food that don’t require working every evening, but you have to identify the ones that might fit your aspirations and talent and then make sure you plan how to get there in time.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Homely. I am a cook, not a chef. I cook the same for my family that I cook at work and write about in my books.
What provides you with inspiration for the dishes on the menu?
Traditional Scandinavian lunch food. Nothing fancy, just how we eat at home.
Do you have any role models?
It’s a hard question. Of course we all have people we admire and lookup to. My life in food is not just about cooking, it was always about creating a job for us that worked as a family, too. We’ve done that – but only because we decided to model it on a very Scandi way of doing things where Jonas and I have been parents 50/50 as well as running a business together with both of us at the front, steering the ship.
We are uncompromising ‘Equalists’ and are raising our daughters to know that the world is a much better place if we’re all equal. He’s the biggest feminist I know. Can he be my role model as well as my rock? Well, I guess he is!
I have many role models, but they don’t necessarily have to do just with food. If I have to pick a chef role model, then it would be Elena Arzak. I could eat the food she makes in her restaurants for ever and ever. She is strong and extremely accomplished and she is a nice person, too. I like people in this industry who are determined and get to the top whilst still being nice and kind to people around them.
What food takes you back to childhood?
Real Danish pastries, freshly baked by my local baker in my village. The first batch of those delicious flaky pastries was always out of the oven at 4:30 am, so if you timed it right and went to the back door of the bakery by 5:30 am, the icing would have just been added and the pastries were just about cool enough to eat and the baker would always let you have some. It was worth getting up early for!
What is your favourite spring dish and ingredient?
Just give me a bunch of British asparagus and some butter and I’m happy.
PLUS: Find more chef interviews here.