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In 2004 Aujalay won Sweden’s prestigious Chef of the Year award and in 2011 he became known throughout the country when he stepped in as one of three judges on Sweden's version of the world-famous TV show MasterChef. Markus Aujalay has an impressive career to his name, but it was not always a given that he would become a chef.
- I have always been interested in food although perhaps that interest was, first and foremost, in the eating. I did not, however, consider that I would become a chef when I was younger. That interest came when I started working at a restaurant in evenings and on weekends as a 13 - 14-year-old. I found that I thrived in that environment and it is probably there where the idea of working as a chef took hold.
Whether it is in one of his restaurants or on his immensely popular YouTube channel - Markus impresses his viewers daily with a variety of appetising dishes. The first dish to his name that he can remember came about when Markus was seven years old, but he does not dare say that he mastered it. - I don't know if mastering is the right word, laughs Markus.
But the first dish that I remember cooking at home was when I was maybe seven years old. I stood on a stool in the kitchen and cooked a Chili con Carne for everyone in the family.
- I got to be in control and decide how it should be flavoured, I still recall that feeling - what it was like to be able to own the situation and be able to decide everything myself. It was fantastic, so I remember it well.
Markus’s journey from a humble Chili con Carne to a variety of dishes and titles is impressive. While we find inspiration from Markus's recipes, he finds inspiration from travel, his own restaurant visits and social media. The process from idea to a finished dish looks different depending on whether it is for one of his restaurants or his YouTube channel:
- For the restaurants, I am happy to have an idea that we can test and try, to see what suits the restaurant but when I cook for my YouTube clips and such, I do not test anything beforehand. I cook food that I feel I have mastered and that I want to share with the viewers.
His own kitchen series has been something of a slow cook for Markus, there have been many requests over the years but there was never enough time to learn and understand the process. Until now. So, what did Markus feel was important to include in his first collection? - The most important thing for me was somewhere to prepare so there were cutting boards in different sizes for different occasions. In my experience many people lack the essentials at home that make cooking easier, for example a large cutting board so you actually have room for a few things on it. - Then it was also very important to consider the breadth of the collection. There would be frying pans, some pots, cutting boards, colanders, yes, but everything is possible. This is just the beginning, we will come up with new products and develop the brand further, so we are far from done.
You cannot miss Markus's passion for food. There is a warmth and elegance to his cooking that attracts the viewer and there are so many of us who love to recreate his dishes. So, what we want to know is what should we keep in mind when choosing cooking utensils?
- The most important thing is, first and foremost, the feeling of the products, how does the frying pan feel in your hand? How's the handle? The size? It must be good quality in comparison to the cost, so the whole concept is very important. It should feel good and something that inspires you!
That's why it was extra fun to produce my own kitchen series that I stand for and that I personally like. I am very happy with the products we have developed and it has been great fun to have been involved in designing them, feeling them, developing the handles - I am very proud and happy with the collection.
The stylish kitchen series reflects Markus Aujalay's cooking style - simple and elegant. The products are straight to the point, for those who want to find joy in cooking.
- If you feel that you are a beginner in the kitchen or do not have all the essential kitchen utensils or equipment, it is worth investing in some quality items, so you have different products at home therefore ensuring it is much more fun to cook. I often see people who do not have so many things at home and then it is just not as fun, says Markus.
I often say this but pretend that you are a bit of a professional chef at home - have a solid cutting board, have a few different frying pans and pots that you can use so you do not feel that you must pour things into bowls and wash everything while you work, because you do not have slightly different sizes at home.
- It will of course be a small investment to buy what is needed, but the products also last a very long time.
Markus’s collection includes three different types of frying pans - Classic, Steelsafe and Exclusive.
- All the frying pans really work for all purposes, but the Steelsafe pan is made of a different material inside which means that it can also withstand metal tools, which of course makes it easier for those people who like to use metal tools when they cook.
- With the coated pans one should be a little careful with what utensils you use, but in general you can use any of the frying pans for any purpose.
Planning your cooking is just as important for the enjoyment of cooking as using the correct kitchen utensils.
- I do not believe you can stop working at 17:00 and think that you can have dinner served by 18:00 and have had time to shop before that. You must learn to plan your cooking, we often plan a lot of other things in life and in the same way you need to plan your cooking as well, says Markus.
- It is very common to be at home and suddenly you realise you are missing tomato puree that should be in the dish, then things get a little tricky. So plan, pick out everything and pretend that you are a TV chef. Then it will be much easier.
I don’t really have a favourite spice so to speak, but of course I cannot work without salt or pepper.
Which fresh ingredient should you always have at home?
I almost always have garlic, lemon, a little chilli, butter and olive oil at home because then you can do a lot with just a few extra ingredients.
Do you have meal that you would describe as a “guilty pleasure”?
- I do enjoy eating fried falukorv (a type of Swedish sausage) with stewed macaroni and ketchup, I eat most things really. If I want to do something quick and easy like that, it may be more often that I make scrambled eggs or a quick soup.
What do you serve at home on a weekday evening?
- It can be anything from a simple pasta dish to pan-fried beef with cream sauce, lingonberries, boiled potatoes and pickles. Or a fish soup.
Coriander, yes or no?
Yes, absolutely! Sometimes it is possible to get into a coriander flow and then you can almost long for it, once you have learned to like it.
Text: Arijana Kapic