From Berlin with love: a night with Michelin-Star chef Björn Swanson


Björn Swanson, GOLVET

As the son of an American, he was born and raised in Berlin. And he grew up in Schöneberg – under a great ethnic influence by Turkish and Arabian people.

Food did not play a large role in his family, so do not expect him to tell you that becoming a chef was his childhood’s dream, it was not. Instead,  he was dreaming of a career in the military. At the age of 17, he went to the States to volunteer for the Marine Corps. But a year (and a broken knee) later,  he was released with all honours. So, he returned to Germany. That’s the point where the curve in his plans appeared.

After staging in Michelin-starred kitchens, his first position as head chef came in 2014 at the Relais & Chateaux Gutshaus Stolpe – a 5 star resort in Mecklenburg-Pommern. But his year was definitely 2017: he returned to Berlin, a different man, and yet very much the same, to create Golvet. A casual fine dining restaurant of 500 square meters with one of the best bars in town. With the signature of a now purist.

That’s pretty much the story of Executive Chef of Michelin-starred Golvet in Berlin, Björn Swanson. A German chef who uses only the best ingredients to create delicious dishes influenced by his roots – both American and German, with a dash of Arabia.

I met him over dinner a year ago at Sani Resort, during the 2018 Sani Gourmet Festival. And I promised myself to soon travel the distance to Berlin, only to feel the atmosphere of the Golvet, his home.
Because that night, with his menu and charm, he reminded me of all the reasons I have always loved Berlin and all its majestic and unique contradictions.

 

 

 

PERSONAL

 

What perfume do you wear? 

My favorite one is “Sculpture by Nikos”. It’s just very balanced with a distinctive identity. I’m a purist, alright.

 

 

Your favorite color? 

I love brown, green and blue.

 

 

Name the one piece of clothing, or accessory you simply could not imagine life without.

I’m a suit fanatic. As often as I can, I where a suit. I just love the feeling. But to be honest – at home I love my jogging pants 😉

 

 

Which fabric describes you best?

I choose cotton. Simple, classic, timeless, a true transformer.

 

 

Favorite dish.

Fresh baked bread with olive oil, salt, chili and pepper – I know, very simple. And I would take a green salad as well.

 

 

Favorite ingredient.

I love all ingredients and I treat every single one of them with the same respect. Everything has its worth. Don’t matter if it’s a lobster or a cucumber.

 

 

The one ingredient you’d prefer to never use.

Lobster – the time is just over and the taste is overrated, there are better alternatives.

 

 

Favorite artists.

In terms of art – Marc Chagall, in terms of music – Louis Armstrong and in terms of photography Helmut Newton.

 

 

Name the man you have looked up to, while growing up. Who inspired you to be the man you have become?

As most people would answer, my dad, but in my case it’s a bit different, as I have always wanted to make thinks different and definitely not be like him. But, it turns out, you can’t hide your roots. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without him, so, thank you, dad.

 

 

What is the first thing you would teach your son, in things style? 

The first thing I’ve already taught him, was to be nice, gentle and kind to women – no matter what. Noah is just 3 years old but he would never be rude to his mother, his sister or any other woman. That’s the most important part, in my opinion. Kindness and politeness. Beside, of course, table manners. But I also taught my daughter Lily to be equally gentle and kind, and yet at all times smart, with men 😉

 

 

Name the most stylish man (dead or alive).

Matthew McConaughey (alive) and Michael Jackson (dead).

 

 

A chef you look up to.

Me. I don’t have idols. I just try to be the best chef that I can possibly be. 

 

 

Describe yourself using three words.

Stubborn, tough, warm. 

 

 

What is the ultimate luxury for you.

Quality time with my kids.

 

 

 

 

ON WORK

 

What inspires you the most for each new dish or menu?

My team – it’s not about my dishes – it’s about the team and the creativity that each and every one brings to the game. And my culinary philosophy is equally simple: grounded, sustained, delicious and different.

 

 

Describe cooking in three words.

I just need one: Freedom.

 

 

If you were a dish, what would it be?

Whipped cream, probably 😉

 

 

The most important lesson you were taught within a kitchen.

Chances don’t come twice. There is no room for mistakes.

 

 

When did you know that this is what you wanted to do?

The first day I came into a kitchen. I was too young. 

 

 

How important are the ingredients used? What really constitutes luxury, when it comes to food?

There are no luxury products, but it’s about the ingredients. There can be absolutely no compromises.

 

 

Who is the client that you would ideally serve? 

Everyone who loves good food, is kind and definitely open minded.

 

 

Where do you imagine yourself to be ideally in –say- ten years from now? 

Still at the Golvet and in Berlin.

 

 

Imagine you were to host a private dinner party, say for five guests. Who would you ideally invite, serve and dine with? (They can be dead or alive, imaginary list)

John F. Kennedy, Jimmi Hendrix, John Lennon, Bill Gates and Amy Winehouse.

 

 

What can be considered as “ethical”, “modern” and “sustainable” when it comes down to cooking?

This is what I’m working on at the Golvet. My conscience plays a huge role and so we cook as sustainable as possible, as seasonal as possible and extreme ethical – which means that we don’t use ingredients such as tuna, eel, foi gras etc. etc. 

 

 

 

 

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Doya Karolini

About the Author Doya Karolini

Writer, photographer, digital content creator. A notorious driver, a wicked traveler and a lover of all things black and white.

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