Like many others, we had a serious case of countryside-envy watching the Magnus Nilsson (the award-winning chef of Fäviken restaurant) episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, with its sweeping, picturesque shots of Jämtland and showcase of amazing produce. So much that we’ve been trying to live vicariously looking through the Instagram of Ethel Hoon, the Singaporean-born sous chef of Fäviken (who also took over our Instagram account for a day!). The Le Cordon Bleu Paris graduate’s also flying the Singaporean flag all the way across the globe, running Hoon’s Chinese, a Faviken pop-up restaurant serving Chinese influenced dishes prepared with hyper local ingredients – like jiaozi-style dumplings filled with local mutton and barley.
Hey Ethel! How’d you end up cooking in the kitchen of Fäviken?
I had just finished a year working for chef Sebastian Lepinoy at the two Michelin-starred Les Amis and wanted to experience something completely different from I had been doing. A good friend of mine gifted me the recently-released Fäviken cookbook and I was drawn by the concept of living off the land and working with the seasons. It’s something that felt so foreign for me, having grown up and worked in a tropical country where seasons don’t exist and where most things are imported. I started out at Faviken as a stagiere in the beginning of 2014. I wasn’t offered a job at the end of my stage but later in the year when a position opened up, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been there ever since mid 2015!
What inspired you to start cooking?
I can’t pinpoint any one thing or any specific person that inspired me to start cooking. Being around people like my mother and grandmother, who would cook for the family, was a factor. But I’ve also always been sort of obsessed with eating. I also really like the physical nature of being a cook – being on your feet and creating things with your hands.
What’s a day at Fäviken like for you?
Fäviken is one of the most systematic and organised kitchens I’ve worked in. The nature of the service at Fäviken means that we know exactly how many guests we are serving each night, and any allergies that they might have. This allows us to prep systematically, usually without any last minute surprises. There’s only one menu available, and while there might be dish changes now and then, our mise en place prior to service does not vary much.
We start our day with a quick kitchen meeting at 12pm, where the head chef goes through the list of guests for the day and any of their allergies before we start on our prep for the day.
Family meal starts promptly at 3.30pm, with a briefing on the service flow from the front-of-house and a quick run-through of the menu. 4pm to 6pm is the final two hours of prep work before the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned to begin service. Service is systematic, we try to work at a precise pace to make sure all the components of a dish are cooked and plated at a precise time to achieve a specific eating experience for the customers (since all guests are served the same dish at the same time). We end service with a short debrief to go through any mistakes or any improvements for the day after, and the day ends with a quick and thorough kitchen clean down.
Favourite place for supper in Singapore?
Plate of prata kosong at a Julaiha Muslim restaurant- I love a good piece of dough fried in ghee and Julaiha is a 5-minute drive from my house, is open 24 hours and always makes the prata fresh!
Favourite place for supper in Sweden?
We don’t have much choices for supper in the town we live in. If I do have any late night cravings, we always find a way to satisfy it at home or at one of my friends’ apartments. Beers and a quick pasta or instant ramen are the usual fixes!
Guilty (food) pleasure?
Instant ramen (Shin ramen if you want a specific brand) pimped up with some vegetables and a soft boiled egg!
Any plans for a project in Singapore?
Not at the moment. I feel like I have a lot more to learn and see before I can be sure of what I would like to work on more permanently. Before coming to Sweden, I thought I wanted to focus solely on classic French cuisine but being here has opened my eyes to cuisines and techniques that are equally fascinating and made me realise that there’s so much more to discover!
If you were to open a restaurant, what would it be like?
I honestly have no clue at the moment. Although I would want a place that is more accessible to the general public, meaning something that isn’t too expensive or formal in terms of the dining experience. I enjoy cooking for people. It’s like having guests at your home, and I want to recreate that feeling of warmth and hospitality in a restaurant setting.