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Chef's Choice - Nils Noren

Chef's Choice is a Unique and Inspiring Book that is a Perfect Gift for
Aspiring Culinary Students, Home Cooks, and Professional Chefs

"Chef's Choice is a beautiful book." - Marcus Samuelsson

Message from Saori Kawano, Founder and President of Korin Japanese Trading Corp

I am happy and proud to announce that after its first year in print Chef's Choice: 22 Culinary Masters Tell How Japanese Food Culture Influenced Their Careers and Cuisine continues to inspire and educate new and experienced chefs.

In this savory collection of mini memoirs, 22 culinary masters tell who and what motivated them to become chefs. They described early career influences, training, favorite Japanese ingredients, tools, and the pivotal role Japanese food culture has played in their cuisine and professional development.

Participating chefs include Nobu Matsuhisa, David Bouley, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, Michael Romano, Lee Anne Wong, Michael Anthony, Wylie Dufresne, Toshio Suzuki, Ben Pollinger, Toni Robertson, Eddy Leroux, Nils Norén, Yosuke Suga, Shinichiro Takagi, Suvir Saran, David Myers, Noriyuki Sugie, Elizabeth Andoh, Barry Wine, James Wierzelewski, and Ben Flatt.

Our goal in writing the book was to inspire, educate, and movitate student chefs, working chefs, home chefs, and everyone who admires Japanese food and culture. We wanted to go deep and learn from top chefs what it takes to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive restaurant world and the role that Japanese food culture played in their cooking and careers. We believe that the stories in Chef’s Choice can be a valuable resource for anyone pursuing a career in the restaurant business and those fascinated by Japanese food culture and cuisine.

We hope you enjoy it!

Chef's Choice Regular price $19.95 | Koirn Price: $15 Click Here


At 19, I was playing percussion in a reggae band when I woke up one morning and thought, "I've got to do something. I want to cook."

When I was seven or eight years old, a school friend and I made a cookie recipe. I was so fascinated that I could take flour––something that doesn’t taste very good by itself––add sugar and a couple of eggs, mix it, roll it, cut it, bake it, and out comes something delicious. Then, when I was 12 or 13, my dad took me to London, where we went to jazz clubs and his favorite Italian restaurant to eat spaghetti carbonara. This was the best thing I had ever tasted! When we came back to Sweden, I looked in every cookbook I could find for recipes for spaghetti carbonara so I could replicate them, find the one I liked best, and then perfect it.

At 19, I was playing percussion in a reggae band when I woke up one morning and thought, “I’ve got to do something. I want to cook.” I went to an unemployment office that same day, and two days later I was auditing a cooking class. A week later I started cooking school. That was how it started, and I’ve never looked back. I think that from that time on, I’ve never worked less than 12 hours a day in the kitchen. I stayed at the school as much as I could, and I was there as early as possible. When I had an internship, I worked double shifts every single day because I felt I had to do this. Cooking became a passion right away, but to this day, I have no idea why I woke up that morning and decided I really wanted to be a cook.

Career Path

I got my first restaurant job after I graduated from culinary school at the age of 20 and went to work for one of the few one-star Michelin restaurants in Sweden. I started working in pastry, but they soon promoted me to sous chef. Less than a year later, I started cooking professionally; I was sous chef for a one-star restaurant! That was really scary, but I had worked hard, and it paid off. For the next eight years, I worked at a lot of different restaurants in Sweden. The first restaurant was French, and then I cooked in all kinds of places, from Asian to classic Swedish. I was executive chef for the first restaurant to receive the star from Michelin for cooking Swedish food.

There are a lot of similarities between Japanese food and Swedish food. I think that is part of why I find it so appealing.

I first had Japanese food with a good friend and coworker who had worked in the first Swedish restaurant to serve sushi. On our days off, we went to his house and made sushi. It wasn’t perfect and probably not the best, but we’d make these huge platters of sushi, maki, sashimi, miso soup––the whole thing. I loved it! I’m sure someone from Japan would say that it was horrible, but for me, not knowing the standard, I thought it was great. It certainly left me longing to know more about Japanese food. So I bought my first Japanese cookbook, and soon after that, I was hooked!

There are a lot of similarities between Japanese food and Swedish food. I think that is part of why I find it so appealing. In Sweden, we have so much herring, gravlax, and other types of cured or raw fish. The textures and flavors are familiar to us. In terms of flavor, Japanese food has a little bit of sweetness to it, and Swedish food does, too. Also, the taste of Japanese food, like Swedish food, is very clean. In Sweden, there were a couple of stores near us where we could buy Japanese ingredients, and I think I was in that store at least three times a week. I was always trying to persuade those stores to get more and better-quality ingredients.

Marcus said, “Nils, I need a sous chef. I don’t want anyone else. I want you.”

When I visited New York for the first time, I went with a friend of mine to Aquavit because we wanted to see what it was all about. At that time Marcus Samuelsson was working there as a cook, and over the next two weeks I got to know him before I went back to Sweden. When Aquavit’s executive chef unexpectedly died, the owners asked Marcus if he wanted to be executive chef. That’s when he called me and said, “Nils, I need a sous chef. I don’t want anyone else––I want you.” Aquavit was a one-star restaurant when I came to work there in June 1995. In September 1995, we got our three-star review from Ruth Reichl, the food critic for The New York Times, so we tripled the number of stars in no time.

(Click here for a free PDF download of NIL NORÉN’s complete mini memoir.)