Marcus's background is not typical of most top, young New York chefs.
His mentor is not a renowned French chef, he didn't go to the CIA, nor
even did he do the typical stints in New York's four-star restaurants.
Instead his grandmother is his mentor, he went to the Culinary Institute
in Göteborg, Sweden and he's worked in Switzerland, Austria and France.
That's why, far from being limited to meatballs and herring, his Scandinavian
cuisine is innovative and at the same time traditional. While a meal at
Aquavit may answer your culinary dreams, it also plays with your culinary
expectations; oysters topped with curry-mango sorbet as a first course,
foie gras ganache comes with a main course, and rhubarb served six ways
as a dessert.
is kind enough to simplify it for us as he explains that his cooking can
be broken down into 5 elements he calls building blocks. "One thing that
I think Scandinavia and Sweden are known for, more so than for their food,
is their minimalist design. We have a lot of similarities with Japanese
culture. The aesthetic for me is key. All these five building blocks:
aesthetic, texture, working with fish and seafood, pickling and preserving
and game combined. These elements drive the flavor."
design was a part of Marcus's daily life growing up in Sweden, from the
way he dressed to the way he put together his room as a kid, and it has
become part of who he is today. When he's not sporting his navy chef coat
with gold trim, Marcus opts for Prada and Calvin Klein more so than Gucci
or Versace. He says he's drawn to their strong but simple lines. Even
at Ikea (one of his country's most recognizable modern imports) you see
simple stuff, but when shopping for special teapots and ceramics for his
restaurant, Takashimaya* is his weakness.
providence that Aquavit is a block away from New York's Museum of Modern
Art and Marcus often visits its exhibitions as well as those of downtown's
newer galleries. Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollack and Basquiat are a few
more of Marcus's muses.
in the kitchen, Marcus uses the plate as his canvas - think Pollack with
less splatter. Marcus's most prized tool in the kitchen is his brush:
"It's something I've had forever, since I was a kid. I paint on plates.
Anything is a vehicle for me to serve food on." Contrasting colors and
texture is one of Marcus's trademarks. He'll often paint a striking, ribbon
of balsamic reduction or a spoon of black mustard on a stark, white plate.
He eagerly draws on New York's multiculturalism, from East Village grunge
to Park Avenue pristine - and he mixes them. Take for instance, how he
serves osetra caviar on broken glass… junk culture juxtaposed with luxury
artistic control of his presentation and bold cuisine symbolizes the essence
of his personal style, reflecting the postmodern influences of his upbringing
in Sweden and his gift for incorporating strong minimalist design in dishes
that are nonetheless full of astonishing, vibrant flavors.
first part of Marcus's Muse is on aesthetic. Stay tuned for the scoop
on all five of his inspirations he calls building blocks.
is located at 693 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan (between 54th and 55th Streets).
The store carries specialty products from cosmetics to flowers to their
own home collection. The main attractions for Marcus are their beautiful
plates, bowls and teapots. It's like an F.A.O. Schwartz for grownups.