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Q&A with Johan Jureskog

Although he’s one of Sweden’s most acclaimed chefs, ­Johan Jureskog’s heart beats for all things American, from cowboy boots to New Orleans and hamburgers.

How did you become a chef?
– When I was 14 years old, my family went on vacation to Mallorca. Before that I had never really visited a restaurant and wasn’t really interested in food. I basically just ate for survival. On that trip, I finally ate at a real restaurant and had an epiphany – I wanted to become a chef!

What else have you done?
– When I was growing up, I sometimes worked extra in my father’s store selling clothes. I like to sell and if I hadn’t ended up as a chef, I’d probably be working as a salesman of some kind.

What’s your proudest moment in your profession?
– When we won the “Chef Olympics” in 2004. The feeling of being the best was euphoric.

What are you working on now?
– As I’ve been creating burgers for McDonalds for three years and done two seasons of the TV show “Världens bästa burgare” (The World’s Best Burger), I’ve become “the burger guy” for the Swedish people. The next step was obvious – setting up my own chain. It will be called Jure­skogs and focus on quality and sustainability. We have our own bakery and will only be using fresh meat from Swedish dairy cows. I also love to eat greens, so there will be two vegetarian burgers and other green alternatives.

What do you do when you aren’t working?
– My wife Paulina and I bought a country house last year, which allows us to take some time off from our hectic lives. My favorite thing to do right now is to cook and enjoy the archipelago with her and our friends. I’m also going to be a full-time father, which is a bit scary, but mostly wonderful.

Which city will you return to?
– I love the US and the complexity of all the different cultures there. But if I have to choose one – New Orleans. It’s cheap and has a peculiar style of cooking you can’t find anywhere else.

Who’s your best friend?
– My brother. We function in the same way and I can be totally at ease with him. When he was 17 and I got home from working in Paris, we connected on another level, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Now, we’re opening Jureskogs together.

What’s your biggest dream?
– I’m living it! With two successful restaurants – AG and Rolfs Kök – the AG kötthandel store, Jureskogs, my extraordinary wife Paulina and the baby – I could not be happier.

What’s your biggest ­nightmare?
– To become severely ill. As a hypochondriac, that’s one of my biggest concerns in life.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
– Hopefully, similar to the life I live today. Naturally, I hope for an expansion of Jureskogs – my goal is 60 restaurants in Sweden within 10 years.

What’s your earliest memory?
– I was three or four and my mother and I went to the department store NK. She wore a fur coat that day. Standing on the escalator I pulled her coat and an old woman turned around staring at me – another woman in a similar fur coat! I burst in tears, scared. My mother was just around the corner, but I think most people can relate to the feeling I felt then – sheer panic!

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