Chef: Conny Andersson
Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, a Four Seasons Property
Chef Conny Andersson strolls through the Regent Beverly Wilshire’s THEBlvd restaurant, a fair distance from his less-than-illustrious beginning as a 16-year-old, travel-hungry kid from Sweden peeling onions aboard a German cruise ship.
Andersson is a thoroughbred in culinary circles and, despite an initial reluctance to enter the business, his passion for food preparation was ultimately fed by expert chefs closer to home—his mother and grandfather. “I think it kind of grew on me more than anything…I was taking up drawing,” he says. “I knew I wanted to do something with my hands, to be active, and I liked cooking more and more because it’s a little like a sport—it’s fast-paced and you are immediately criticized or praised. The more you do it, the more you practice, the more comfortable you get. Then, when you know the products, you can create freely; you know the boundaries so you can push them…it’s spontaneous.”
Acknowledging a love for Swedish food, Andersson does not classify his hand- iwork as Swedish, or French, or Indian, or Caribbean in style, although each of these cuisines has influenced him in his pursuit of prime produce. “All the different cuisines are a part of me every day…I’ve been there, lived there. I’m never trying to wing a certain cuisine. My style is a very global thing; I like clean cooking, good produce. The older I get, the more it’s about the food—the buying of the food, and the execution of the cooking rather than the garnish.”
On classic dishes versus modern practices, Andersson notes that “most things have usually been done in some way or another, and you’ve got to put your take on it. Classic dishes are classic because certain things belong to one another, and for good reason. I like to take timeless dishes, and break them apart. Keep the classic flavors but keep it simple. Good food is not about the bells and whistles. I think every chef should sit down and eat their dishes. Many times chefs create amazing dishes but you sit down and you look at it, and you don’t know where to start,or how it’s supposed to come together.”
Andersson’s profession has suited that love of travel and exploration which led him onto the cruise ship many meals ago. His quest for the exploration and discovery of new flavors finds him a regular fixture at the Santa Monica and Beverly Hills farmers’ markets. His eyes light up at the mention of a recent sojourn that resulted in the uncovering of something new. “I’ve used wasabi before, but I only just started thinking about the wasabi leaf itself,” he explains. “It has this incredible flavor, and I’m like, ‘Where has this been? Why haven’t I seen this before? Why didn’t someone tell me about this?’”
Andersson relates that “This is more than a job. It’s a lot of hours, it’s stressful, but when you decide you want to do it, you have to just go for it. I love it, it’s the most rewarding job.” Confessing that he uses golf to relax, Andersson suggests that his son would say Dad’s passion for cooking is more of an obsession than a profession: “My son says, ‘You only think about what to eat next, and where we’re goingtoeatnext.’ I think he wants me to play ping-pong instead.”