At Snö, cleverly located beside Vasaparken, the uncrowned king of Stockolm ice-crown resides. Kenneth Erlandsson, a former chef with an undeniable love for all things Italian, won three categories out of four (and finished third in the fourth) at the Swedish ice-cream championships in 2018. This year, they put him on the jury to give someone else a chance, but his pistachio gelato, with pistachios from Bronte by the Etna volcano in Italy, has been selected to compete in the Gelato World Tour final in Rimini in January 2020, a world championship of sorts.
He treats me to a cup of the marvelousness on offer, with a biodegradable spoon no less.
Are you comfortable being called Stockholm’s ice-cream king?
It’s a bit of fun, and of course it’s good PR.
You’re a chef originally, how did you come to making ice-cream?
It was 20 years ago, during one of my trips to Italy, when I saw what happened around the gelaterias there. The gelateria is the natural gathering point for the whole family. In Italy you mainly eat gelato later in the evening, after dinner. I love flavours and found textures, flavours and a relationship between texture and taste that I hadn’t experienced before in normal ice-cream. The gelato is not served quite as cold as ice-cream, it’s minus 15 degrees rather than 18. It has less air in it, plus it’s a freshly-made product every day. Actually, I can still feel the taste of a chocolate gelato I had in Sardinia all those years ago.
After the Finns, Swedes consume the most ice-cream in the world per capita. But the quality hasn’t been very high until very recently. How do you view the ice-cream and gelato on offer in Stockholm today?
It’s become so much better over the last few years, and that makes me so happy. If you’re going to eat ice-cream it has be a good product.
So with more good gelaterias opening, is it tough to stay ahead of the competition?
The location is important of course, but I think there’s room for a lot more gelaterias in Stockholm, even here in Vasastan. In Italy there is one gelateria per 2,500 people. Try breaking that down with the number of people in Stockholm. Plus, Swedes eat almost double the amount of ice-cream that the Italians do. I think it’s great that people have discovered good products, and that they are aware of flavours and what’s in the ice-cream they’re eating. That goes for everything nowadays though, not only ice-cream. Our gelato is made from real raw produce, if it contains blueberries, it’s of course real blueberries from the forest. One of the problems here has been to source the fruit. In Italy there’s obviously a much better supply of fruit and nuts.
You’re a tutor for the Gelato University in Bologna, explain.
Well, I have taught in Bologna, but mostly I teach on their behalf here in Sweden. As I have done all the courses myself and there was a demand for it, it was natural they would ask me. So most people who open a gelateria here have been educated by me.
How often do you change the flavours on offer?
I change them every day, and during the day. It depends on the season. We have 16 flavours on offer at any single time, but work with between 20 and 25 over the course of a day.
But you almost entirely work with combinations, you don’t do just strawberry for example?
No, if I do strawberry, it would be strawberry, Amalfi lemons and basil. It’s all about finding the balance between the different flavours. That’s what makes it interesting.
Are there any limitations to what can be done flavour-wise here in Stockholm?
You can do almost anything. But one of the fruits I love the most is fig. In Sweden that’s a hard sell. Just like cheese, in Italy they often make gelato on gorgonzola and such, and that’s not that easy to sell here. But especially fig. That’s huge in Italy and it almost irritates me that it doesn’t work here. I don’t know why. Otherwise my favourites are nuts. Pistachio, hazelnuts and almonds. Plus I like sorbets. And I confess I’m a total nerd when it comes to flavours. I can wake up in the middle of the night and think about something. It’s fascinating to develop the various flavours.