Chef of the Week: Shane Davies Nilsson, Head Chef at Picton Systrad & Nordik Kitchen in South Wales

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I’ve been running my pop-up now for the past two years, alongside doing freelance work and private dining.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for food in general came from my mum and my Mormor (Swedish grandmother). A lot of what I learnt to start with came from them, before I headed off to Gower College Swansea at 16 to really begin my journey in the industry.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
It would definitely be having the scope to be creative. Whether that’s sitting down and researching dishes from the past to tweak and improve or coming up with something new and whacky!

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Apple vinegar, cold pressed rapeseed oil and butter.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Besides my knives, I’d have to say a Pacojet.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Small plates. I know the whole sharing/tapas concept has been around for a while, but I think guests have become more open to trying new dishes so small plates are a lot more prominent and in the spotlight.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Ego. I think a lot of us have at some point in our careers have let our ego and pride get the best of us which can lead to us not only stagnating, but regressing because we’ve thought we’re better than we are.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Late winter/spring! I’m always waiting on the forced Yorkshire rhubarb to pop up! Summer is a close second though.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My potato & smoked eel dish, for definite. I did it on my first pop-up in late 2021 and it’s gone through so many changes over these past two years, it’s really a dish that’s grown alongside me.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Depends on where my mood takes me. Sometimes I’ll look back at Scandinavian dishes from the past and think about how I can reimagine them, other times I’ll look at memories and think of creating something that reflects how that moment made me feel.

Who was your greatest influence?
In terms of life, it would definitely be my mum. In terms of the direction my career has gone, Gunnar Karl Gislason & Ragnar Eiriksson from my time at Dill Restaurant in Iceland.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
It’s hard to narrow it down to three but I’d have to say Simon Rogan, Niklas Ekstedt and Tommy Heaney.

What is your favourite cookbook?
North by Gunnar Karl Gíslason.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Matt Powell at Annwn in Narbeth, tipping him to get a star come February! Gareth Stevenson up at Stuart Collins’ Docket restaurant in Wrexham is also knocking out some cracking stuff!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Dan Lee’s Dai Pai Dong at Hockley Social Club in Birmingham. Honestly chuffed to bits for him and can’t wait to visit properly in 2024.