My Life in Food with Alex Nietosvuori, Hjem’s Michelin-Starred Chef

We check in with Hjem’s Alex Nietosvuori to discuss his love of food, his favourite dishes and foodie memories…

Hjem, a Michelin-Starred fine dining restaurant in Northumberland, is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Alex Nietosvuori and Ally Thompson-Nietosvuori.

Located in the heart of the Tyne Valley, Northumberland, Hjem is a fine dining foodie destination combining the best produce from Northumberland with Scandinavian values and cooking techniques to offer a menu of beautiful and innovative dishes.

Hjem (pronounced ‘yem’) means ‘home’ in both Northumbrian and Scandinavian, aligning perfectly with the values of the restaurant.

Hjem interior

A meal that takes you back to childhood…

In Sweden we have a tradition of crayfish parties; kräftskiva. I think when the tradition began it was to do with the fishing boats and when crayfish were at their most plentiful.

Now, throughout August, my parents, and their friends from across Landskrona (my hometown) host a party where you wear silly hats, drink too much aquavit, sing songs and celebrate crayfish. They are the best parties! There’s nothing like it to remind me of my childhood in Sweden!

The food that brings you the greatest joy…

I will never get bored of gravadlax. I am particularly fond of salmon, but any cured fish is my main go-to. Breakfast, lunch or dinner… it brings me so much happiness!

Hjem food

The food that represents where you come from…

The Scandinavian countries are famous for their fish, and nothing represents where I come from more than pickled herring. Our fridge always has a jar or two in case of emergencies, but also as a breakfast essential.

I also always have some surströmming (fermented herring so potent you have to open it outside in a bucket of water) on hand just in case, but that is definitely an acquired taste.

Your most memorable meal…

My wife and I ate at Per Se in New York just before lockdown. It was the last meal out on our first holiday since we opened the restaurant (and subsequently the last meal we had out for sometime!).

It was snowing outside so the views across Central Park were amazing. The cooking, produce, service and experience in general was so special. Not one I will forget!

Hjem food

Your favourite meal of the day and why…

Breakfast, without a shadow of a doubt. My wife isn’t a breakfast eater so it’s always a battle in the morning to work out what we are both going to have. It is my favourite time to eat and a meal I take lots of time to prepare, before I head into work.

My brother visits from London at least once a month and breakfast is always the main topic of discussion. Potato röstis, red onion, crème fraiche and caviar is the special occasion breakfast of choice.

The best cook you know…

Daniel Berlin, who now has a new restaurant in Skåne in the south of Sweden, was my mentor growing up and throughout my training. He is a really calm man, with so much talent, passion and knowledge. He cooks amazing food and is a massive inspiration for me in everything I do.

Hjem interior

The food you turn to when you need some comfort…

Traditionally on a Friday night, growing up, we had Swedish tacos. Trying to explain this to my English wife’s family is always difficult but basically, it’s spiced mince with avocado, sweetcorn, olives, crème fraiche and cheese served in tortilla.

I think every Swedish family has this on a Friday night. As it is also super quick and easy to prepare its often our late night after work dinner, but one that always brings me comfort.

The food you always need in your fridge…

Cheese. I love blue cheese especially. We have two shelves in our fridge just for cheese and when I am out in Newcastle, or further afield, I always bring some home.

I have some cloudberry jam that I bought the last time I was in Scandinavia which I really enjoy with it, but I am also just as happy with quince paste too.

Hjem food

The food you’d never give up…

I don’t think I have ever given anything up food-wise. I love liquorice toffees and Lindt white chocolates though and I would never give those up!

What food means to you…

For many people food is fuel to keep the body going. For me, and my wife, it is the thing we think and talk about the most. Be it a family meal, a meal with friends or staff tea it is just as important.

I am aware that in the current climate and constantly rising costs, not everyone is able to dine out, or feed themselves in the way that they would like to, however, I couldn’t imagine a life where I didn’t eat or think about food the way I do. It also literally puts food on my table!

Hjem at Fenwick

Experience Hjem at Fenwick

For nine weeks only, foodies can experience Restaurant Hjem at Fenwick Newcastle. This unique pop-up restaurant allows diners the unique opportunity to experience Hjem’s famous traditional Scandinavian flavours and signature cooking style created using the finest seasonal Northumbrian produce in the heart of Newcastle city centre. Make sure to stop by between 31 May and 4 August.