Emma Bengtsson

Aquavit, New York


Emma Bengtsson grew up in the small Swedish fishing village of Falkenberg and originally wanted to be a fighter pilot. In her youth, Emma would go to shooting ranges with her father in preparation for a military career, however, her grandmother was an avid home cook and inspired her to go on to study at the International Restaurant School in Stockholm at the age of 16. Emma went on to stage as a pastry chef at Edsbacka Krog – the only Swedish restaurant to hold two Michelin stars at the time. Here, she discovered she enjoyed working as a pastry chef and after graduating, she continued to work at the restaurant for four years. She then went on to work at Operakällaren within the Royal Swedish Opera as a pastry chef for five years.

After vacationing in Mexico and a quick stop in Manhattan, Emma knew she wanted to move to New York City. In 2010, at 29 years old, she got her chance when then Aquavit Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark recruited her to join the team as a pastry chef. Her interpretation of classic Scandinavian desserts quickly garnered critical acclaim with Aquavit winning a Michelin star. Emma caught the attention of owner Hakan Swahn, who offered her the Executive Chef position in 2014 when Jernmark resigned. Although Emma was initially hesitant and refused, she took her delicate approach to pastry and adapted it to savory dishes which led to the restaurant being awarded two Michelin stars the same year. This award made her the first Swedish woman to hold two Michelin stars and only the second in the United States after Dominique Crenn.

In 2016, under Emma’s culinary direction, Aquavit opened a second restaurant in London. At Aquavit, Emma is serving the kind of food she likes to eat. The fare is true to Scandinavia offering light and bright dishes with a focus on fresh ingredients, seafood, and traditional methods like pickling and preserving.

Now, Emma has revamped the menu at Aquavit, adding a fresh new take and expanding the bar menu. The menu now allows diners to enjoy a full meal at the bar offering an extensive selection of snacks, starters, mains, and desserts. In the main dining room, guests can now enjoy her three, five, and eight-course tasting menus.


66 E 55th St
New York, NY 10022


Story Plate: What are your top three go-to restaurants in your hometown (NYC)? 
Emma Bengtsson: Batard, Blue Ribbon, and Gramercy Tavern

SP: What’s a must-have or your favorite kitchen item and why?
EB: A frying pan it’s basically all I use in my kitchen.

SP: What is your guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
EB: Cheese and charcuterie. It’s my favorite thing to eat on my days off. I love cheese and charcuterie and fresh fruits. 

SP: Is there another female within the culinary industry that inspires/influences your work?
EB: Dominique Crenn because of everything she is doing for the industry and for the environment. She is constantly educating us on what restaurants should be doing and how we can make the planet better

SP: If you didn’t choose to go down this career path, what would plan B have been for you?
EB: If I was not working in the culinary field, I probably would have been in the military. When I was younger, I would go to the shooting ranges with my father in preparation for a military career however my grandmother was an avid home cook and inspired me to go study at the International Restaurant School in Stockholm at 16. 


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