I loved cake parties already as a kid!
This is Leila as a 5 year old at her first vacation abroad in Greece. Here I am tasting octopus for the first time, it tastes weird...
I believe I can fly...
Young sailor girl looking for a boat
Leila in slippers!
Leila baking gingerbread
“Positive memories, associated with food, have probably affected me more than I know. I am thinking about the barbeques in the summer in the Stockholm archipelago, or helping my grandfather empty the crayfish cages on an early August morning.
Or maybe it was all of the visits to different restaurants? We often ate out, both when we were in the city and when we were travelling.
I tried baking buns early! I loved to try new recipes and as a seven or eight year old, I started the baking club “Muffin Mob”, together with my grandmother and her neighbour, Aunt Elsa. I still have my little recipe book from those days.
After muffins and buns, I advanced to grilled sandwiches. My best friend and I used to experiment with different varieties after school. Some of them were really tasty and others ended up in the cat´s food bowl. I took every chance I got to be in the kitchen. What I loved the most was helping out when the grown-ups cooked dinner, for example, when my friend´s father made a lamb roast stuffed with garlic.
Not everything was about food when I grew up though. I did have other interests. I became a horse-girl early on. Eventually, I got my own horse to train and compete with. I can still feel the lovely sense of freedom in a breezy winter morning gallop over sparkling snow. It easily outweighed heaving all those wheelbarrow loads of dung on weekday evenings after school.
In the summer, I went sailing my grandparents. I must admit that I sometimes enticed my dear grandmother up on deck so that I could have a free hand by myself down in the galley.
The day that I realised that one could actually work as a cook, the choice of profession was clear! But when I graduated from restaurant school three years later I doubted that I had made the right decision. I had not realised how much hard work it was working in a restaurant kitchen and for a short while, I considered working with interior design instead. Luckily, I thought better of it and focused instead on learning more and more!
After a couple of exciting years at some of Stockholm’s classic restaurants I wanted more. So, at the age of 21, I packed my bags and left for New York to work at the Swedish-owned restaurant Aquavit and here I went through a really tough education. The restaurant business in the USA is even tougher than in Sweden but I saw no choice other than to roll up my sleeves and get down to work. I found it as hard as hell but at the same time, it was extremely developing, both professionally and privately.
When I returned to Sweden, after having spent two years in New York, I worked at some of Stockholm´s best restaurants: Operakällaren, Fredsgatan 12 and Restaurangen and by that time, I had a solid education from working in everything from hot kitchens to restaurant patisseries. In 1999, I was chosen female cook of the year.
My interest in food goes beyond the actual food; I have always enjoyed working with the aesthetic side and the whole food experience. Because of that, I decided to start my own business working with food photography. I arranged food and properties for photo shoots and working on many commercials and I also created a lot of recipes for different employers. I received a lot of media attention and, with one thing leading to another, I was soon the chef for the Swedish Channel morning news program (Nyhetsmorgon). This, in turn, led to my own cooking show which led to more cooking shows which led to several cook books…
People sometimes wonder how I can keep going with such high speed, but I have never been the kind of person who thinks, “I'll never manage this”. I am more inclined to think, “Of course I will!” It has been like that all my life. I was the kind of child who started walking at the age of 10 months and I have kept moving at high speed in my life ever since.
I am convinced that if you want to do something special, you need to have a passion; a love for what you do. Otherwise, it will not work. My passion is to create beautiful things, with food and with the things surrounding the entire meal. I believe that the small details are very important and even if I do not call myself a perfectionist, I am extremely precise about my work; you just have to be.