UK-based food & beverage expert Michael Butler, recently returned from a visit to sustainable chef Nicolai Tram and his wife, Eva, at restaurant Knystaforsen in Rydöbruk, Sweden. Knystaforsen achieved a green Michelin Star in 2023. Food Inspiration asked Butler to share about his culinary experience. He explains why all food & beverage professionals should value collaborations with chefs like Nicolai.

Chef Nicolai embraces nature and the seasons in his culinary practices, sourcing directly from carefully chosen local suppliers who are committed to producing high-quality ingredients through ethical practices, all located no more than 30 kilometers from his restaurant. His restaurant is located in the rural South of Sweden, roughly halfway between the cities of Malmö and Gotenburg. This approach guarantees that a greater share of the financial benefits goes to the local community, including farmers, rather than to intermediaries who often reduce the producers' profits. In doing so, Nicolai helps to support local people to live and work in their rural community, giving them the chance to earn a fair wage. This approach fosters a sense of community, which for me, is a key fundamental of what I consider a responsible hospitality business.

Fire pit cooking

Restaurant Knystaforsen showcases Nicolai's unique and inventive cuisine. He operates with a small team in a kitchen featuring a purpose-built fire pit for cooking, where he uses local birch wood. I was surprised to see how minimalistic his kitchen was, using two old mill saw blades as the main fire pit. During service, the fire pit is supported by a small open kitchen inside the restaurant, which was originally the domestic kitchen. Nicolai mentioned to me that no matter what the outside temperature is, they use the fire pit even in minus temperatures. His approach not only emphasizes closeness to nature and sustainability but also showcases his innovative way of cooking with fire, interweaving a congruent narrative that makes you feel connected to the soul of his restaurant and its location.

"Space utilization in hotels could be reimagined to adopt a more environmental approach"

What is there to learn?

Comparatively, many full-service hotels invest in creating huge kitchens where the utilization rarely exceeds 50%, leading to high wastage in energy use and increased labor costs to cover kitchen operations, along with excessive maintenance costs. Space utilization in hotels could be reimagined to adopt a more environmental approach, requiring less investment in the kitchen and its equipment, delivering a much quicker ROI through lower utility operational costs and reduced initial pre-opening CAPEX investment.

If hotel concept creators looked at the environmental impact of their concepts with the same amount of love as they do for creativity, we could move beyond only scope 1 and 2 of the GHG protocols, which are the least impactful compared to scope 3, as this includes their value chain. In my opinion, aiming to be creative while working within the challenges of being environmentally focused will force you to explore more innovative and creative ways of running your hotel food and beverage operations.

Chefs working at the fire pit


Nicolai often uses ingredients from the forest around his restaurant, such as dandelion roots and wild game, to produce tasty and nutritional food. His storytelling and guest engagement mean that you will have fun and be inspired throughout the meal experience. His wife, Eva, not only takes care of their family but also ensures that non-alcoholic beverages pair well with the dishes being served. What I love about their concept is that they make sure the non-alcoholic beverages have the same level of focus and care as ordering a wine from a trained Sommelier, of which Eva is trained. Apart from the food, I like that you have the chance to sit around the campfire and watch Nicolai prepare a dish. He tells the story much better than I could ever write, so here is the video.

Here are some of the dishes we were served. Contrary to what you might expect, there wasn't a large team of chefs or an array of complex equipment. Instead, I observed a restaurant that made commercial sense and excelled in creativity by utilizing natural ingredients. There were no fancy tricks, magic, or additives involved – just pure, simple culinary artistry.

What is there to learn?

Nicolai's menu demonstrates the potential for sustainability and creativity in the culinary arts, and his mindset can extend beyond Michelin-starred restaurants. You might wonder how such an approach could be implemented in hotel restaurants. Embracing nature and prioritizing sustainability necessitates creativity and innovation. Employing strategies that reduce waste, innovating in food presentation, nutrition, and flavors, and choosing suppliers who focus on reducing their environmental impact will help you create an authentic restaurant or bar experience more likely to succeed because of the connection to the planet and people in pursuit of success rather than working with the current copy-and-paste F&B concept models.

Bread and Butter

Fallow Deer and Beetroot

Flambadou Rainbow Trout

"We need to redefine how success is measured in F&B and the hotel industry at large"

Exceptional dining experience

It’s important to note that many hotel restaurants would struggle to be profitable if you removed revenue generated from breakfast, events, and staff restaurant food cost allocation. If you added rent on the hotel restaurant or bar profit & loss at the market rent value, many hotel restaurants would become bankrupt. This is a fact.

This highlights the importance for hotel brands and their owners to consider sustainable options more seriously and to step out of their comfort zones. Ensuring that restaurants are equipped only with essential equipment and that energy and other utilities such as water are factored into the investment and procurement decisions, prioritizing an exceptional dining experience over focusing on basic financial metrics, is vital.

Furthermore, we need to redefine how success is measured in food and beverage and the hotel industry at large. It shouldn’t be solely about EBITDA and guest scores; metrics should also include food waste per guest served, energy usage per room sold, water usage per room sold, and the percentage of ingredients sourced sustainably as a minimum.

"Metrics should include food waste per guest served, energy and water usage per room sold, and more"

Additionally, I believe that menu engineering of the future should incorporate the standard Boston consulting model plus factors like carbon emissions and nutrition in deciding if the menu item is a Horse, Dog, Star, or Puzzle. We have developed a model that integrates these considerations and know it will work.

Michael Butler

Michael Butler is Managing Director at Captivate Culinary Connections Ltd. He is a proven expert in the field of Hospitality (hotels), Retail and Food & Beverage. He is an advocate for sustainability in hospitality.