Roberth and Andrea Sundell have successfully run the only Scandinavian restaurant, Pläj, in San Francisco for several years. They are adding a new Swedish street food restaurant in their hometown of Petaluma outside of San Francisco, Stockhome, a clever word play.
”I have applied the “go with the flow” strategy in my career.”
Roberth explains his background and we speak about making a full circle around San Francisco on a sunny afternoon when the Restaurant Pläj in San Francisco is starting their preparations for the evening’s guests.
Roberth has been a chef since he was 20 years old, when he graduated from chef academy in Stockholm. Roberth had no plans to become a chef from an early age, instead he went to high school with his twin brother planning to become painters. At the age of 18, Roberth started noticing he felt sick while working construction. Apparently working as a painter on several construction sites made Roberth develop an allergy to dust. Therefore he had to re-think his career choice, Roberth decided to become a chef.
During a road trip with his friend going through the US they found themselves in San Francisco. That same week Andrea, who is originally from Arizona, was traveling through California. Apparently, the stars were aligned that night since all of a sudden at a nightclub Andrea stood in front of Roberth.
“I knew immediately there was something special about her, and I am not the type of person who doesn’t follow up on this matter. My road trip ended with five days in Arizona which a couple of years later after visiting eachother, I moved to Arizona”.
Roberth’s interest in food comes from his mother and his grandmother who he always assisted in the kitchen. His mother loved making fancy tasting menus at home with 5-6 dishes. Roberth got an interest in great commodities and meat since his father brought home from meat from his annual hunting trip. Thoguh it was from his grandmother Roberth got the recipe for his famous Swedish meatballs.
“The secret is to fry them in a lot of grease and have a great mixture of ground beef and pork and then add a little bit of mustard. The meatballs are absolutely the most popular dish on the menu. And I love providing my guests with classical Scandinavian food like that.”
Roberth got in to owning a restaurant in San Francisco by an accident. He managed a Christmas table at the Scandinavian School here in San Francisco together with Andrea while they lived in Arizona, and from there he met a man who wanted to meet with him in San Francisco the following weekend. This man met him in the venue of what is now Pläj and offered him the restaurant on the condition that he opened a Scandinavian restaurant.
In the beginning of Pläj, Roberth was really creative with the inventories. For example, he named the desserts Godis, included small fun facts about Sweden on the menu, and they gave the bills in Swedish dictionaries. Unfortunately this did not work in the long run. The guests did not understand the menus; the Swedish guests started correcting the fun facts and the dictionaries were all stolen.
Now, since Pläj is established and the concept is set, Roberth and Andrea are looking for their next project. In the beginning of 2018 they will open their new restaurant Stockhome in Petaluma, where they also live with their four kids. Stockhome will have Swedish candy (Lösgodis) and the food will focus on Swedish Street food. What is Swedish Street food you ask? Tunnbrödrulle? Hotdogs? Salmon? Burger with herring? No, it is of course the Swedish Kebab and Falafel.
“I have always added a Swedish touch in my cooking, even while working in a French restaurant in LA. I was “Chef Dill”, everyone always thought I put too much dill in everything. Here at Pläj and at Stockhome I have as much dill in the dishes as I like!”
It is truly a privilege for people in San Francisco and the Bay Area that Roberth and Andrea are providing Swedish delicacies. No matter if you are Swedish or American you should definitely head to Pläj or Stockhome to get your Swedish food fix.