The Philippines, the Maldives, Bali, Australia, the West Indies – you name it and Conny Andersson has been there. Now executive chef at the Four Seasons Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, with an army of cooks to help him out, Andersson has come a long way from Gothenburg, Sweden, where he was born and raised.
“It all began on my grandfather’s knee.” Andersson reminisces. “He was a wonderful man, a ship’s cook with two passions: food and music. In between rich servings of sjömansbiff, sailor’s beef, he would strike up a tune on his fiddle, and if we children knew the words to whatever song he was playing, he would reward us with a nickel, or 25 öre, to be precise.”
“My mother was also a professional cook, so I suppose it was natural that I would end up in this line of business myself,” he says.
After graduating from culinary school in 1979, Conny Andersson accepted his first position as an apprentice at the Park Avenue Hotel in Gothenburg. Three years later, inspired by his beloved grandfather, he hit the high seas as a line cook with the Sessan Passenger Lines. He returned a year later to the Park Hotel as chef de partie, but had by then acquired such a wanderlust that, shortly thereafter, he and a friend took off on a year-long odyssey, crisscrossing the globe. He would get a temporary job whenever he ran out of cash.
“That’s one of the advantages with being a chef, he said, “there’s a need for you everywhere.” That year, while in Australia, he met a California girl named Brenda, who soon became his wife.
Arriving in the United States in 1985, Andersson found a position as chef de partie at the 5-star restaurant L’Orangerie in Los Angeles, and a year later joined The Four Seasons Hotel.
Working for a hotel with an international network of properties has afforded Conny Andersson not only high-level chefdom, but also continued opportunities to roam the world. In 1991, he departed for the Caribbean to become executive sous chef at the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis. And four years later he went to Bali…
“I’ve defined my cooking as Mediterranean with an Asian twist,” he says, adding, “but I think ‘California Pacific’ may be more accurate.”
As he speaks of the abundance and quality of West Coast produce, he becomes quite lyrical. Asked for a personal philosophy on the art of cooking, he stresses the importance of knowing the basics before you start experimenting. “Before doing tricks on a bicycle,” he says, “you’d better learn how to bicycle.”
As for lingonberries: “When I first started thinking about lingon, it [brought back] several memories and one in particular came to my mind. That was the time I spent with my grandmother in the countryside. After our meals, we would have lingonberries in fresh farmer’s milk several times a week.”
“So, the floating cheese cake I chose to develop here is a play on lingonberries in milk–as a chef you always want to push the envelope a bit further and make things a bit more fun and exciting. I personally get excited about making classic flavors stick out in a different way but still somehow succeed in preserving the original idea and taste.”
The chef chose to create a dessert recipe, but sees several other ways to use the berries. “The lingon – as Swedes would simply call them – is a very versatile berry, and it is excellent as an accompaniment to turkey, game and other meat dishes such as meatloaf, meat balls and so on. I would… describe them as very sophisticated cranberry.”
A true cosmopolitan, Conny Andersson also remains a true Gothenburger. He was once asked to describe someone from his native city, and described a person who’s a little friendlier, a little more relaxed than most, one who’s always ready with a smile and good joke and – he slips into Swedish – alltid redo att möta livet med en klackspark. It’s a soccer metaphor meaning always ready to meet life with a little kick.
Without realizing it, he had just given a pretty accurate description of himself.

Written by Bo Zaunders
Photographed by Henrik Olund