Aska is a two Michelin-starred Brooklyn restaurant run by Chef Fredrik Berselius.

Words by Chef Fredrik Berselius

With chairs neatly stacked against the wall and lights off, I stop in the middle of the dining room and look through the window to the garden. Everything is quiet. The first signs of fall begin to show, as a leaf slowly winding down from an outside tree gently lands on a table.

For the few seconds I stand there, thoughts rush through my mind like a freight train. I am tired. I think of yesterday’s service. I think of the guests who celebrated their wedding anniversary and had traveled all the way from Australia just to dine with us. I think of the couple who has returned more times to our dining room than I have ever eaten at any one restaurant. I think about the temperature in the dishwashing room. Slowly, I turn around scanning the room for anything out of place. I walk through the kitchen into the dishwashing room and do the same. Then back out and into the very small office tucked away behind the kitchen. The phone is blinking with a new message. It will be checked when the reservationist comes in.

Chef @ Aska
Chef Fredrik Berselius

I walk outside to the garden.

The crunchy sound of the gravel under my feet resonates in my entire body. I walk past plants and outdoor furniture, black chairs leaning against their respective tables, and I look back into the restaurant through the large glass doors. The reflection on the window and the dark dining room makes it difficult to see inside. I think of tonight’s reservations and try to remember the details about the guests who are joining us for dinner. I think about the scissors we use for one of the courses and whether they need sharpening. I think about the scratch on the table in the private dining room. My thoughts are interrupted by a bird chirping loudly behind me. I look up to the buildings that surround the backyard. I take a deep breath and try to soak in the moment.

The time in the morning when I am the first person to enter the restaurant is magical. And strange. A restaurant is a place where there is noise and constant movement. As the day unfolds the tempo changes, starting off so very quietly, but swiftly ramping up to full speed. There is a rhythm and a heartbeat with a sense of anticipation and delivery that reaches a momentum, before it once again picks up to an even higher pace and then accelerates again. Then it slows down, drastically. Then it slows down a little more, and then again, before it all stops and repeats itself all over again. This time in the morning I know that exactly eight hours from now there will be bodies gracefully flying through the dining room on the other side of the big windows in front of me. I know that we will be in the middle of our organized chaos in our own little universe, and that in twenty-four hours from then we will be in the middle of that beautiful storm again.

Through the window, across the restaurant floor, I see the front door open. My thoughts are pulled back into a corner of my brain like an old movie projector pulling the film back onto the reel. It smacks a few times as the spinning slows down before it comes to a full stop. It is time to go.