Johan Svensson
Executive Chef, Steak 954 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Johan Svensson was born and raised on Torsö, an island on Lake Vänern in southern Sweden. After completing culinary studies in Gothenburg at the age of 19, he moved northeast for his first cooking job, at a hotel and ski resort in Luleå, along the Finnish border.

After completing his...

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Johan Svensson
Executive Chef, Steak 954 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Johan Svensson was born and raised on Torsö, an island on Lake Vänern in southern Sweden. After completing culinary studies in Gothenburg at the age of 19, he moved northeast for his first cooking job, at a hotel and ski resort in Luleå, along the Finnish border.

After completing his compulsory service in the Swedish military, Svensson reached out to Marcus Samuelsson, the renowned chef and fellow Swede, to set up a three-week stage at his Aquavit in New York City. This apprenticeship would lay the groundwork for the first act of Svensson’s career.

On a trip back to his native Gothenburg, Samuelsson visited Svensson at the restaurant he was running and encouraged him to return to America. Svensson took him up on the offer in 1997, even crashing on Samuelsson’s couch for a few weeks as he got his bearings. Working alongside Samuelsson at Aquavit, which at the time held three stars from the The New York Times, among other accolades, encouraged the chef to view his native cuisine differently. “He turned everything upside down in the kitchen,” says Svensson of his mentor’s approach to innovation.

Hitting his stride on the New York restaurant circuit, Svensson went on to cook at the American- Japanese Bond Street, later serving on the opening team of London’s Nobu, further growing his international cooking sensibility. After his time in the UK, Svensson returned to the States, completing a second run at Bond Street ahead of sous chef positions at Thom and Geoffrey Zakarian’s Town, both in Manhattan. He’d reunite with Samuelsson to open Riingo, an American-Japanese restaurant in the Alex Hotel, before transitioning back to Aquavit, where he became the executive chef in 2006.

In 2009, Laurent Tourondel recruited Svensson to serve as the chef de cuisine of BLT Steak in Waikiki, giving him the chance to explore the impeccably fresh flavors of the Hawaiian archipelago. He’d later take on the executive chef role, in addition to overseeing the opening of BLT Market at the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waikiki. Returning to the mainland to be closer to his wife’s family in Florida, Svensson was the opening executive chef of Terra Mare, a Mediterranean concept on the Fort Lauderdale oceanfront.
Introduced as the executive chef of STARR’s Steak 954 in early 2018, Svensson taps into a wealth of global cooking experience to present the classic American steakhouse in an innovative new light.
“I still get a thrill from executing something perfectly — it’s a kick that is hard to believe,” says Svensson of what drives and inspires him behind the line. “If you do everything right, it will always show on the plate.”
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