Bringing the Swedish flavour

Bringing the Swedish flavour

He’s more than 16,000 kilometres from home, however 22-year-old Niko Keric is loving East Gippsland’s country lifestyle.

Niko, from Gothenburg in Sweden, currently calls Bairnsdale home, taken under the guise of Old Station Café owner, Simon Ellis, after supporting bushfire-affected people with BlazeAid in the wake of the summer’s disasters.

Niko, who was intending on travelling in Asia with a friend, heard news of the bushfires and that backpackers could help in the initial recovery phase.

He jumped at the chance and used his culinary skills to provide for fire fighters and defence force personnel at camp in Wairewa before helping with fencing at Bruthen.

It was his cooking prowess that landed him a job at the Old Station Café, “I saw the bushfires on the news and I saw that backpackers could help, so we thought it was a good opportunity,” Niko said.

“I went to a camp at Wairewa and then Bruthen with BlazeAid and Bruthen is close to Bairnsdale so about five days before my last day with BlazeAid I was looking around for a job here and I found it… maybe the job found me.”

“I said at work that I need to find a chef,” Old Station Café owner, Simon Ellis, said.

“A guy came in that day and said ‘I need to find accommodation, the cheapest accommodation’. I asked ‘what for?’ and he said ‘we’ve got some guys from BlazeAid’. I asked if there was a chef and he said ‘yes, he’s the one we’re looking for cheap accommodation for’.

“They sent him in for an interview, sat down and straight away we clicked and I said ‘you’ve got the job’.

Niko hopes to bring a unique menu to the café having honed his talents for more than a decade, starting as an eager youngster.

“I started cooking when I was eight years old and I always knew I wanted to be a chef since then,” he said.

“I helped my mum do baking and I cooked with her, then I started watching food programs and cooking on my own before going to culinary school.

“The last two years I have worked in Asian fusion restaurants, I love Asian food, Asian kitchen.”

“He just introduced his first Swedish meal, pyttipanna – it’s amazing,” Simon said.

“It’s potato, ham, sausage, basically a leftover meal, but if you do it right it is super nice,” Niko said.

“I have many plans.”

In terms of plans, Niko is not looking too far ahead with his travelling options with obvious limitations due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I first thought I’d be here a year, a year and a half, but everything that is happening I’m just taking it as it goes,” he said, explaining he enjoys the comforts of country living during the pandemic.

“A lot of backpackers come from Melbourne to here, but a lot wanted to go back and it is safer here. I’ve been in the city my whole life, I want to experience the countryside.

“I want to experience the lifestyle here. I’ve just settled into work for now, I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere.

“I want to go up the east coast once things open up.”

Simon said the café is looking at providing an evening service, where Niko is looking forward to creating a diverse menu.

“We want to push the difference of the café vibe to the night time international food vibe,” Simon said.

“We might have a Swedish night or do something else interesting.

“We want to wow people and Nikola has a heap of ideas.”

IMAGE: Swedish chef, Niko Keric, is bringing a new flavour to the Old Station Café. (PS)