Food designer, food artist, vegan chef – Tora Olsson is also known for her Instagram label ToraFloraFood. Her father inspired the name. “My dad is a botanist. I’ve always loved being out and about in nature with him. The name ToraFlora came from him. Flora means plant,” explains Tora Olsson. She started cooking at 15 and worked part-time while still at school. At 20, she was mainly interested in healthy food and healthy ingredients.
“That’s why I also trained in this area,” says the 32-year-old. She studied at HKR Kristianstad University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Gastronomy and a Master’s in Food & Meal Science. She wrote her master’s thesis on vegan desserts, focusing on how the presentation of desserts can influence the taste experience. “Appearance plays a big role,” she stresses.
You eat with your eyes first
As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first. At 27, she founded her Instagram label ToraFloraFood. Initially, she only wanted to use Instagram as a kind of resume to apply for a job. “But then I discovered I had a talent for designing food, and people seem to like it. This made Instagram into my business,” explains the influencer. With over 45,000 followers, the Swedish chef is now extremely successful and has also secured a place this year among the 20 best chefs on Instagram.
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“I love being a little crazy with my creations”
The food expert seeks to create unique dishes with a special story. “I love being a little crazy with my creations. Of course, the flavors are the foundation. When a dish becomes a holistic experience – that’s what fascinates me,” says Tora Olsson. She describes her cooking style as “minimalist, detailed and lively.” However, she doesn’t have any role models. “I try not to look at what others are doing too much. This is because I want to create trends and not follow trends,” stresses the cooking artist.
All her creations are made with plant-based ingredients. “I want to normalize high-end vegan cuisine and show that it’s palatable for everyone,” she said. When she was 10, she became a vegetarian. There are many reasons why she only cooks vegan. “The main reasons are the environment, source and taste. I’ve never been a big fan of meat. I mainly don’t like the consistency,” Olsson explains. Today, she is a flexitarian. “I eat meat for educational purposes.” Vegan food is a trend that has grown rapidly in recent years and has now found its way into Michelin restaurants. “I definitely believe it will continue to grow and be accepted by everyone. It won’t just be vegans eating vegan food or going to vegan restaurants,” Olsson says.
Creativity needs time and cannot be forced
Her favorite ingredient is ginger. “I love ginger. It’s such a great spice, in both food and in drinks. It’s fresh and hot at the same time,” the Swede raves. She usually gets inspiration for her dishes in nature. “When I’m there, my thoughts can flow freely. Ideas often pop up during walks or before falling asleep, when I am in a kind of trance state. It is very difficult to create new creations when you “have to.” That makes it feel forced, which means the result won’t be good. Creativity needs time and cannot be forced,” stresses the food artist.
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But it hasn’t always been easy. It is important to believe in yourself and to know your value. “Having my own business was sometimes a struggle, but giving up was never an option,” says the successful businesswoman. The freedom to define her own life motivates her. “I can make as many crazy creations as I want. Nobody can say it shouldn’t be like that,” she explains. “The worst thing that can happen is that someone doesn’t like my creations.” Of course, her many followers also served as a motivation. In recent years, Tora Olsson has developed plant-based experience menus for restaurants at various luxury hotels where she also provided training to the chefs. “I was on the go a lot, on the Maldives, the Seychelles, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Italy and the Canary Islands,” says the vegan chef. During the pandemic years, she also started teaching online cooking classes.
Tora Olsson’s plant-based experience restaurant – a feast for the senses
And now, she has her own restaurant. In June 2022, Tora Olsson opened her restaurant Plantre in the center of Kristianstad – one room, with a large table that seats four to six guests per evening. “It’s among the smallest restaurants in Sweden, but perhaps also one of the most exclusive,” she says. She describes Plantre as a “home experience restaurant” – an special evening where food is celebrated in a very unique way. As an experience, it certainly offers an absolute feast for all the senses. “Every course has its own “experience room”, so to speak. With my dishes, the guest more or less walks from room to room,” says Olsson.
“In the ‘library’, for example, a BBQ portobello is served in a book, on a black rice cracker with beet chips. In the ‘bathroom’, the paired drink – a juniper tonic – is served in a small bathtub,” Olsson explains. Guests enjoy a six-course menu, and drinks are alcohol-free. Her restaurant is only open a couple of times a month. It takes her about two to three weeks to make new creations to serve.
Intelligent cooking systems play a major role in restaurant kitchens. “I love creating unique dining experiences. To do this, I need intelligent cooking systems,” she says. At the moment, she doesn’t have to worry about employees. “I cook everything myself and only have one person who helps me serve. I personally explain everything I’m serving. At the moment, I like having control over every dish.” Sometimes it is difficult to balance work and private life, she says. “But this is my passion, and I don’t mind spending a couple more hours on my work,” she says. To clear her head, she works out at the gym.
Right now, she doesn’t have a concrete goal. “Except to continue my crazy adventures and get people excited about vegan cuisine, and I’m going to do that in a variety of ways,” the social media expert states. She is always spotting new opportunities and has lots of ideas. “I would like to move abroad again, maybe open something outside of Sweden or work on my online courses.” What the future holds remains to be seen. “My boyfriend lives in Copenhagen, so right now it works to have a restaurant at home. When it’s time to start a family, I will probably have to rethink things,” says Olsson.