The Smooth Operator

Chef Tommy Myllymäki doesn’t need to raise his voice. His discreet, quiet leadership and fearless ambition have already taken him to the top.

Text by Marcus Dunberg

Any preconceived ideas you have about celebrated chefs and restaurant kitchens quickly dissolve as soon as you meet Tommy Myllymäki, the man behind Aira. The restaurant opened in 2020 with astronomic ambitions, using Nordic ingredients and a seasonal approach, all served in a minimalist Scandinavian seaside villa drawn by legendary architect Jonas Bohlin.

But Myllymäki’s story as a chef extends much farther back. In 2007, he was named Chef of the Year in Sweden, racking up numerous awards and prizes over the years – including the bronze, silver and gold medals at the Bocuse d’Or, the World Cup of cooking. His biggest achievement to date, however, are the two Michelin stars Aira earned just two years after opening, further cementing Myllymäki’s reputation as a creative leader and chef. It was, of course, made possible with the help of his staff of approximately 30, who make sure both his kitchen and front of house run as impeccably as one would expect from a fine dining restaurant of this caliber.

Aira, located in the lush nature reserve of Djurgården in Stockholm, is where we meet for this interview for Rose & Born. Myllymäki appears in navy suit pants, an immaculate white t-shirt, and a well-cut jacket that is clearly not off the rack. His demeanour and his leadership style in the kitchen are as smooth as his appearance: no hierarchies, loud voices, sadistic behaviour or excessive drinking.

— Effortless denim on denim in the kitchen

Denim Button-Down Shirt Light Denim

Effortless denim on denim in the kitchen

Instead, he’s articulated, softspoken and humble. “That old world of the abusive star chef is gone,” he says. “It might still exist internationally, but here in Sweden, this business has really cleaned up its act. A healthy and sustainable work life balance is necessary if you want to last in this business. It’s also what our very professional team expects from their employer.”

Myllymäki lives what he preaches. He’s an early riser and a moderate drinker. He’s a workaholic – but in the positive sense of the word: driven, focused and efficient. With three children and an extremely busy schedule, there’s no time to waste. Most mornings, he’s up before six am, ready to step into his well-worn running shoes and pound the pavement for an hour and a half across Stockholm city.

When he was younger, he was a talented football player – a professional career was not out of sight – and sports is still an obsession. So is fashion, but also music and architecture. He’s as involved in the design, furnishing and sound of Aira as he is in the cooking. After all, it all adds up to the experience. “My dream is to leave the digitised playlist behind and just play vinyl records from my collection, from start to finish. They’re there to be listened to.”

Ultimately, Myllymäki is both a traditionally trained chef and a modern man. He’s not afraid of getting his hands dirty in the kitchen, or of grooming – and his modern masculinity extends to his wardrobe. Myllymäki is not a chef in a T-shirt, dirty jeans and scruffy hair.

— The silk blend sweater is a year-around favourite

Crewneck 7 Gauge Silk Blend Sweater Cream

The silk blend sweater is a year-around favourite

He might wear a T-shirt – but it’s a clean, high-quality one that fits well. “These days, I like a classic or timeless look, and good tailoring,” he notes. “I might have less clothes now compared to a few years ago, but they last longer, both in terms of quality and in style.” The same could definitely be said for Aira and his career, too.

5 quick questions



What’s your advice to anyone who wants to take their running to the next level?

– Don’t push too fast – be patient and run with joy!


What does craftsmanship mean to you?

– Knowledge and quality.


Name a Stockholm restaurant that you appreciate as a guest.



What music are you listening to right now?

Miles Davis, Chet Baker, The National, Coldplay.


What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t give up.

Explore featured garments