🗣️ Locals to Know: Meet Nik Forsberg, chef & owner at Fet-Fisk

Hi, Nik! Pittsburgh isn’t usually thought of as a Nordic hotspot — tell us about the origins of the Fet-Fisk concept.

Hi Colin! No, it isn’t — but it’s funny how many Scandinavians have come out of the woodwork to connect with me after hearing about the project. Fet-Fisk sprung out of a conversation with my dear friend and Fet-Fisk co-founder Sarah LaPonte. We had been throwing a number of parties featuring a raw bar, with fresh oysters. She suggested we try our hand at hosting a speakeasy-style pop-up restaurant. We settled on a Nordic theme, due in part to my Swedish heritage. Scandinavia is THE place for fish and seafood as far as I’m concerned, so we rolled all this up and did some pop-ups in the Pigeon Bagel location before their buildout was finished. Demand for what we were doing snowballed rather quickly and now here I am four years later working on opening a restaurant!

What’s a dish you’ve served at one of Fet-Fisk’s pop-ups that you’re especially proud of?

I’ve been dreaming up a roast chicken dish for several months now, as oftentimes a good roast chicken dish is the hallmark of a quality restaurant. Recently, when I had a good amount of whey leftover from the farmer’s cheese that I make, I used it as a brine for freshly-butchered chicken while I made a stock from the scraps. I experimented with roasting the chicken in plenty of butter with some whole garlic and fresh rosemary, then threw together the sauce with the reduced chicken stock, and some really nice frozen Canadian lingonberries whisked in with plenty of butter. The results were far better than anticipated — the whey brine gave the chicken a delicious, rich, buttery flavor throughout and made the chicken brown really nicely, and the sauce was sour, sweet, rich, and full of umami. I was thrilled!

A sumptuous spread of fish, vegetables, dumpings and more.
I’m not drooling; you’re drooling.

It sounds like the restaurant has its own farm. How does taking care of it fit into your schedule? What are you growing now/this year?

It does. I spent three years working on an organic farm here in Pittsburgh and wanted to incorporate that into the model. I started the Fet-Fisk farm in 2020, and for that year and the next year I managed the farm and the kitchen by myself. It was quite an ordeal, and looking back I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy (if I even had one). I quite gladly hired a farmer in 2022, and he now takes care of the farm for the most part, although I still stop by several times a week and pitch in on big projects when I’m able. Right now, all of our spring standbys are sizing up; radishes, sweet peas, dill, lettuces, arugula, and mustards are all around the corner. We grow pretty much everything you can think of, but my favorite time of year is late summer when the watermelons are ripe.

What about Lombardozzi’s space most excites you, and when do you plan to move in full time?

Aesthetically, the space is a dead-ringer for our already-established brand. I’m so tickled by the 1970s furniture and light fixtures in the space, even a lot of the existing art. I’m eager to jump in and flesh out this little microcosm that exists between Fet-Fisk and Lombardozzi’s space. It’s going to be unlike anything else in town. I’m also looking forward to having a static workspace — I’ve spent the last four years hauling equipment and food around town from my current kitchen, so it will be nice to spend less time loading and unloading. We should have keys to the space in June, at which point we will begin our renovations! 

How’d it feel to get a James Beard nomination with no brick-and-mortar?

My jaw hit the ground, and then so did I! A fellow chef friend texted me a congratulations in the morning, but I thought she was referring to the restaurant space, and I accused her of living under a rock. Then a few hours later, someone had tagged me on Instagram with the list and I lost it. I had to text her back and apologize for my obliviousness. Getting that national accreditation was hugely validating for me, and it came at a great time while our loan application was under review and thus legitimized everything. I can’t tell myself “I’m not a real chef” anymore. 🙂

When you’re not cooking up a storm and planning for growth, what are some of your favorite places in Pittsburgh?

Dish Osteria is my favorite classy joint in town. The food is always perfect and comforting and I adore Cindy and Michele, the owners. I worked there for a few months before they took their hiatus, and then again a few months before the pandemic shut restaurants down, so I joke that I was bad luck for the restaurant. For more casual dining, I like Hunan Bar, Udipi, and Chengdu Gourmet of course. Their new second location is great too. Squirrel Hill Café is hands down my preferred watering hole. The burger has saved my life dozens of times, especially after pop-ups. Tina, if you are reading this, you need to get your butt to a Fet-Fisk dinner!

Lastly, where can our readers find you and support Fet-Fisk?

Instagram is the best way of seeing what we are up to @fet_fisk. You can also sign up for our newsletter on our website at fetfisk.net, although we send that out less often than we post. When we open reservations for dinners we post on both outlets, but act fast as they have been filling up within an hour lately. If readers want to directly support us, they can contribute to our GoFundMe. We launched the campaign in January and are attempting to get 10% of the total project costs to be community-funded. Restaurants are expensive undertakings and it’s difficult for ambitious creatives like me to get our foot in the door. My partners and I are all industry veterans with limited resources and the community support is essential to maintain our agency and keep the project in line with our values.

Follow Nik and Fet-Fisk at the links above and go support the Nordic invasion if you can.

Know of a person or organization that we ought to feature? Email us at hello@theincline.com with your suggestion, and you could see their name in an upcoming newsletter!