Q+A with Ikea Chef David Johansson: Creating a Dish for Under $1.50

April 23, 2015

For the Live Below the Line campaign–the challenge where participants spend only $1.50 a day on food and drink for five days to raise funds and awareness for global poverty–The Hunger Project produced a cookbook, which includes recipes from well-known and talented chefs for under $1.50.

We interviewed Ikea chef David Johansson about the challenges of creating a healthy and nutritious meal for under $1.50.

1. Creating a nutritious and tasty dish for a $1.50 is very challenging. Could you tell us the process of creating the dish and what considerations you made to keep the dish within budget?

It is challenging. Basically I started with listing a lot of inexpensive ingredients and produce but with the highest nutritional value possible. (I was using a handful a average prices of food products available in the US.) Then I started to cook and tasted the different combinations and playing with the amount of each ingredients, the exciting challenge is to balance nutritional value, price and flavour. The focus has of course been to create a very tasty and modern meal and I really feel that we succeeded.

2. Ikea Food is known for keeping things at lower cost while still keeping to a high degree of quality. What ingredients did you choose and why?

I really wanted to use one of our new products, the veggie ball. It is a play on the meatball concept that is well established at IKEA, and why fight a winning concept? This is a ball packed with only vegetables like peas, carrots, kale, corn and peppers. To create good textures in the meal I used red beets and cabbage that we oven roast until it is crispy, lentils because of the humble fullness it gives and the light sour yoghurt gives you a fatty texture to marry the flavours together.

3. Was your intent to create a meal focused on nutrition, flavor, quantity, quality or a combination of all? What sacrifices did you have to make?

The focus has of course been to create a very tasty and modern meal, really affordable for the many. The combinations of all those factors are important, even a very low cost meal must taste good, be filling and have good quality.

4. As we know, the world poverty line is equivalent to $1.50/a day to spend on food and drink in the United States. In the 17,000 communities where we work, individuals and families live below the poverty line and face hunger daily.  With this reality, could you tell us a bit about why you participated in the challenge? 

It sits very natural with the IKEA vision of creating a better everyday life for the many;  We want the IKEA food in our restaurants, bistro´s and Swedish Food Markets to be a place where everyone should be able to find affordable food of good quality  taking your family out for a sit down dinner or lunch.

5. How would you rate you dish on taste and quality compared to other dishes you’ve made?

At IKEA we develop product based on the variables; quality, function, form and sustainability – all at an affordable price, and I developed this dish using the same formula and I am really happy with the result.

Learn More:

View the cookbook.