11-time Culinary Champion and Only in His Twenties (An Interview with One of Norway’s Finest Chefs)

How old were you when you figured out what you really wanted to do for a living?

At a very tender age of two, Christian Andre Pettersen (CAP) already showed an inclination for his future vocation. Tuxedo-clad, the toddler Christian played waiter in his father’s fish restaurant in Bodø, a town in the North of Norway. At nine years old, he was Dad’s little kitchen assistant assigned to scouring pots and pans, washing dishes and peeling vegetables. Year after year, his duties expanded and by the time he turned eighteen, he was snatching awards at prestigious competitions from doyens of Norway’s gastronomy.  Now at twenty-seven, he’s unstoppable. He was honored as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2017. He has garnered an enviable 11 golds, 8 silvers and 1 bronze like a man with a mission – a mission to live a dream.

ChristianAP

Christian’s father, mentor and inspiration lived long enough to see his son live his dreams. Before Christian’s father passed on in 2013, Christian made him a promise – to stand on the podium as the champion of the culinary equivalent of the Olympics – Bocuse d’Or.  It’s a promise he’s determined to keep. This year, Christian will be vying for the ticket to represent the country at Bocuse D’Or Europe.

Mondo

We agreed to meet with Filipino-Norwegian Christian at Restaurant Mondo located by the harbor of Sandnes in Norway, where he’s the Head Chef. He was meticulously plating food at the restaurant’s open kitchen when we arrived. His focus on his work was unmistakable: slightly furrowed brows, head bent over the food on the counter, tattooed arms in motion; it was almost petrifying to announce our presence. As we spoke with him later on, his features softened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MFB: Please tell us more about your Filipino heritage.

CAP: My mother, Charito Billones , hailed from Carmen, Cebu. My father met her in 1987 in Cebu when he set sail across the Pacific and along the coastal countries of Asia, including the Philippines.

 MFB: Have you been to the Philippines? What was the experience like for you?

 CAP:I’ve been seven times, but I was very young then. The last time was when I was 12 years old.  I don’t remember much, but what stood out to me was the halo-halo. I found its interesting mix of textures and cooling quality in contrast to the hot weather refreshing. I also remember trips to exotic islands. 

MFB: How strong is your exposure to Filipino food and culture?

 CAP:My mother often prepared Filipino food at home, like adobo, pancit and spring rolls. There was always rice on the table – even for breakfast. My father also prepared Norwegian food so I grew up with food from both worlds. That’s why I’m referred to as the East meets West Chef.

 There is a big Filipino community up there in the north. We attended many get-togethers. Sometimes traditional Filipino dancing using bamboo poles (Tinikling) was showcased.

 I also had a very Catholic upbringing and attended mass every Sunday. I served as an altar boy.

 MFB: What was it like for you, of mixed heritage, to grow-up in Norway? 

 CAP:I was born and raised in Norway. I never felt like an outsider. As a boy, one of the starkest differences I noticed was in our religious practices. We went to church every Sunday, while most Norwegians didn’t. It was tempting to sleep in and relax on Sundays, but not for us, we were in church at 11am. No excuses.

 MFB:  Please tell us about your father, who inspired you to be a chef.

 CAP: My father, who was a chef and restaurant owner, was my inspiration and mentor. Actually, he urged me not to become a chef. As a chef himself, he knew that it is a very demanding occupation.  The job requires a lot of hard work and can take over your life. My father and I had a discussion about this. After proving my skills and passion, we settled that if I was going to pursue my career as a chef, I should be the best of the best.

My father inspired me to do great things. He taught me that life has no limitations except the ones you create for yourself. That’s something I always keep in my mind. I’m living my dream right now, thanks to those words.

I’ve competed 20 times and won a medal each time, making me one of the chefs in Norway with the most participation in professional culinary competitions. My father lived to see me reap awards. In the end, I became his inspiration.

Christian4

MFB: Which one among the 20 competitions you participated in stands head and shoulders above all the rest?

 Nordic Championship June 2015 Denmark

Nordic Championship June 2015 Denmark

The Norwegian Culinary Championship I won in 2011 is the most memorable. I was the youngest chef in Norway to win it. I was only 21 at the time and competed with the country’s seasoned chefs. It helped me become who I am today.

 MFB:  Bochus D’or is said to be the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world. How close are you to getting the most coveted golden trophy?

CAP: Bocuse d’Or World Finals will be held in January 2017. I am going with the Norwegian team represented by Christopher W. Davidsen. I will also be vying to join Bocuse d’Or Norway on Sept. 12, 2017 at the Mathallen in Oslo. The winners at this event will represent Norway in the European Selection in 2018. Winners at the European will compete in the Bocuse d’Or  World Grand Finale in Lyon in 2019.

Christian-goldenstatue

 

MFB:  Can you give us an example of a dish you created where you incorporated Filipino flavors and cooking techniques into the food?

 CAP:I made pancit, but instead of using noodles, I used thinly sliced cabbage. I infused it with flavors and served it with crispy pata (pork leg). I gave crispy pata a twist by using pig’s ears, which I popped to achieve a very crispy texture. I crushed it and coated the meat with it. I’ve served this to top chefs in Norway and they really enjoyed it.

MFB: Mondo opened in June 2016, while Stavanger is still suffering from an oil crisis. What prompted the opening of Mondo? What is the concept and how is it unique? Any plans of introducing Filipino-inspired dishes at Mondo?

Mondo1

 CAPThe price of oil is low now so the only way for it to go is up. Mondo was born during an economic downturn and positioned to be stronger in an upturn. So far, we’re doing very well. The restaurant is full every night.

 In Mondo, which means world, we use local ingredients and take inspiration from cooking techniques and spices from around the world. We have a changing 5-course and 9-course menu and occasionally include my takes on my Filipino favorites: halo-halo, crispy pata and adobo.

 MFB: What is your advice to aspiring Filipino chefs in Norway.

CAP: Winners never quit and quitters never win.

*Christian Andre Pettersen is one of the contributing authors of our upcoming book, My Food Beginnings – a collection of Filipino food memoirs and recipes.

Connect with Christian Andre Pettersen:

Website: http://www.capnorway.com/

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11-time Culinary Champion and Only in His Twenties (An Interview with One of Norway’s Finest Chefs)

11-time Culinary Champion and Only in His Twenties (An Interview with One of Norway’s Finest Chefs)

 

How old were you when you figured out what you really wanted to do for a living?

At a very tender age of two, Christian Andre Pettersen (CAP) already showed an inclination for his future vocation. Tuxedo-clad, the toddler Christian played waiter in his father’s fish restaurant in Bodø, a town in the North of Norway. At nine years old, he was Dad’s little kitchen assistant assigned to scouring pots and pans, washing dishes and peeling vegetables. Year after year, his duties expanded and by the time he turned eighteen, he was snatching awards at prestigious competitions from doyens of Norway’s gastronomy.  Now at twenty-seven, he’s unstoppable. He garnered an enviable 11 golds, 8 silvers and 1 bronze like a man with a mission – a mission to live a dream.

ChristianAP
Norwegian-Filipino Chef Christian Andre Pettersen

Christian’s father, mentor and inspiration lived long enough to see his son live his dreams. Before Christian’s father passed on in 2013, Christian made him a promise – to stand on the podium as the champion of the culinary equivalent of the Olympics – Bocuse d’Or.  It’s a promise he’s determined to keep. Next year, Christian is one of the acclaimed chefs who will be vying for the ticket to represent the country at Bocuse D’Or Europe.

Mondo
Restaurant Mondo, Sandnes in Norway

We agreed to meet with Filipino-Norwegian Christian at Restaurant Mondo located by the harbor of Sandnes in Norway, where he’s the Head Chef. He was meticulously plating food at the restaurant’s open kitchen when we arrived. His focus on his work was unmistakable: slightly furrowed brows, head bent over the food on the counter, tattooed arms in motion; it was almost petrifying to announce our presence. As we spoke with him later on, his features softened.

MFB: Please tell us more about your Filipino heritage.

CAP: My mother, Charito Billones , hailed from Carmen, Cebu. My father met her in 1987 in Cebu when he set sail across the Pacific and along the coastal countries of Asia, including the Philippines.

 MFB: Have you been to the Philippines? What was the experience like for you?

 CAP:I’ve been seven times, but I was very young then. The last time was when I was 12 years old.  I don’t remember much, but what stood out to me was the Halo-Halo. I found its interesting mix of textures and cooling quality in contrast to the hot weather refreshing. I also remember trips to exotic islands. 

MFB: How strong is your exposure to Filipino food and culture?

 CAP:My mother often prepared Filipino food at home, like adobo, pancit and spring rolls. There was always rice on the table – even for breakfast. My father also prepared Norwegian food so I grew up with food from both worlds. That’s why I’m referred to as the East meets West Chef.

 There is a big Filipino community up there in the north. We attended many get-togethers. Sometimes traditional Filipino dancing using bamboo poles (Tinikling) was showcased.

 I also had a very Catholic upbringing and attended mass every Sunday. I served as an altar boy.

 MFB: What was it like for you, of mixed heritage, to grow-up in Norway? 

 CAP:I was born and raised in Norway. I never felt like an outsider. As a boy, one of the starkest differences I noticed was in our religious practices. We went to church every Sunday, while most Norwegians didn’t. It was tempting to sleep in and relax on Sundays, but not for us, we were in church at 11am. No excuses.

 MFB:  Please tell us about your father, who inspired you to be a chef.

 CAP: My father, who was a chef and restaurant owner, was my inspiration and mentor. Actually, he urged me not to become a chef. As a chef himself, he knew that it is a very demanding occupation.  The job requires a lot of hard work and can take over your life. My father and I had a discussion about this. After proving my skills and passion, we settled that if I was going to pursue my career as a chef, I should be the best of the best.

My father inspired me to do great things. He taught me that life has no limitations except the ones you create for yourself. That’s something I always keep in my mind. I’m living my dream right now, thanks to those words.

I’ve competed 20 times and won a medal each time, making me one of the chefs in Norway with the most participation in professional culinary competitions. My father lived to see me reap awards. In the end, I became his inspiration.

Christian4

MFB: Which one among the 20 competitions you participated in stands head and shoulders above all the rest?

 Nordic Championship June 2015 Denmark

Nordic Championship June 2015 Denmark

The Norwegian Culinary Championship I won in 2011 is the most memorable. I was the youngest chef in Norway to win it. I was only 21 at the time and competed with the country’s seasoned chefs. It helped me become who I am today.

 MFB:  Bochus D’or is said to be the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world. How close are you to getting the most coveted golden trophy?

CAP: Bocuse d’Or Norway will be held in January, 2017. I hope to be one of the six to compete. The winners at the Nationals will represent Norway in the European Selection in 2018. Winners at the European will compete in the Bocuse d’Or  World Grand Finale  in Lyon in 2019.

Christian-goldenstatue
Bocuse D’or Trophy

 

MFB:  Can you give us an example of a dish you created where you incorporated Filipino flavors and cooking techniques into the food?

 CAP:I made pancit, but instead of using noodles, I used thinly sliced cabbage. I infused it with flavors and served it with crispy pata (pork leg). I gave crispy pata a twist by using pig’s ears, which I popped to achieve a very crispy texture. I crushed it and coated the meat with it. I’ve served this to top chefs in Norway and they really enjoyed it.

MFB: Mondo opened in June 2016, while Stavanger is still suffering from an oil crisis. What prompted the opening of Mondo? What is the concept and how is it unique? Any plans of introducing Filipino-inspired dishes at Mondo?

 

Mondo1
Restaurant Mondo

 CAPThe price of oil is low now so the only way for it to go is up. Mondo was born during an economic downturn and positioned to be stronger in an upturn. So far, we’re doing very well. The restaurant is full every night.

 In Mondo, which means world, we use local ingredients and take inspiration from cooking techniques and spices from around the world. We have a changing 5-course and 9-course menu and occasionally include my takes on my Filipino favorites: halo-halo, crispy pata and adobo.

 MFB: What is your advice to aspiring Filipino chefs in Norway.

CAP: Winners never quit and quitters never win.

*Christian Andre Pettersen is one of the contributing authors of our upcoming book, The Migrant Filipino Kitchen.

Connect with Christian Andre Pettersen:

Website: http://www.capnorway.com/

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11-time Culinary Champion and Only in His Twenties (An Interview with One of Norway’s Finest Chefs)

Top 4 Things Tourists Like Most about the Philippines ( An Interview with PH Tourism Attache for Northern and Southern Europe)

Why is Filipino food unknown in Norway? In June, we asked the couple behind Oslo’s first Filipino restaurant this question. Their reply had something to do with tourism or the lack of tourism initiatives to promote the Philippines as a holiday destination to Norwegians.  To test their theory, I consulted Finn.no, the go-to website in Norway for people in search of everything but (or maybe including) the kitchen sink. I hit “pakkereiser” or holiday packages:  400 results for Thailand, zero for the Philippines. Contrary to Filipino food, Thai food is popular in Norway. Coincidence or proof?

IMFITP-Lechon

To shed more light on the link between tourism and cuisine and Philippine tourism in general, let’s ask Tourism Attaché and Director for Northern and Southern Europe Department of Tourism, Gerard Panga. Gerard , has been with the Department of Tourism (DOT) for twenty-two years, with previous assignments in Taiwan and China. He took over the London Office in Feb. 2016 with jurisdiction over UK & Ireland, the Nordic Countries, Spain and Italy.  Gerard has been very kind to immediately accept my invite for a Q &A.

Gerard Panga
Mr. Gerard Panga – Tourism Attache and Director for Northen and Southern Department of Tourism

MFB: Please tell us about the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign.

 GP: The “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” (IMFITP) campaign was launched in January 2012. The slogan was created to rebrand the Philippines anchored on:

  • the strength and character of the Filipinos as very hospitable and fun-loving people
  • the beauty of our destinations and exciting activities which guarantee “more fun” experiences for the visitors.

IMFITP-Sisig

The campaign started with a catchy slogan and meme, promoted online showing why it’s more fun in the Philippines. The campaign also challenged netizens to create their own memes based on creativity and wit. This became viral, generating thousands of entries, and creating wide scale awareness on the country’s campaign and tagline across all key source markets around the world.

Through the years, DOT intensified its branding campaign and tactical cooperation with the travel trade and media. Along the way, the IMFITP campaign was also cited as one of the best marketing campaigns undertaken by a National Tourist Office.

IMFITP-Hello

“…have you eaten?”

MFB: How is the Philippines promoted as a travel destination in Norway?

GP:  We tapped a marketing representative to help us promote the Philippines in the Nordic countries. This office knows well the local travel trade and media networks, and the marketing dynamics to maximize our presence in the market, despite the limited resources. Norway is part of DOT’s opportunity markets.

UK remains the most important and top source market for the Philippines in Europe. This is where most of our marketing resources are allocated.

 

For Norway and the rest of the Nordic countries, we work closely with big agents and partner airlines on joint marketing to promote the Philippine programs covering soft adventure, leisure, beach holiday, city break, cultural immersion and water sports. All these anchored mainly on our unique selling points – distinct and colorful culture, value-for-money destination, more fun experience and very friendly and peace-loving Filipino people.

IMFITP-Beach

MFB: What is the main driver of tourists to the Philippines?

GP: It would be our islands, beaches and related activities, which include water sports, diving, island hopping, beach parties, local cuisine and so on.

IMFITPclimbing-trees

Here’s what the department’s visitor profile report tells us:

Top 4 Things Tourists Like Most About the Philippines

  1. People ( warmth and kindness)

  2. Sceneries

  3. Beaches

  4. Food/Beverage

 

MFB:  Please tell us about Kulinarya Food Trips/Tour Packages. How strong is the push to promote the Philippines as a culinary destination in Northern & Southern Europe

 Kulinarya_Logo_for_Website_6

 

GP: Kulinarya tours bring tourists to destinations such as Manila’s downtown, Pampanga, Cavite, Quezon and Bicol, to name a few. These tours showcase the specialities of the region, province, town and even family recipes. They feature unique food preparation techniques, history and traditions.

For Northern and Southern Europe, the packages being promoted would still tend to highlight sun and beach, diving and adventure. But recently, with the aim of putting our Philippine culinary heritage on international centre stage, we participated in Spain’s most recognized culinary event – Madrid Fusion 2015 and 2016 editions. We had three of our best chefs invited as presenters in the show with two of them featured in special dinners in the most popular restaurants in Madrid. And for the first time in the history of Madrid Fusion, the Philippines was the first Asian country to be given the honor to host Madrid Fusion outside Spain. Dubbed as Madrid Fusion Manila, the event has brought to the country some of the best and most recognized Michelin chefs as speakers, as well as international media.

 Apart from the formal culinary setting and gourmet experience, Manila was also recognized as one of Asia’s Top 10 street food cities by CNN.

 MFB: In our interview feature with Oslo’s Bread N Butter owners, Reverdy and Abelene Pineda, This is Why Filipino Food is Unknown in Norway (An Interview with the Couple behind Oslo’s First Filipino Restaurant), they said,

“Thai (food) is very popular in Oslo because of the growing tourism, trade and industry between Norway and Thailand. Personally, I think tourism plays a big role in boosting Filipino food in Norway. The Philippines has never been marketed as a vacation paradise for the Scandinavians, unlike Thailand and soon, Vietnam. I think there is a lot of concern about safety, corruption and kidnapping incidents involving foreign tourists in the Philippines. Our country needs to be seen and be visited a lot more. Food is a huge factor for tourists. Norwegians long for Thai food right after a relaxing vacation in Thailand, for example. So again, tourism is the main key to be seen and be known in Norway.”

Please comment on this.

GP:  First of all, I commend the couple for their passion and for breaking through to introduce our cuisine.

Sampling local food is always part of any tour program offered by our tour operators. Independent travelers have unlimited dining options also when exploring our country, from local to international cuisine.  

IMFITP-Adobo

 As part of my job as a tourism marketer, I get to host and dine a lot with many foreign guests and every time I would ask them about our cuisine, they would always say that our food is tasty.

The correlation between food and tourism may not be absolute. For example,  Maldives is very popular for beach holidays but not necessarily for its food. Dubai is very exciting for shopping and unlimited activity options. Personally, I don’t enjoy Arabic food.

Yes, Philippine food could be more popular if more Norwegians are able to travel to the country. We need not wait for that. Conversely, we may make it as a starting point and catalyst to create more awareness about our food and our country, and propel the people to travel to the Philippines.

We know that our Filipino cuisine is delicious and could be world class. We need more enterprising Filipino restaurateurs.

Certainly, we need to do more to promote Philippine cuisine. As of now, our country as a destination is more known for beaches, soft adventure and our friendly and hospitable people.

Our country has a new government, which is aggressively addressing “travel demotivators”  (i.e. corruption, safety concerns, lack of infra and service facilities, etc.) to mitigate the negative impressions and enhance the awareness and overall confidence in the Philippines for both business and leisure travel.

Travel safety is a universal concern even for us here in Europe.  We are glad there are more Europeans traveling to the Philippines. As of May 2016, travel from Norway to the Philippines increased by 4.25%. Overall European outbound travel is expected to grow at a slower rate of 2.8%.  From our market jurisdiction, we are having bigger growth rates out of UK (14.85%), Sweden (19.18%), Denmark (25.39%), Italy (12.04%) and Spain (26.14%).

 

MFB: Why is travel growth rate from Norway so much lower compared to neighboring Sweden & Denmark?

GP:  It could be partly related to economic conditions. Sweden is projected to achieve a 3% GDP growth in 2017, Denmark 2% and Norway only 1.6%.

MFB: Why is there a lack of Philippine package tour offers or promotions in Norway?

GP: The Nordic market is an opportunity market for the Philippines. We have full market development projects lined up and this would include the development of products, press and blogger trips and tour operator familiarization trips to the Philippines. In this process, definitely food will be something that can be highlighted while we aim to increase the awareness in the market on the Philippines as a whole.

In our next product presentation and marketing activity with the media and travel agents, we may hold it in a Filipino restaurant or a function room serving Filipino food.

Norske1-Tourism

Ad on Vagabond Travel Magazine

MFB: If Filipino food becomes more known abroad, would it open a new or bigger market segment of tourists to the Philippines?

GP: We have recently seen an increasing interest in the Philippines in terms of our culinary heritage.  Filipino food featured in international publications, television shows and various content published and shared in social media, slowly but surely, help it make a mark in the international culinary arena. We are optimistic that Kulinarya would continue to be one of the experiences that our visitors can look forward to.

DOT is also working aggressively to get as many hotels/resorts and restaurants accredited to cater to markets which require or prefer Halal food.

MFB: How many visitors from Norway does the Philippines receive each year? How would you compare this number to other countries, say the UK or Italy? Where do you see Philippine Tourism at in Norway five years from now?

 In 2015, we received these arrivals from our source markets (under our jurisdiction):

                               Norway               20,968 (increase of .59%) compared to previous year

                               Sweden                23,206 (+6.15%)

                                Denmark             15,269 (+6.79%)

                                UK                       154,589 (+15.65%)

                               Spain                     24,144 (+24.76%)

                                Italy                       21,620 (+8.83%)

 

As we have shown in the other table, we are having a good start for all our markets. Norway is up by 4.25% as of May this year. We hope to sustain our growth momentum amidst the challenges brought about by the Brexit and lower travel appetite among the Europeans because of the terror threats.

RFor more information about travel to the Philippines:

The Official UK Travel Guide for The Philippines

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Top 4 Things Tourists Like Most about the Philippines ( An Interview with PH Tourism Attache for Northern and Southern Europe)