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/

 

by Jacqueline Lauri of My Food Beginnings – a Filipino food anthology project

Bringing people together through food and stories

Like us on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter.

http://www.twitter.com/mfb_anthology

 

 

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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, My Food Beginnings – a collection of Filipino food memoirs.

Connect with Christian Andre Pettersen:

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

 

by Jacqueline Lauri of My Food Beginnings – a Filipino food anthology project

Bringing people together through food and stories.

Like us on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter.

http://www.twitter.com/mfb_anthology

 

 

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

Filipino Food to Replicate Sushi’s Success in Norway? (includes a Q&A with 2015’s Best Non-Japanese Sushi Chef in the World )

What does sushi have to do with Filipino food? Bear with me. I’ll make the connection soon, I promise.

I first met Roger Asakil Joya at one of Alex Mossige’s Filipino food pop-ups in Stavanger, Norway. He, his wife and 4-year-old son had just finished eating  Kare-Kare, a thick oxtail stew in peanut saucewhen Alex suggested I interview him. “He’s from Sabi Sushi,” she said.

roger and son
Roger and son

Sabi Sushi is a well-known chain of sushi restaurants in Stavanger. It grew from one small take-away outlet to nine restaurants within a span of five years. In my family, Saturday is Japanese food day. Every week, we would either dine in at or take-out from the nearest Sabi Sushi restaurant.

SabiSushi2

SabiSushiHinna2
Sabi Sushi Hinna

 

“At which Sabi restaurant do you work?” I asked Roger.

Overhearing my question, a Filipina seating at the table cut in, “He’s the owner, you dum-dum!” (Well, she didn’t say “you dum-dum”, but I surely felt like one :-))

“I’m the one who mops the floor,” Roger replied, eliciting laughter and diffusing the embarrassment caused by my “dum-dum” question.

Roger Asakil Joya, originally from Cavite, Philippines, is a sushi master, co-owner and founding partner of Sabi Sushi and the head chef of Sabi Omakase. He immigrated to Norway when he was 18. He is one of the few sushi chefs in Norway accredited by the All Japan Sushi Association (AJSA).

SabiSushiOmakase

Roger
Roger at Sabi Omakase

In August  2015, Roger competed at the Sushi World Cup in Tokyo and snatched second place in the Edomae sushi category and fourth overall. As the top three winners were Japanese, Roger, can affably claim the world’s best non-Japanese sushi chef title.

 

roger-japansk-tvl
Roger at Sushi World Cup in Tokyo (Photo credit: Dfly.no)

Sabi Sushi, conceived as an everyman’s sushi diner, played a big part in converting skeptic raw fish eaters into sushi enthusiasts in Rogaland, the Southwest county of Norway. Ironically, decades ago, it was the Norwegians who tried to convert the Japanese to eat a particular type of fish raw – salmon.

Salmon sushi, now a world favorite, was unheard of in Japan until the Norwegian salmon industry reintroduced it to them. Salmon fished in Japan bred parasites and was considered repulsive to serve raw. It took a clever campaign by a Norwegian to change the Japanese’s perception of salmon sushi. Salmon also played a big role in popularizing sushi worldwide due to the threshold fish’s mass appeal. In fact, Sabi Sushi’s Newbie,  a set my son craves for every week, consists of mostly salmon. As you know, Norwegian salmon has that buttery, melt-in-the-mouth quality and a universally-liked taste that even children love.

Sabi Newbie

SabiSalmon

 

 Which provides us with some food for thought: What would it take for Filipino food to crossover in Norway and the world? How can we change the negative perception on our cuisine and relabel the “unhealthy” tag slapped on it into “healthy yet exciting?” What’s our takeaway from the Norwegian salmon sushi story?

Now on with some snippets of the Q & A with Roger Asakil Joya. Can Roger help popularize Filipino food in Norway just as he helped popularize sushi in the region?

MFB: What do you think is the reason for the absence or lack of Filipino food establishments in Norway? What can be done to boost the visibility of Filipino cuisine in the mainstream?

RJ: Most Filipinos do not have a business mentality. They are more focused on getting a secured job so that they can help their family in the Philippines, which I think is understandable.

In terms of Filipino food, I think we don’t have a distinctive or easily identifiable gastronomic style. Most of our food is diluted with European, Chinese, and Malay influences. To give it a boost, I would recreate a native tropical paradise atmosphere, like a restaurant with a nipa hut type of motif inside.

MFB: Have you ever thought about starting up a Filipino restaurant? Why or why not?

RJ:  I’m open to it.  If there are Filipinos who can give me a viable proposal and ask me to be their partner, I would seriously consider it.

MFB:  If an aspiring entrepreneur comes to you and asks you for advice about putting up a Filipino restaurant in Stavanger or anywhere in Norway, what would you say?

RJ: Prepare a business plan and I will consider financing it.

MFB: What are your goals in the next few years?

RJ:  Invest in the Philippines. I love our country.

Connect with Roger Asakil Joya

Websites: Sabi Omakase, Sabi Sushi

Facebook: Sabi Omakase

by Jacqueline Lauri of My Food Beginnings – a Filipino food anthology project

Bringing people together through food and stories.

Like us on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter.

 

Filipino Food to Replicate Sushi’s Success in Norway? (includes a Q&A with 2015’s Best Non-Japanese Sushi Chef in the World )