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)

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

 

by Jacqueline Lauri of My Food Beginnings , the Filipino food anthology project

Bringing people together through food and stories.

Like us on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter.

 

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

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 )

This is Why Filipino Food is Unknown in Norway (An Interview with the Couple behind Oslo’s First Filipino Restaurant)

When tragic news, such as the murder of a Norwegian by his Filipina wife or the kidnapping of a Norwegian by a Philippine militant group, hit the country, most people don’t remember the names of the perpetrators; they just remember where they’re from. While I don’t believe Norwegians pin the crimes of a few to the entire race, it somehow casts a shadow to the almost 12,000 Filipinos in Norway by mere association.

On June 11, 2016, Filipinos from different organizations in Oslo are working together as one, mirroring to Norwegians who we really are as a people. This 118th Philippine Independence Day celebration is the biggest Filipino event of the year in Norway. Rightfully so, let’s put the spotlight on a couple of the event’s participants. This couple behind the first ever Filipino restaurant in Norway, and beacons of Filipino pride are Chef Reverdy Pineda and his wife Abelene Garcia-Pineda.

revv&jingle
Chef Rev and wife Abelene

Read the Q & A below and find out what they are doing for the love of country, culture and food. PLUS let us know if you agree with their intriguing theory about why Filipino food in Norway doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as its Asian neighbors. If you are interested in putting up a Filipino food establishment in Norway, Rev and Abelene share the struggles they face below.

MFB: Please tell us more about your Filipino heritage. What brought you to Norway?

 

ReverdyPineda
Chef Rev

 AP: Both Reverdy’s father and mine came to Norway in the early 1980’s as working immigrants in the North Sea and Mechanical Industry, respectively. We came as family immigrants a few years later.

Reverdy’s  parents are both from Poblacion, Muntinlupa City.  Rev was only ten years old when he moved to Norway. He adjusted very well.  At that young age, learning a new language wasn’t a problem. He easily made friends both at school and in the neighborhood.

MFB: How did you get started in food? I see that you have had a series of business/companies set-up in Oslo, please tell us about them?

AP: Both Rev’s mother and father are good cooks and bakers. They prepared purely homemade dishes. This passion was passed on to Rev. After ungdomskole, or high school, Rev’s heart was already set on pursuing cooking classes. At that age, he already dreamt of managing his own restaurant one day.

Upon graduating from Oslo Kokk og Stuartskole, he worked in several restaurants as restaurant and head chef. Later on, we established our own business and opened the very first Filipino family restaurant in 2000 in Oslo, Lamesa. We operated it for about two years with the help of my family. Unsatisfied with Lamesa’s turnout, Rev decided to give restaurant business a break. He set up a manpower company that lasted for almost nine years.

Recently, Rev finished an advance baking course at UFM Cooking and Baking School in Bangkok while I was posted there at the Norwegian Embassy in 2015.

MFB: What are the concepts for Bread N Butter & Cusina Catering? 

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Bread N Butter

 AP: Rev returned to his true calling- the kitchen, in 2013. Although he left the food industry, he never stopped cooking homemade meals through those years.

Bread N Butter is a fusion of Asian and Scandinavian baking techniques. Rev improvised recipes to create freshly- baked Pinoy bread using ingredients available in the local stores of Oslo. His aim was to bake Pinoy bread with Norwegian quality of freshness and presentation. Our bestselling products among the Filipino community are pan de salensaymada and pan de cocco. Among the Norwegian customers, pan de coco is the most exotic because of the sweetened coconut. We launched our first products in Mathallen in Oslo, November 2014.

Cusina Catering is another fusion concept. We feature bread, buns or wraps filled with Filipino “ulam” or viands. Our target is the Norwegian market. This is an easier way to introduce Pinoy food to the Norwegian public.

Tocino Burger
Cusina Catering’s Tocino Burger
Sisigsalad
Sisig Salad by Cusina Catering

 

SisigWrap
Sisig Wrap

 

MFB: Please tell us about your involvement with Filipino Associations in Norway.

AP: I actively volunteer to help out in the Filipino community in Oslo and often get involved in many events. As the chairperson of the Filipina Alliance Volleyball Group (FAVG) in Oslo, I have formed three all-Filipina teams in the Norwegian Volleyball series with a total of 30 players.  I am also the head of all the volleyball tournaments within the Filipino community since 2009.

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Abelene aka Jingle

In 2013, I was one of the project leaders to work on a united Philippine Independence Day celebration in Norway. With FilCom and the Philippine Embassy, I helped bring together all the organizations and groups in Oslo to celebrate this occasion as one. This took place in one of the most prestigious venues for festivals in Oslo, Youngstorget.

When Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines, I was one of the project managers of the first fundraising concert event in Oslo for Yolanda victims, in cooperation with FilCom, the embassy, Folketeatret, and Norwegian artists like D’sound. All proceeds were donated to Red Cross, UNICEF and Norsk Folkehjelp.

MFB:  What do you think is the Norwegian public’s general perception of Filipino cuisine?Are there Filipino restaurants in Oslo?

AP: In 2000, Norwegians were not familiar with Asian food in general, especially Filipino cuisine. That is one of the reasons why we closed down just after a couple years.  I think the Norwegian’s general perception of our food is “unhealthy”, fatty, meaty and saucy. There is one Filipino eatery in Oslo at the moment. But they are primarily catering to the Filipino palate. Presentation is carenderia-like, a Philippine food-stall-type of eatery.

MFB:  Where does Filipino food stand in the Oslo food scene? How does it compare to the popularity of other Asian cuisines, i.e. Thai?

 AP: I think we are more or less 5 000 in Oslo. Filipino food is only seen during the Filipino events. However, Bread N Butter participates in Norwegian and International food events, such as International Restaurant Day, Food market in Mathallen in Oslo and Christmas food market in Grunerløkka, Oslo.

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Food Market in Mathallen

Thai and Vietnamese food dominate the Asian food market in Norway. Filipino cuisine is invisible.

Thai 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.

MFB: What do you think is taking Filipino cuisine so long to get going?

AP: 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.

MFB: What are the greatest challenges you face as the owner of Bread N Butter? What do you consider as your greatest achievements?

 AP: Our biggest challenges are to survive in the market and be able to create products of equal or better quality than other international baked products in Oslo.

Achievements: Feedback from our clients, especially from Norwegians, about how deliciously different our products are and positive comments about quality, taste and texture.

BNB
Bread N Butter

 MFB: What advice can you give aspiring Filipino restaurant entrepreneurs in Norway?

AP: Study, research and analyze the market before opening a restaurant.  Target not only the Filipino market. Think quality in the Norwegian way. Familiarize yourselves with rules and regulations.

Quality control of raw materials and regular reports to Mattilsynnet, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, can be very challenging. There are many requirements that you should abide with, like drafting daily routines in  black and white to qualify, especially for bread production.   

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

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This is Why Filipino Food is Unknown in Norway (An Interview with the Couple behind Oslo’s First Filipino Restaurant)

The Pinay behind Stavanger, Norway’s Rare Phenomenon

Don’t be surprised if you run into a Filipino anywhere you go in Norway. But in the cosmopolitan city of Stavanger, Norway’s oil capital, be very surprised if you stumble upon a place serving Filipino food – the odds are probably as slim as fishing a tilapia out of the fjord.

Taking a step towards upping the odds is Manila born and raised, Michelle “Alex” Mossige with her Adobo Afternoon pop-ups. Married to a Norwegian and now 12 years in Norway, Alex works as a chef cum personal restaurant manager at Wilberg. She is also the founder of MP events by Michelle P. Mossige, which organizes food related events for Lola’s Kusina and Stavanger Dining Club.

My Food Beginnings interviews Alex, the Pinay behind the Adobo Afternoon pop-ups.

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How did you get started in food?

 I’ve been working with food for as long as I can remember. Food and cooking have always played a big part in my life, especially because my father hails from Pampanga, the Philippines’ culinary capital. I remember women from all over town gathered together at my grandparents’ place to prepare huge vats of food for fiestas. From the age of seven, I watched folks slaughter and eviscerate chickens and pigs for cooking.  I tried to help in anyway I could and learned how to do stuff.

Though I’ve always loved eating, cooking for me then was more like something you did out of necessity. I had no idea I would end up in food. As a child, I was fascinated watching TV cooking shows like “Wok with Yan”.  But my interest in cooking and eating different types of food only fanned out in my twenties. When I started working, I began to collect cookbooks. More are being added.

My love for cooking and food, in general, had just been a hobby; it was only when I moved to Norway that it became a passion and a profession. I guess now, you can call me a foodie.

What is Filipino cuisine to you? If a foreigner comes up to you and asks you to describe it, what would you say?

 Filipino cuisine for me, first and foremost, is the food I grew up with, which is Capampangan cuisine:  Lechon (roast suckling pig) and dishes that my mom taught me to prepare, such as Sinigang, Adobo, Pansit and Paksiw.

Our cuisine is influenced by our colonizers and groups of people from neighboring countries that settled in the Philippines in the old days.

When people ask me about Filipino food, I say it’s not like Thai or Malay food, but a mixture of those flavors. It’s not spicy, in general, but taste and flavor may vary depending on the region. Spanish and Chinese influence is strong in many of our local dishes but indigenous ways of cooking from our aboriginal tribes, like the Aeta, are evident as well.

What do you think are the reasons why Filipino Cuisine is slow in catching up in the international mainstream? 

One of the reasons why it’s slow in trending is because we, Filipinos, only love to serve our food to our families and guests in our homes.  We have never been so good in bragging about our own food culture. We capitalize more on foreign influences and feel that Filipino food is not sophisticated or delicate enough for other people to appreciate.  But it’s changing fast. Filipino cuisine is going mainstream in the US, thanks to the shows of Antony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. And in London, it is slowly getting attention through Josephine’s Restaurant and pop-up restaurants, like Luzon, showing how Filipino cuisine can be different and elegant, unlike the typical turo-turo or street food style.

 What are the chances of our cuisine breaking into the Norwegian mainstream?

 There is a huge chance for us to break into the Norwegian market. It’s all about educating the people. Most Norwegians I met thought Filipino food is Thai or Chinese.  When we organized festivals and ran a cafe, people, especially the kids, love the pork BBQ and our version of spring rolls. And when catering, my clients love the kare-kare (meat stew in a thick savory peanut sauce). Norwegians like food that is not so spicy, and we have a diverse range of food to offer.

 What was you inspiration for “Adobo Afternoon” pop-up? What personal memories does adobo stir-up for you?

AlexAdobo
Adobo

 

I love organizing events. After we closed down our cafe, I started a group on Facebook called Stavanger Dining Club, which was inspired by pop-up restaurants abroad.  The club presented Filipino cuisine and sometimes we did other types of food as well depending on what I fancy creating at the time. Since it’s been a year since I organized an event with the Stavanger Dining Club, I decided to re-introduce Filipino food, but this time in Stavanger. What better dish to showcase Filipino cuisine than the most popular Filipino dish, Adobo.

Pork adobo is my fave. Especially if it’s twice cooked and the sauce is reduced to a consistency just enough to glaze the rice. Chicken adobo with liver or a combination of pork and chicken adobo are also divine. Oxtail adobo, another variation, works really well too.

oxtail-adobo
Oxtail

Adobo reminds me of home in the Philippines. It reminds me of a stage in my life when I was young and innocent. It evokes memories of preparing food in the kitchen with my mom and of eating together at our dining table with my dad and two siblings. When I cook adobo, I also think about my favorite aunt who passed away before my interest in food turned into a passion. How I wish I could share my love for food and cooking with her.

Adobo is my comfort food. It’s a good thing my husband loves it too, especially when it’s flavored with a lot of vinegar.

What are your plans and dreams in food?

 I plan to focus on presenting Filipino cuisine in the region. I also want to start-up a food safari tour for Nordic travelers visiting the Philippines. I plan to do more food and travel related events since both are my passion.

My dream is to have a cafe again wherein we can serve Philippine coffee beans and cocoa based products. It will be a hub where people can enjoy both coffee and Filipino food with that Filipino hospitality that we are all known for.

For an update on Alex’s upcoming Filipino pop-up events, you can find her on  her Facebook page, Lola’s Kusina.

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

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The Pinay behind Stavanger, Norway’s Rare Phenomenon