Food & Drink
The road to the Bocuse d’Or
Born in: Bodø
Works: Head Chef at Mondo, Sandnes
Awards: Gold medal Norwegian Cup for Trainees 2008, gold in Norwegian Culinary Arts Championships in 2011 and 2014 and silver in Nordic Chefs 2015. He also won silver at the World Finals of the San Pellegrino Young Chef, Italy in 2015. Commis at Team Malmin 2011. Assistant on Team Hvarnes for Chef of the Year 2013. Silver in Chef of the Year 2015. Assistant on Team Christopher W. Davidsen at the Bocuse d'Or Europe 2016 (silver) and Bocuse d'Or 2017 (silver). Chef of the Year 2017 and accordingly Norway's entrant to Bocuse d'Or 2019.
Website: Bocusedornorge.no/kjent-christian-pettersen, Mondo.no
He’s putting in as much practice as he can. It's a bit like competing in sports at the top level. Like running a marathon carrying a heavy backpack.
“It involves both physical and mental training. The rivalry is getting more and more complex and your head’s spinning 24 hours a day every single day. You have to constantly be more creative. Work with design and preserve the geographic origins of the raw ingredients. Think about sustainability and waste. It's not just about being a good chef, you also have to lift everyone around you. There has to be a meaning to everything you do. At the same time, you need to keep your eye on the clock as you don't have all the time in the world,” says Pettersen.
His dream of becoming a chef started with the washing up at his father's restaurant in Bodø. He was by no means old.
“I started when I was eight and earned Nkr100 an hour, which I thought was good money. If you want to achieve anything in life you have to start early,” he says with a laugh.
Together with his father, he followed Terje Ness who won a Bocuse d’Or gold back then. It was exciting. He felt the same about food and flavors. He went with his dad to Steigen to catch sea urchins. Obviously, he wanted to be chef.
“But dad was against it. He said it was a tough career with long hours. Not very compatible with family life. They didn't have the same kitchen aids as we have today. But I was not put off. So, dad said: “If you're going to be a chef, you have to be the best”. I told him in which case I would be. We then shook hands on it.”
“It's no exaggeration to say dad played an important role in my development. When it was time for an apprenticeship with a business, there were three companies and chefs that mattered, according to dad. These were Bent Stiansen, Odd Ivar Solvold and Charles Tjessem. Nobody else. Pettersen ended up at Tjessem in Sandnes. Dad bought him a chef's outfit with a Norwegian flag. Pettersen felt he looked as smart as paint. Proud of being offered a place there. He didn't realize how tough it would be.
“I was new and a northerner and was soon put in my place. I was put to work in the bakery on the night shift, something I hadn't anticipated. I was living in a studio apartment without any friends or family near me. I called home and said it was not how I had imagined it would be. But dad said if you are to succeed, you have to learn to deal with tough situations. Now, looking back, I can see learning the baking side was really useful. It’s something I have use for.”
“A few months into my apprenticeship, there was a competition for trainees. And the Norwegian Championships for trainees. Pettersen kept at it. Practiced. And won the gold medal in the Norwegian Championships. That made the headlines in Bodø.”
He was offered a permanent job at Tjessem where he rose through the ranks to become a sous chef and chef. He went on to Spiseriet in Stavanger before returning to Tjessem and investor Thorstein Harbo to their restaurant Mondo, last year. In addition to his restaurant career, Pettersen has taken part in an incredible 21 competitions. Gaining a podium place almost every time.
“I’ve won 11 golds, nine silvers and one bronze. But I'd better check, I may have forgotten one or two.”
Wants to give something back
He has no idea whether or not he’ll win gold in Turin.
“I’m going to work harder than I've ever worked before. And keep going.”
But if he wins, what will be the next step in his career? His own restaurant?
“Then I will have achieved my goal. I don't want to plan further than that. But it’ll be a holiday where I am 100 percent there. I've not been that before. However, I also want to be involved in helping new young talents develop their potential as chefs. How, I don’t yet know, but this is perhaps one of the most important things those of us fortunate enough to have followed this path, can give in return to this trade and profession. So, it will happen one way or another.
And dad? What would he have said now that you’re closer than ever to becoming the best in the world.
“I know that he would have been incredibly proud of everything I’ve achieved from being a trainee to now. I also think he would be lost for words.”
Published: July 17, 2018