My love for cooking has always been fueled by the love for the produce. If I hadn’t grown up where I did, in northern Norway, I don’t know if I would be on the path I am today. From a very young age, my parents would take me on fishing trips, we would hike to mountaintops and fish in deep fjords. We also picked and foraged berries, mushrooms and wild herbs. My absolute favorite memory from when I was a kid, was staying up all night fishing on a mountain close to our cabin. I could sit for hours and just watch the float on the water, anticipating a hungry fish.
As I became a teenager, hanging out with my parents was no longer a top priority, although I still went to the cabin on occasion and still went fishing, although less frequently. In my middle teens as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I thought for a short time about becoming a chef, but at the time it was merely a fleeting thought that was quickly dismissed and I went on to pursue other things. When I was 18 I moved to Oslo, to study art. I was a vegetarian at the time and used to my parents making dinner for me, so now I actually had to learn how to cook every day. When I lived at home I had cooked dinner once in a while, to some decent results, but cooking dinner every day with little to no money, living on a student loan, is a whole different game. I quit art school after less than a year and went on to work a slew of different jobs. From illustrator and web designer to construction to a very short try as a journalist, and over five years in a comic book store.
In my middle 20’s I started cooking more and more and taking it a bit more seriously, although I still had no ambition of becoming a chef. I tried to be creative at home, and would often cook for family and friends. It was at this time Sofie went to photography school and decided to become a food photographer, so I also started cooking things for her to take pictures of. I also started watching a lot of cooking and travel shows like No Reservations, Top Chef, Master Chef Australia, The Mind of a Chef, and Chef’s Table which inspired me a lot. Reading Kitchen Confidential also had a huge impact on me but for some reason, I still didn’t see that I could be a chef.
In my late 20’s we moved back to my hometown in the north of Norway, Tromsø, for a year and a half. We were kind of sick of Oslo after having spent the last 10 years there and needed a break. The plan was to find jobs and save up some money over the course of a year, but jobs were few and far between. So instead of actually getting a job, apart for a few weeks in the local newspaper as a journalist, I spent most of my time thinking about what type of job I actually wanted. After a year and a half, we decided to move back to Oslo. I still didn’t have a job and at this point, Sofie wanted to get more photography work, so I spent a lot of my time at home cooking so she could take pictures. One night I picked up “Marco Pierre White’s Devil in the Kitchen” and started to read it. A few nights later I was about halfway through the book, I was laying in bed and suddenly I thought “Why don’t I become a chef? Why haven’t I thought of that before? I’m a moron”. Later when thinking about why I didn’t come to that conclusion earlier, I think it just comes down to insecurities. I simply hadn’t been ready until now.
In August of 2017, I decided to become a chef, I was 29. I did a quick google search for something like “Becoming a chef in your 30’s”, the results being a bunch of Reddit threads saying that cooking is a young man’s game and if your older than 20 when you’re starting out, you can already give up. This should have been discouraging but actually, it had the adverse effect and I’m actually happy that people were writing these things, because what is more fun than proving people wrong. Set your mind to do something, do it. Everything else is just white noise. I also found this great article in the Guardian, about Swedish chef Mikael Jonsson, who began his professional career at 44!
The first step I took was to call an old friend of the family. I hadn’t spoken to him in 20 years or so, but my parents and his are great friends. I knew he owned a very successful catering business and a restaurant. He was kind enough to help me out and quickly gave me a job as a runner, helping out the servers and cleaning. It was actually great fun, as I got my first insights into the restaurant business. The restaurant is only open during the summer months, so I only worked there a few weeks. In the meantime, I called another friend of mine, who got me a job as a bartender at Sentralen, a great restaurant in Oslo, where I still work from time to time. Another few weeks went by, and I found a job ad on facebook for a street food stall called Duck It. I applied and got my first job actually cooking something, even if it was just simple street food, it still felt like an accomplishment just a month after I decided I wanted to become a chef.
Another few weeks went by, and I came by another facebook ad. This time it was for a small bistro in Oslo that was opening called Dekka Bord, as a chef. I applied for this job as well and actually got it! Two months after deciding that I wanted to become a chef, I landed a job as one. I had set my mind to the thought that it would take me years to get where I am now. The restaurant opened a few weeks ago and everything is going really well, I couldn’t be happier!
I am still reluctant to actually call myself a chef, as I don’t feel like I’m quite there yet. And like with most creative work, the road is pretty much endless. You can always learn and you will always evolve. I’d rather call myself a home cook that works as a chef. Check back on Nordic Provisions in the future for further updates on my road to becoming a chef.