Norwegian food is going places – and it’s due both to local talent and to chef transplants from Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide. Earning more Michelin stars with each passing year, Norwegian cuisine stays true to its roots when it comes to sourcing local, fresh produce, but is also on the road to reinventing and redefining itself. Meet some of the people who help make it so.
Born in Cavite, Philippines, Roger Asakil Joya came to Norway at 18 years old – a great example of how imported talent has helped elevate Norway’s culinary scene. The acclaimed Sushi Chef has been dubbed “the world’s best non-Japanese Sushi Chef”, after placing 4th at the Sushi World Cup in Tokyo (the three top spots went to Japanese chefs). A Stavanger local, Chef Joya opened Sabi Omakase in 2015, a superb restaurant serving Edomae-style sushi for 20 guests. All the food is prepared by him, every seat is at the chef’s table. His first Michelin star last year is a sign of many great things yet to come.
Re-Naa, also in Stavanger, is the first restaurant in Norway outside of Oslo to be awarded a Michelin star (and certainly helped put the city on the culinary map). The genius behind it is highly awarded Norwegian chef Sven Erik Renaa. Born in Trøndelag, Chef Renaa has worked with renowned chef David Burke at New York’s Park Avenue Café before returning to Norway to be the head of the country’s culinary institute and coach the Norwegian Culinary team. Apart from Renaa, which offers an intimate, 21-seat tasting menu with imaginative platings and fresh, Nordic flavors, he has also opened the more casual Renaa Matbaren and a Renaa pizzeria.
He has been called “the best Chef in Norway” – and with three Michelin stars to his name for his Oslo restaurant Maaemo, it’s probably an accurate descriptor. Born and raised in Copenhagen, Chef Esben Holmboe Bang places great emphasis on nature, agriculture, and sustainability (even the name of the restaurant means “Mother Earth” in Old Norse) using entirely organic, biodynamic, or wild produce. It would probably take a three-month wait for you to be able to have dinner at Maaemo, but if you’re paying attention you’ll know it’s worth it.
Ronny Kolvik is from Ålesund and he will be returning to his hometown this year to open Restaurant Bro, a casual fine-dining restaurant that will focus on local, raw materials and the concept of “kystgastronomi” (the gastronomy of the coast). Chef Kolvik has worked with Even Ramsvik at the Michelin-starred Ylajali and was also the captain of the Norwegian team for the international competition “The Native Cooking Award”. But perhaps his greatest work so far has been done in Arakataka, where he was Head Chef for seven years. In his time, he transformed Arakataka into one of Oslo’s best restaurants, with a food bar that really became the go-to destination for foodies who are in the know – like food blogger extraordinaire Anders Husa who was there on Kolvik’s last day and still reminisces some of the dishes.
Owner and head chef of Lysverket, one of Bergen’s most revered restaurants, Christopher Haatuft is turning Neo-Nordic cuisine on its head with the invention of the term “Neo-fjordic”. A joke at first, Neo-fjordic has become Chef Haatuft’s way of dealing with what the ragged terrain of Bergen and the fjords have to offer, and making it shine the way a French chef would. Having worked at some of New York’s most iconic restaurants like Per Se, Haatuft is now notorious for finding creative solutions (like convincing a friend to breed pigs on his farm) to the problems stemming from the finite produce of the area, and using traditional cooking methods in surprising ways – all while working towards making Norwegian cuisine a thing of the future.
Jonas Andre Nåvik has come a long way since he opened a home-dining concept out of his own home in Trondheim with Kim Asserson (more on him later). The chef, who earned his stripes at Alinea – one of Chicago’s two restaurants that have been graced with three Michelin stars – knows that food has the power to make long-lasting memories. And in his fine-dining restaurant, Fagn, in Trondheim, he’s doing exactly that. Think Nordic cuisine that’s “tasteful, creative and slightly nostalgic”, with excellent service and a cosy cocktail bar on the second floor.
Yes, MELT is a grilled cheese sandwich place. If you’re wondering what it, and Asserson, are doing on a list that’s otherwise full of fine-dining venues and their respective chefs, then wonder no more. Executive Chef Kim Asserson used to work at the other three-Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant, Grace, and when he and Jonas Andre Nåvik went back to Trondheim, one of their joint projects was to elevate the humble grilled cheese sandwich into a gourmet experience. What started as a food truck and evolved into a toast bar is now one of Oslo’s most innovative offerings with Kim at the helm – winning the hearts of Osloites one cheesy bite at a time. Yet another proof that modern Norwegian cuisine doesn’t have to be just about fish and potatoes.
Want to read more about Norway’s leading chefs, new restaurants and culinary trends? Head over to Anders Husa’s Foodie Stories blog.