Young chef shines on global stage

Award-winning chef shares his recipes

Photos: Christer Rødseth World champion Christer Rødseth in the kitchen.

Photo: Christer Rødseth
World champion Christer Rødseth in the kitchen.

Patricia Barry
Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

From humble beginnings come grand achievements. Such is true for young Christer Rødseth, who in just a few years has gone from selling hot dogs and washing dishes at local restaurants to becoming one of Norway’s top chef talents with two culinary world championships.

Christer, 24, hails from Aurskog (in Akershus), a small town east of Oslo where he has lived with his parents Trude and Gunnar and siblings Celine, Charlotte, and Bendik. Our family met Christer when he was 12 and about to embark on a career that has taken him from his hometown to Oslo to the international culinary stage.

As a young boy Christer loved making waffles and sveler with his grandmother in Sunndalsøra and with his mother’s cousins who lived nearby. (Svele is a folded pancake filled with either whipped cream with sugar or brown cheese—a traditional food from Møre og Romsdal.)

Besides his culinary skills evident at an early age, Christer has other talents and interests as well, traits that have contributed to his meteoric rise. His sister Charlotte best sums him up: “Christer is a person with many skills. Besides cooking, he played the saxophone in our school band and is a really good singer. Ask him to play ‘Amazed By You’ on the piano. He’ll probably sing for you, too. He goofs around a lot and (almost) always spreads his good mood! He is funny, and I used to say, ‘Christer is going to be a comedian when he grows up.’ Christer always cares for others, and is a really good listener who gives good advice. He has a lot of friends and gets along well with everybody, young and old.”

Photo: Christer Rødseth Christer Rødseth’s Eplekake.

Photo: Christer Rødseth
Christer Rødseth’s Eplekake.

Education and career
Rødseth was first in a restaurant kitchen at age nine. His uncle had a catering business and after much persistence from Christer, his uncle finally let him help in the kitchen. “Christer amazed everybody there with his work ethic, especially when he peeled onions! He helped out there every opportunity,” says Charlotte. Christer’s first jobs, starting at age 10, were at Gjestegården and Fjøset, both literally in his Aurskog back yard, where he worked his way up from kiosk clerk to dishwasher to cook.

Christer credits Mark Hickton, his teacher at Sørumsand videregående skole, for setting high standards and helping him get his job at Le Canard, Oslo, at age 18. At Le Canard Christer apprenticed with chef Jonathan Howell. The days were long and the work hard. With both Hickton and Howell, “Criticism came easily. Silence meant you were doing things as you should. Praise had to be earned,” said Rødseth. Their high expectations made the hard-working Christer work even harder and helped shape him as a chef.

After Le Canard, Christer worked as chef at Baltazar Ristorante in Oslo, and then, working for Select Service Partner, was head chef at Le Grand Comptoir at Oslo Airport for two years.

Rødseth’s current venture with Selective Service Partner is establishing a new restaurant, Fjøla, opening January 2015 in Østbanehallen at Oslo Central Station. Christer describes Fjøla as a “gastro pub or brasserie highlighting Norwegian meat and fish.” For the first time Christer will be 100% in charge of the entire business, not just the kitchen.

Two-time world champion
Rødseth’s culinary abilities have been recognized not only in Norway but also internationally. In 2012 chef Geir Magnus Svae and commis (assistant) Christer won first prize at the biannual Global Chefs Challenge in South Korea. To qualify, the Norwegian team first won the Northern Europe competition.

This year the Norway team, chef Christopher Davidsen and commis Christer, won first place once again at the Global Chefs Challenge held in Stavanger. Gunnar, Christer’s proud father, and family attended the competition. “One of the most fantastic events was last summer when we followed Christer during the world championships in Stavanger. When the team’s names were announced as winners, it was thrilling and unforgettable.”

In 2013 Rødseth placed second at the Hans Bueschkens Young Chefs Challenge semi-finals at Gothenburg, Sweden. In this junior competition Christer was the head chef with an assistant assigned to him. His sister Charlotte reflects, “The best thing I have ever tasted that Christer made is the homemade coconut ice cream he made for the Hans Bueschkens competition. I was so lucky to be his assistant for one of his training days.”

In 2011 Christer was named to the elite Norway Junior Culinary Team, which participates in Olympiade der Köche, the Culinary Olympics. In 2012 the Norway team earned the silver medal at Erfurt, Germany. In November the team will compete at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg.

Rødseth and his accomplishments have been featured in numerous Norwegian newspapers and magazines. He has appeared on TV, most prominently after winning the 2014 Global Chefs Challenge with Christopher Davidsen. He and Davidsen appeared on NRK’s Sommeråpent, describing their win at Stavanger and demonstrating their culinary skills.

What is next in the competitive world? Christer enjoys the thrill of competition, but may take a year off from the competition circuit after the Culinary World Cup in November. Participating in these events involves much time and preparation, in addition to his full time job. When Christer turns 25 next year, he will no longer be eligible to be a commis in the Global Chefs Challenge but he could decide to head his own team.

Back to his roots
Along with national and international recognition, Rødseth was recently honored by his hometown, receiving the 2014 Årets Urskæving (Aurskog Person of the Year award).

While Christer has lived in Oslo and his new restaurant Fjøla is in Oslo, he is now living back in Aurskog. When not working or competing, he enjoys a slower pace—listening to music, spending time with friends and family, running and working out at the gym, helping a young neighbor retrieve his cat from a tree.

Christer wants to give back to his hometown and has plans for a culinary venture in Aurskog sometime in the future. Meanwhile, stop by Fjøla the next time you are at Østbanehallen.

Christer has justifiably made Aurskog and Norway proud. Stay tuned. You will be hearing more great things from Christer Rødseth.

You can follow Christer Rødseth at chrodseth on Instagram and can find him on Facebook and YouTube.

300 g butter (salted)
300 g sugar
1 vanilla pod
300 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
5 Granny Smith apples
sugar and cinnamon
caramel sauce

Whisk butter, sugar, and the vanilla seeds from the pod until white.

Add flour and baking powder alternately with the eggs.

Peel the apples and cut into slices.

Put the mixture into a greased mold, cake tin, or whatever you have available. Lay the apples on top tightly and sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on top of the cake.

Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes, depending on the mold you are using.

When the cake has cooled down for 15-30 minutes, serve with hot caramel sauce.

1000 ml whole fat milk
50 g fresh yeast
2.2 kg flour (maybe more)
200 g sugar
1 tsp cardamom
200 g salted butter (at room temperature)
Sugar, cinnamon, and butter for rolling inside the buns
2 eggs for brushing on the buns

Warm the milk to 37 degrees Celsius. Add to a mixing bowl (use an electric mixer if possible), and dissolve the fresh yeast in the milk. (Remember that the temperature of the milk will drop several degrees if you add it to a cold metal bowl.)

Add the flour, sugar, and cardamom. Add more flour if needed. The dough should not be too stiff.

Mix in the butter, diced and at room temperature, until a smooth dough is formed. Let the dough rise until double in size, then roll out with a rolling pin.

Spread some butter on the dough, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the dough and cut the buns into slices or desired shapes. Place on a greased baking sheet.

Let the buns rise again.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius until golden.

Take the buns out, brush with eggs that have been whisked with a little milk, and bake for two more minutes.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.