Young Norwegian chef Christer Rødseth continues his rise
Hopewell Junction, N.Y.
Oct. 24, 2014: The Norwegian American Weekly headline reads “Young chef shines on global stage.” The article ends with “Stay tuned. You will be hearing more great things from Christer Rødseth.” Five years later, that is indeed true!
In 2014, Rødseth, then 24, had already won first place–twice–in the international Global Chefs Challenge as a commis (assistant) to two different chefs. He was a member of the Norway junior culinary team, had worked at several restaurants, and was about to open one of his own. Now 29, he has become an even more notable figure on the Norwegian culinary scene.
Olympic gold winner and chef
Rødseth, captain of Norway’s elite senior national culinary team, helped lead the team in winning the first-place gold medal at the Culinary Olympics (Olympiade der Köche) in Stuttgart last month.
“Team Norway convinced the jury of its skills due to its precision and artistic craftmanship,” according to a Culinary Olympics press release (www.olympiade-der-koeche.com/en/news/norway-wins-the-25th-ika-culinary-olympics-in-stuttgart).
Rødseth’s role as captain involved many long and late-night hours, as the team prepared for the quadrennial competition. (Note: Norway’s junior national culinary team brought home the silver medal.)
For his “day job,” Rødseth works as head chef at two restaurants in Oslo’s trendy Barcode section, including Vaaghals, Barcode’s first restaurant. Vaaghals’ web page describes itself as “the meeting place between unique Norwegian ingredients and continental dishes.”
Last October, he added a new venture: co-owner and head chef at the new Code Restaurant. Code describes itself as wanting to “give the classic dishes respect, but at the same time give them a little twist!”
Code has opened to rave reviews. A Dagsavisen review gives Code high praise, saying that “the gang behind Vaaghals has created a competitor for themselves,” though Rødseth sees the two restaurants as filling different niches.
“Matsjokket” – food shock!
Last fall, Rødseth added to his busy schedule a new role: host of a five-episode NRK TV show “Matsjokket” (Food Shock).
Rødseth states the premise of the show in each episode’s introduction: “One-third of all the food in the world goes into the garbage. It is a disaster for the planet. We can’t throw away so much food. We must try to do something about it. Together we can get Norway to stop throwing away food.”
It is estimated that 71 kilograms (157 pounds) of edible food per capita is thrown away annually in Norway, with about 60% of that thrown away by homes and the rest by stores and businesses.
“Matsjokket” approaches the food waste problem in five segments: sheep, bananas, vegetables, bread, and sugar. The program takes a clever approach to present its case. In each 27-minute show, Rødseth visits the home of Norwegian celebrities to educate and “shock them” (as the show title suggests) about the food waste problem: showing them both their personal contribution to food waste and the impact of the broader systemic problem.
He then enlists their aid in educating consumers, businesses, and government to seek change. This is all done effectively, with humor and without preaching, while conveying the seriousness of the problem.
“Matsjokket” has already had an effect. In the sugar shock episode, Rødseth enlisted the help of Knut Arild Hareide (Norwegian politician and former leader of the Christian Democratic Party) to address an unintended side effect of the sugar tax. In 2018, 3.5 million liters (925,000 gallons) of soda and 250,000 kilograms (551,156 pounds) of candies/sweets—perfectly good but most being close to or after their expiration dates—were thrown away in Norway. Throwing away these products cost the businesses nothing, while donating them would have cost a sizeable fee: the sugar tax.
After the airing of this “Matsjokket” episode, Stortinget, seeing that throwing away good products benefitted no one, changed the law so goods subject to the sugar tax can be donated tax-free.
In the episode addressing the surplus and waste of sheep meat (unlike the more popular lamb meat), Rødseth invited representatives from major Norwegian grocers to sample what he had prepared: sheep burgers with sauerkraut, tarragon mayonnaise, spring onion, and tomato. They declared the sheep burgers to “taste wonderfully good.” Just after this episode aired, food chains agreed to have more sheep meat in stores and to do a better job of promoting it, but cautioned that there must be a sustained demand for sheep meat to remain in stores.
Throughout the series, Rødseth presents practical tips to reduce food waste. He rejects “expiration date fright” that contributes to food waste. To help make this point, he prepares recipes made with not-so-fresh food, to the rave reviews of students in Oslo and about 450 members of the military at Huseby Leir.
“Matsjokket” can be watched at tv.nrk.no/serie/matsjokket/2019. Google Translate provides English subtitles.
Recipes made on the show to demonstrate the use of not-so-fresh food can be found at www.nrk.no/mat/oppskrifter-fra-matsjokket-1.14761211.
Achieving celebrity status
In addition to “Matsjokket,” Rødseth has made frequent TV appearances in cooking segments, such as TV2’s “God morgen Norge.” He has also made TV commercials for the grocery chain Kiwi, appeared in print magazines, given lectures, and participated in panel discussions.
Now a celebrity reality TV show can be added to his resume. Last year he was a participant in the 2019 season of the reality TV show “Farmen kjendis” (The Farm: Celebrity edition). The show is set on a farm that is operated as it would have been 100 years ago.
What’s next for Rødseth?
Young and energetic, creative and personable, Christer Rødseth indicates that he has a hard time saying no to possibilities. Even now, as he is more than busy, his mind is thinking ahead to new ventures.
Rødseth is humble about his achievements and aspirations and remembers his roots. He credits his grandmother, who passed away last year, with being the “rock in his life” and his first chef fostering his love of cooking. For Christmas, it is returning to his family in Aurskog and preparing traditional Christmas food with his mother that he treasures.
To repeat the end of the 2014 article: Stay tuned. You will be hearing more great things from Christer Rødseth.
Follow Christer Rødseth at @christerrodseth on Instagram or find him on Facebook and YouTube.
This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.