A talk with 360°Young Chef nominee Håvard Werkeland
What’s your story? When did you start out as a chef?
I originally had no idea what to do when I was 16 and had to choose what classes to study in school. I just went for a long shot and tried out culinary school, even though I had never ever made a single meal at home before.
I finished culinary school and got into a great hotel to do my 2-year apprenticeship program, but I still wasn’t convinced that cooking was something I really wanted to pursue for the rest of my life.
It was not until one year into my apprenticeship that my passion for cooking was really ignited after winning “Norway’s best apprentice” with fantastic guidance from my mentor Christopher Davidsen. Walking up to the podium was the moment I realized that cooking is what I want to do. After that day, a lot of my life has revolved around cooking competitions. I was a commis for team Norway, winning silver in Bocuse d’Or 2016-2017. And in 2018, I achieved my proudest moment when I won the Norwegian culinary championship.
I have always been hungry to learn, and the combination of that and my love for food is what drives me to go to work and cook every day.
I want to learn as much as possible.
What’s your role at Speilsalen today?
As a Sous chef at Speilsalen, I work with a lot of different things. Testing and developing new dishes and elements on the menu, keeping the whole kitchen team up to date on all necessary information, quality assurance of everything that gets sent out of the kitchen, and also finding ways to be as productive as possible and not waste any products.
Tell us about your focus and mission as a chef.
To be able to create new intriguing flavor combinations and visual effects that will give any guest the feeling of not only being at a restaurant, but also a theatrical feeling that will burn into their memory as a fantastic night.
At the same time, I feel like the responsibility of every chef is to try to reduce food waste. I think part of the charm is to go a bit out of your comfort zone, try out new produce, and really try to dive deep into the produce to find ways of utilizing the whole product.
I also try as much as possible to be in direct contact with farmers, fishers, etc. to understand what it takes to get the product we get in the restaurant. Jumping back to 2016, we were trying to make a garnish out of leek to use in Bocuse d’Or. I contacted a leek farmer in Bryne to try to find leeks with a more solid core. We then learned that towards the end of the leek season, a lot of the leeks start to develop a hard core in the middle, which is the stem of their flower. This was a product that every leek farmer had to throw in the bin. We used that leek core in Bocuse d’Or 2017, and it has since developed a market for this fantastic vegetable in Norway.
It is the duty of any chef to know and respect the product he/she is using, no matter if it’s white truffles or celeriac!
Tell us, when it comes to sustainable considerations, how you want to work as a chef.
Well, I think we cannot be blind to the fact that I work at a Michelin-starred restaurant that has a lot of focus on the visual aspect of the dining experience. If we want a pickled onion ring that is 4.5 cm in diameter, then that is the onion we pick and use. It probably sounds insane, but this has helped me learn to use the whole product in a different way. You kind of get forced into using your knowledge in new ways to utilize the whole product, like fermenting, drying, juicing, puréeing, etc.
Say I want to make a dish with white asparagus, but I want my white asparagus to be at a specific measurement. What to do with all those trimmings? I ferment them, juice them, and turn them into an intensely flavored sauce. You get served what looks like the most visually perfect asparagus, but when you eat it, you can tell that there are layers of different asparagus flavor and that the whole product is used. This is where the magic happens, this is how I want to work!