Interview with Andreas Viestad, Norwegian food columnist and TV chef

Food: The first way to discover a world outside ourselves

He ranks among the most prolific characters of contemporary Norwegian cuisine and put the country on the culinary world-map as a self-proclaimed omnivore, traveler and writer. Andreas Viestad knows the ways of the world, but has never forgotten his Norwegian heritage. European Food asked him about the significance of food in his life and why passion always helps him to convince the food sceptics.

European Food: You are a food writer and TV presenter, restaurant owner, and farmer. What inspired your various food-related interests, and what is special about Scandinavian regional cuisine?

Andreas Viestad: I am often asked how my interest in food was sparked, and I always reply by turning the question on its head. Food is our first interest, the first way to discover a world outside ourselves. And to me it continues to fascinate. Someone who is not interested in food is someone who was just as interested in it as a baby, but has lost that interest along the way. How that can happen to anyone is a mystery to me. That said, I have been lucky. I grew up at a time when the food scene in Norway changed dramatically, with lots of interesting global influences. At the same time my family had a summer house on a farm in Southern Norway where we grew our own vegetables and went fishing, and I have grandparents who taught me a lot about traditional Norwegian food.

"New Scandinavian Cooking has found its resonance because it appeals to our deepest feelings and instincts."

Andreas Viestad, Norwegian food columnist and TV chef

European Food: The interest of the general public in cooking has exploded in recent years and, as a food writer, cookery book author and presenter of the TV show New Scandinavian Cooking, you are among those at the heart of this phenomenon. What, in your opinion, is the reason for the huge interest in cookery, and the success of TV shows and recipe books?

Andreas Viestad: Ha, ha! Again I want to turn the question on its head. Humans have been on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years, and our main preoccupation in all of this time has been food. Not just how to get enough of it, but what it tastes like. Compared to that, a few cooking shows and food festivals is not an explosion of interest. That said, I think that New Scandinavian Cooking has found its resonance because it appeals to our deepest feelings and instincts, but connecting the food, culture and nature of an area. Even people who have never been to Scandinavia, find inspiration and a deeper understanding. And the cooking we do on the show is damn tasty!

Andreas Viestad
Andreas Viestad

European Food: The most successful chefs differentiate themselves through creative and original recipes. Yet they also need to ensure their restaurants are profitable as a business. How do you combine the creation of innovative dishes with the business needs of your restaurant, Restaurant St. Lars?

Andreas Viestad: At St Lars we have always had a strong identity, and we have been fairly confident about the food we want to serve – rough, authentic, ingredient-driven cooking on a charcoal grill. We sometimes find that there are people who want it more fancy, more refined, less temperamental. But there are not that many of them, and they have plenty of other places to eat. So, we haven’t really compromised on that. But finding a way to run a tight operation, the logistics of a restaurant, is never easy.

"We have been fairly confident about the food we want to serve – rough, authentic, ingredient-driven cooking on a charcoal grill."

Andreas Viestad, Norwegian food columnist and TV chef

European Food: What have been your biggest challenges, and what personal characteristics have helped you to overcome them?

Andreas Viestad: Many people are not particularly interested in food, they see it more as a necessity than the focal point of life, which is how I view it. So that has been a challenge sometimes. But people tend to recognize and appreciate people who are passionate about what they do. So, I would say that not shying away, not being afraid of showing that passion, has been incredibly important to me.

Link Andreas Viestad’s website and the St. Lars restaurant/Oslo:
www.andreasviestad.com
www.stlars.no

 

 

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European Food

Food Special 2/2017

In this issue: Brouwerij Anders! NV – Pushing the boundaries of Belgian craft beer / Mozart Distillerie Gmbh – Your chocolate moment / Gloria Maris Groupe – Breeding healthy and high-quality fish / Caseificio Longo Srl – The artisan cheese company / Fromagerie Biologique de Vielsalm – Pure nature, pure taste

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