Philosophical chef opening restaurant
As a trainee chef, Norwegian Simon Selliseth got the opportunity to work at the world famous restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. Now, two years on, he is back in the city to open his own restaurant.
His choice of career was something of a surprise. After finishing upper secondary school, Simon studied philosophy at the University of Bergen in Norway. The fact that both his parents had higher education made this the obvious choice. As did the fact that his friends had great academic plans.
'Many people regard vocational subjects as being inferior. But the most important thing is to find a job you enjoy and want to do for many years to come’, says the former student.
Started doing the dishes
After a while, Simon needed a job beside his philosophy studies, so he sent an application to several restaurants. He had no experience in the field, but he had always been interested in food: in making, tasting and eating it. He got a job at a restaurant in Bergen, which was by no means lucrative.
'I started doing the dishes. When the acclaimed restaurant Potetkjelleren in Bergen offered me a traineeship, I accepted. Though, it must be said I did find the philosophy programme very interesting. I have a philosophical approach to many things.’
'Can you use that approach as a chef?'
'Yes, I like experimenting with food, and understanding the processes from the field to the table. I like spending time thinking about: "What goes with what?" And if you don't know the answer, you can look back at the traditions.'
Cookery is international
'I would probably have left Norway anyway, because cookery is such an international field. Even fully-trained chefs travel around to learn new methods and develop their repertoire.'
Simon left for Copenhagen in February 2013. An ordinary day in his life consisted of: Eating breakfast at home, leaving for work at Noma, eating his meals there and returning home in the evening to sleep. Two of the chefs were Danish, the rest came from China, Brazil and France, as well as other countries.
'The restaurant was an exotic oasis of expertise. All communication was in English. We were split into different teams to work on cold dishes, hot dishes and desserts. I got to taste dishes from all over the world.’
'What's the most important thing you learnt at Noma?'
'It was a huge learning curve, it was only after I left that I actually realised what I'd learnt. Noma uses ingredients we're familiar with, but in really innovative ways. They push boundaries, they are at the frontier of Nordic cooking. And they're also lovely people, who are interested in nature and running a sustainable restaurant.'
Must be ambitious
Simon believes that Erasmus+ and the opportunities it provides for gaining international vocational experience must be made more widely known. This can also help to make vocational subjects more attractive. But the pupils must be more ambitious too.
'Vocational subjects must not be a second-choice option. Pupils studying vocational subjects must be ambitious and pick up as much knowledge as they can.'
Simon is now about to open his own restaurant in Copenhagen, together with two colleagues.
'What's your motivation?'
'Making something no one has made before. Being ambitious and really creative. Looking forward to going to work, having nice employees and a good atmosphere. It all rubs off on the guests too.'