It is not every day one gets their breakfast personally prepared by a Michelin trained celebrity chef. So when Erling Sundal, Norway’s culinary superstar and all round nice guy, fired up the brekky barbecue after a back-of-house tour of Sydney Fish Market, there was no holding Raffles back.
In fact, not content with just eating Erling’s delicious Rustic Seafood Burgers – packed though they were with market fresh fish, scallops and prawns – Raffles stepped in as his sous chef.
Here, the lovely Erling, who was in Australia to participate in the Taste of Melbourne Festival and promote his brilliant new kitchen tool, the hackit, chats with junior journo Raffles about Norwegian cuisine, kitchen gods and making mincemeat out of food preparation with the hackit…
You’ve come to Australia all the way from Norway. Can you tell me what it’s like there?
There are four distinct seasons in Norway, and right now it’s winter. The days are very long in summer and very short in winter. It can get to around -20 degrees Celsius in winter with lots of snow! The unique weather and daylight hours result in some interesting differences in flavours of produce. For example, strawberries in Norway are much sweeter than the ones here in Australia (which are quite tart). Because Norway receives almost 24 hours of sunlight in summer, the strawberries grow more slowly, resulting in a sweeter flavour.
Really? I will have to visit to do a strawberry taste test.
What are the main ingredients used in Norwegian cooking?
In Norway we cook with lots of root vegetables, combined with meat and fish. Our staples are salted klip fish and fresh salmon in particular.
Strawberries AND salmon? I’m in!
Vikings come from Norway and I love Viking history and all the cool gods like Odin, Thor and Andhrímnir, the chef of the Gods. Every day Andhrímnir used to slaughter a beast to cook in his cauldron. If you could only cook one thing every day, what would it be?
The one thing that would keep me alive and give me the nutrients I need would be something with chicken. I really love chicken. Maybe a dish like chicken coq au vin!
If I were a god I’d be happy with that.
What made you want to become a chef?
It was actually a coincidence. I fell into the career because my girlfriend at the time told me I needed to get into a trade. Once I started I found that I enjoyed it very much. I had a late education and didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I’m really thankful that I found the right vocation.
Having tasted your seafood burgers this morning, I’m glad you did too!
What do you love best about being a chef?
I actually love to cook and prepare great food, meet amazing people and discover new ingredients to use.
Food is a great way to meet and make people happy.
Which other cuisines inspire you?
For me, France was where it all started. I worked there under renowned French chef Michel Guerard there at Les Pres d’Eugenie, and became inspired by their style of cooking. But really, all kitchens inspire me, in particular Asian cuisine.
What made you come all the way to Australia?
I was invited to create the canapés for the VIP Gala Dinner at the Taste of Melbourne festival, as well as holding cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend. I also came to promote the cooking utensil I own with my business partner Vegard Ertvaag, called the Hackit, which is now being sold in Australia (it’s available in stores for around $16.95).
This utensil allows you to break up mincemeat while cooking it in the pan, as well as mash things like mash potato, avocado, biscuits and a range of other ingredients.
Mum tried out our Hackit to make some Thai Larb and she said it was genius. And I used it to make guacamole! It’s so cool.
Do you like Australian produce?
Yes. It’s so fresh! In particular, I loved the fresh seafood at the Sydney Fish Market. I spent three hours there on my first day in Sydney eating oysters!
And cooking up those epic fish burgers!
If you had $1000 to eat one meal where would you go?
Per Se in New York, it’s just fantastic!
I’ll put it on my food bucket list.
If you only had $10 to eat one meal where would you go?
A local Asian restaurant. In Melbourne there is a Vietnamese restaurant called Ho Tran which fits the bill perfectly.
Are you looking for a Sous Chef? And if yes, how do I apply?
Look me up when you are in Norway and we can discuss having a trial in my kitchen!
Right. Thanks for brekky, I’m off to book flights to Oslo.