June 2021 could be a life-changing month for Christian André Pettersen. The 31-year-old chef will head to Lyon to compete in the Bocuse d’Or world final with team Norway for the second time, after topping the podium at the European final in Tallinn in October.
And, he says, teambuilding for the competition has been inspired by his experience as a finalist at the 2015 edition of S.Pellegrino Young Chef, the world’s biggest and best culinary talent search, and the desire it instilled in him to mentor the next generation of young Norwegian chefs. The S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2019-2021 Grand Finale will take place in Milan in May.
“I have new young chefs in the team now and they will be the next generation,” the Norwegian, who took bronze at the Bocuse d’Or world final in 2019, told Fine Dining Lovers. “I want them to see what we are doing and make sure that the next generation is secured. They are pushing me, making me think about things and making me good, and I’m making them good,” he says.
It’s certainly a gruelling introduction to the culinary elite for any young chef. Pettersen and his team practice up to 3000 hours a year in a training kitchen that has been specially adapted to mimic competition conditions. But given he spends more time there than he does at home, it’s a bonding experience all round. “We are not a team because we work together, we are a team because we respect and care for each other. We are like one big happy family… we make each other so much better," he says.
Pettersen made it to the final three at the inaugural S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition in Milan, losing out to Ireland’s Mark Moriarty. Fast forward six years and he could be on the verge of claiming a different top prize – what would be the sixth title for Norway at the Bocuse d’Or. Despite taking gold in the European final for the second time, Petersen is characteristically humble about his chances on the biggest stage.
“We had a goal to be on the podium, but we never imagined we would be on top,” he says of his European win, in what was a clean sweep for the Scandinavian countries, with 2019 world champions Denmark taking silver and Sweden bronze. “Of course, the Scandinavians are really strong and have a unique kitchen. France as well is a really great nation with a lot of culture and heritage of food. France is always good.”
Regardless of what happens, he knows he has the support of the Norwegian people, even if the famed atmosphere at Lyon’s Sirha fair on 2 June turns out to be sullied by recent world events and the Bocuse d’Or remains crowdless, as the European final was. “In my heart, they are there always,” he says.