The Homegrown Chef
Head Chef on the Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Express, Øistein Nilsen, introduces us to the colourful, flavoursome, and fresh-as-can-be culinary world on board our ships.
“I discovered my passion for cooking after my mum convinced me to study at a cooking school.” Øistein admits. “It only took a few weeks before I felt a spark light up inside of me, like it was what I was meant to do.” After spending ten years learning the art of cooking in Oslo, Øistein joined The Original Coastal Express in 2012 where he has continued to hone his culinary craft.
Fresh from the wild
Øistein is now our Operational Manager of Food and Beverages, which means it’s his job to pay close attention to our menus and the quality of the ingredients we use. His love of fresh, homegrown, foraged, and wild-to-table dining stems from his youth.
“Nature on the coast is truly spectacular, and the produce is of the highest quality,” states Øistein. “I learnt early on how to appreciate food from the wilderness.” As a child growing up in Northern Norway, his father used to take him out on trips during summer. “We would go fishing, make campfires, and eat what we had caught. It was a great experience,” he reminisces.
Øistein wants to bring those same fresh flavours onto the ship. He’s especially proud of the king crab selection on board. “We have an aquarium in the restaurant with live king crabs walking around inside. Guests can sit down to dinner, pick the one they want, and we’ll prepare it right away. It doesn’t get fresher than that!”
Local roots, sustainable effects
One of Øistein’s priorities is enabling our chefs to take full advantage of Norway’s many specialist food suppliers, creating a truly authentic gastronomic experience for guests. “We’re sailing along the Norwegian coastline, an area with maybe the biggest variety of food in the world,” he exclaims. “We make sure our guests get to try the range of food and flavours we have here.”
He continues, “We’re working together with a long list of local suppliers, showcasing much of the delicious produce the coast has to offer.” Engaging with sustainable farmers and fishermen year-round gives vital support to the flourishing local economy, benefitting families in the region. Using local sources of food also reduces energy costs to do with transportation and refrigeration, minimising the impact on the environment.
Old traditions, new flavours
Another important goal for Øistein has been to make sure all diets are catered for. “The food is a key and even famous part of our voyage. It’s crucial that all guests are happy,” he says, citing the meat, seafood, vegetarian, and vegan options now on the menu.
Involved in the development of new dishes, Øistein has had to challenge himself as a chef. The task of being loyal to local ingredients while also bringing in modern styles of cooking requires a large helping of knowledge and skill. He points out, “We want to highlight traditional and favourite recipes, while incorporating fresh new twists on the tastes.” Øistein’s eyes light up, “This way, all the dishes are a fusion of history but also new experiences – exactly like the voyage itself!”
Pan-fried scallops with chorizo crumb and cauliflower purée
Chef Øistein Nilsen gives his easy-to-follow recipe for one of our most popular dishes:
Ingredients for four people:
- 8 scallops
- 150 g of chorizo
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 clove of garlic
- 200 ml of heavy cream
- 15 g of butter
- 1/6 of a cucumber
How to cook:
- Cook the cut cauliflower until tender together with cream and finely chopped garlic.
- Remove the cauliflower and place in a separate bowl, but save the cream.
- Purée the cauliflower with a hand blender. Add the leftover cream little by little until the purée is smooth. Add butter, salt, and pepper.
- Pan-fry the diced chorizo with cooking oil until crisp. Put aside in a separate bowl.
- Pan-fry the scallops in the same pan as the chorizo. Cook on one side, add butter, and scoop the melted butter over the scallops. Make sure to not overcook the scallops. They need to have softness and bounce to them.
- When plating, place the scallops on top of the purée and sprinkle the crisp chorizo and small cubes of cucumber around the sides.
- Finish by drizzling a little bit of the scallop and chorizo-infused cooking oil over the plate.