Preparing menus that warm and revive guests after exploring, is all in a day’s work for chef Renate Røsten.
WORDS DANIELLE NORTON
When she was a child, Renate Røsten’s father would regale her with tales about his time as a sailor, working in ship kitchens. He was passionate about food and always cooked at home. From a young age, Renate followed him around the kitchen, absorbing his stories and his skills.
She first applied to work on a cruise ship at age 16, but was considered too young. Eleven years ago she completed a trial cruise with Hurtigruten, and has been creating traditional Norwegian dishes and international cuisine for passengers and crew ever since.
“In every menu there’s a story about the local product we’re using in that dish or that menu for the day.”
— Renate Røsten
Renate Røsten, Executive Chef, Hurtigruten. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon
Cod with herbs 'Norwegian chorizo' and confit onions. Photo: Ørjan Bertelsen
More than fish
Baked, grilled, boiled, salted… Norwegians have invented many ways of preparing fish and it is a staple menu item in Hurtigruten dining rooms. Delicate white fish is usually served with creamy carrot stew topped with crispy bacon and butter. However, there’s much more to enjoy.
Finnbiff is a popular dish, served on board, that most have not experienced before travelling to Norway. Renate loves to prepare the creamy reindeer stew for guests so that they can experience the true flavours Norwegian people love to eat. The stew is made with onions, mushrooms, lingonberries, sour cream and a sweet, creamy Norwegian goat cheese called brunost.
The national dish, fårikål, is another nourishing dish Renate prepares. This hearty lamb and cabbage stew is so treasured by Norwegians it has its own annual day of celebration – on the final Thursday in September, if you were wondering. The peppery stew is served with boiled potatoes and celebrates the lamb raised in the mountains, the potatoes from the fields and the fresh cabbages from the gardens.
Sautèed reindeer. Photo: Jimmy Linus
Sailor's beef with beer. Photo: Jimmy Linus
Meat soup. Photo: Jimmy Linus
But it another dish that has won her heart. “My favorite thing to cook on the coastal ships is live king crab,” says Renate. She loves to tell the guests the story of the king crab they have chosen from the tanks. “All the king crabs have their tag, so we can see where the crab was picked up, the name of the fishing boat, and the name of the fisher.” Renate cooks the crab and serves it at the table with herb butter, burnt lemon and fresh bread: “This is like something I love to do. It’s so cool to see a guest’s reaction; how happy and excited they are when they get it.”
Norway King crab has tanks that can store over 20 tons of crabs. Photo: Norway King Crab Production AS
Local king crab served. Photo: Norway King Crab Production AS
Hurtigruten uses as much local, seasonal produce as possible. Chefs have cultivated relationships with regional vendors, using products from each place they visit along the coast. “It’s very nice to be in the harbour and tell the guests that this is the lamb they saw today up in the mountains, that it’s really local,” says Renate. “We talk to people about these small farms you’ve never heard about in the middle of nowhere. In every menu there’s a story about the local product we’re using in that dish or that menu for the day.”
Grazing sheep in Nærøyfjord, the narrowest and best known of the many arms of the Sognefjord.
Northern lights, warming delights
When guests have an onshore excursion, they often return to the ship as hungry as they are exhilarated. Weather permitting, the Hurtigruten team serves snacks and drinks on the deck. Passengers can talk about their day while indulging in a hot tea with rum and bite-sized, heart-shaped waffles served with sour cream, strawberry jam and brown cheese.
Renate’s favourite food is a thick, creamy fish soup, loaded with julienned root vegetables, salmon, mussels and shrimps with a squeeze of lemon over the top. It offers the kind of nourishing warmth that makes its way through your stomach and into your heart as you explore this region. Wholesome stews soothe the nervous system after excursions to wild and exciting frontiers.
Guests enjoying the northern lights from the a la carte restaurant. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon
Waffles are a guest favourite onboard Hurtigruten's ships. Photo: Jimmy Linus