Your recent book, Vélochef, contains recipes specifically for cyclists. Where does your interest in the sport come from?
My father was an Olympian, with lots of international cycling victories. He also ran the local cycling club in Tönsberg, Norway. My brother too was a dedicated cyclist who raced nationally. Weekends were dominated with the sport growing up, so it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. We could never go on holiday in July because it clashed with the big races, and if we were, we’d be inside between three and five watching the Tour.
And what about cooking?
I fell in love with cooking – that was my passion. I trained in France, and have worked in some of the finest restaurants in Europe. Combining cooking with cycling was purely a lucky turn. After a few years as head chef for Matsalen, a two star Michelin restaurant in Stockholm, I wanted to do something different. I got talking to the directeur sportif for the Norwegian Cycling Federation, and he asked me if I would cook for the team after the riders complained about their hotel food during the world championships. I cooked for them the following year, and it really worked. And because it was the first time the team used a chef, Norwegian television filmed a short interview. The next day the station came back and asked if I’d do something else with them, which lead to the programme we made following the Tour – cooking dishes from the different regions the race passed through, from a little van.
This must have brought you close to the teams competing in the race.
We made the programme for two years, preparing food as the race progressed. Using a small generator, one or two plates, we’d set up anywhere. Once I even cooked tartiflette on top of a mountain. During that time Team Sky was pretty dominant, both in 2012 and 2013, and I became good friends with Edvald Boasson Hagen [Team Sky, 2010-2014]. He asked if I could spend a few days with them at a training camp to see how they do things, and it turned out that they needed some help filling a few holes in the calendar during that season. The relationship has grown from there.
Cooking for cyclists must be quite different to preparing meals for guests at a Michelin starred restaurant.
I use my experience from high quality restaurants to build excitement for the riders. They have to consume so many calories when they race and train, that eating can become a very boring exercise. I want them to look forward to coming to eat – for it to be something more than an activity they simply have to do. The same way I would prepare an exciting taster menu for a restaurant, I try to be creative within the limitations of the produce available and the types of food the riders can eat.