Challenging oneself in Norway

The experience of young Lucia Tellone at Maeemo in Oslo. A cuisine worth learning from

Lucia Tellone, at the centre of the small kitchen

Lucia Tellone, at the centre of the small kitchen inside Maeemo in Oslo, Norway, chef Esben Holmboe Bang. Born in Avezzano in 1984, Tellone is at her second important experience after Enrico Bartolini’sDevero

Women in the kitchen. Women who take and leave their country, and put themselves to the test somewhere else. And perhaps understand that abroad, things are better than in Italy.

Last year, around this time, I was getting ready to start a beautiful adventure in one of Italy’s most important kitchens, that of Devero in Cavenago di Brianza, with chef Enrico Bartolini. I was the only girl. Not that this was a problem, in fact, this is usually the case in our kitchens. It’s a hard job if you have a weak mind, get scared in front of the first difficulties, and find yourself in a men’s world in which you’re often only judged by your cute face. Too bad. They were long, very hectic months. It was a mental and physical gym strengthening the soul. Every morning, I woke up at 6 to prepare breakfasts and repeat myself: I never give up, never!

Inside Maeemo’s kitchen, 17 chefs and a motto: if one makes a mistake, everyone makes a mistake

Inside Maeemo’s kitchen, 17 chefs and a motto: if one makes a mistake, everyone makes a mistake

 After this experience, in November I asked myself: why not try an internship? In Italy, almost no one replied. Then one day I find an email from restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, Norway. «Mmm – I thought - snow, fiords, little more». I started to communicate with chef Esben Holmboe Bang who, through various emails explained how his kitchen works. Good. I accepted. The internship started on February 6th, this year. I arrived in Oslo welcomed by an abundant snowfall, as if to say: welcome to Norway.

The kitchen in which I was thrown is on another planet, very distant from Italy. Seventeen guys divided between the different stations, in a beautiful yet very small space. Organization. Precision. Cleanliness. Timing. Maths. And an essential teamwork concept: if one makes a mistake, everyone makes a mistake. We start at 9 and leave at half past midnight, all together. The chef is keen on knowing if you’re happy and makes every effort to explain his philosophy of giving value to the territory through his dishes, the fruit of an unconditional love for his land.

Each ingredient is studied so that it can bestow its best side, and this only because you have respected it and given value to. Understanding the potential of those places, besides, helps the chef to go “grocery shopping” on his hills, in order to gather beech shrubs, pine branches, berries, all the ingredients in his dishes, preserved as a good housewife would in jars with impossible to pronounce names on the labels.

 Being Italian marked a serious point against me because, unfortunately, outside our armour-country, we’re considered very badly. This thing made me think that it is time to challenge myself and unmask the usual commonplaces that are linked to us. Pasta, pizza and little more. I returned to Italy with a baggage of new notions on ingredients I had never seen, of new flavours that envelop and warm your soul, such as reindeer.

I’m happy to have had this experience because I have reconsidered Northern Europe: the calm of those places reconciles your thoughts and allows you to fully concentrate on your work. These kitchens are more than just snow, cold and sea, they are also innovation, desire of emerging and translating poor ingredients into gourmet dishes. Northern Europe is not just Noma, it’s too easy to enrich one’s cv with pompous names. Beauty lies in the detail, in the things discovered at Maaemo, a jewel that needs to be appraised. And now we’re back to the start. With the same thirst for knowledge and growth.

See also
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Effort with a smile
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Nothing is impossible by Emanuela Tommolini
The other side of the dish
by Elisa Arduini
Giving value to differences by Viviana Varese
Weaker sex? Not at all by Sara Preceruti
Double effort by Iside De Cesare
Dear Santa Claus by Ana Roš
I am a cook by Antonia Klugmann
Talent has nothing to do with gender by Aurora Mazzucchelli
It’s not easy but it’s not impossible either by Loretta Fanella
We’re not angels of the hearth by Cristina Bowerman

Female chef's life stories

Women who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view


Luciana Squadrilli e Carlo Passera