Norwegian chef Heidi Bjerkan grew up on her grandfather’s boat in Garten along the Trøndelag coast. Therefore, since she was a kid, she learned how to be respectful of the land and the sea and, by extension, of all species living in the environment.
This helps to explain the close relationship she has brought to her Michelin-starred restaurant, Credo, located in Trondheim, a modern glass-and-wood building that looks like a huge greenhouse sitting in the middle of a housing estate. There, the chef showcases her ingredient-focused cuisine with a true connection to her supplying farmers. At Credo, she works solely with local producers to support local community.
Supporting local community
“We have a close collaboration with two distinctive farms called Skjølberg Søndre and Fannremsgården. The latter provides us with all dairy products and eggs and meat, while the first provides all kind of biodynamic farmed vegetables, fruits and herbs, and also eggs and meat from milk cows, pigs and ducks,” she explains.
All Søndre’s cows — that are used in dishes such as beef tartare — have a proper name, and the guest is informed how her life was, how many calves she has birthed, and how the meat was prepared for that recipe. It is a detailed way of knowing what you are eating.
With regards to the land practices, both farms are working in a Biodynamic way where they also only have old breeds of animals, the ones that are traditional in the northern regions of Norway, where the restaurant is set. “We also practice the act of taking care of old traditions with regards to recipes and ingredients, and bring them to new life. We might do some alterations to customize the old Norwegian traditions to the modern kitchen here and there”, Bjerkan explains.
For instance, she serves an old traditional Christmas cake from Norway that is called goro, but instead of using butter and sugar as the traditional recipe calls, the chef uses smoked cow fat, and serves it not as a sweet, but as a snack in the beginning of the meal. “The goro is then topped with sour cream and lightly cured arctic char. Another example is our black pudding which has been modified a lot compared to how it was served in Norway in the olden days”, she adds. But her main goal is to bring back to current times traditional dishes that remained away from the spotlight.
The art of seasonality
The main menu at Credo is based both on the produce available at all times and the seasonal ones. “We change from 1 to 5 courses a week, depending on what we have. Since we are collaborating so closely with two of our farms, and also have 350 square meter of green areas at sight inside and outside the restaurant, we are able to plan the growing period of all herbs and vegetables, and continuously upgrade our overview of the annual cycle”, she explains. “In that way we are able to plan new courses somewhat in advance, as we for instance know that in one week we will have a lot of mangold available at the farm, ready for use, and that it will be available for a certain amount of time”.
Her inspiration for dishes changes every time she visits the farmers, as they contribute with insights and ideas by trying new ways of producing the ingredients. The idea to separate the milk from each cow and use them to make sour cream from one single cow came from a visit to Fannremsgården. During the meal at Credo, the team creates a sour cream tasting for the guests, where they are able to see, feel and taste the difference in the sour cream from the different cows at the farm.
Bjerkan says she strives to include the farmer in the restaurant environment to create a better connection, and in that way shape more than just a produce-restaurant relationship. “We have our own gardener from Skjølberg Søndre who visits us three days a week to take care of our green areas on sight, while the farmer at Fannremsgården sometimes joins the team during business hours to interact with our guests”, she adds. During a meal at Credo, the chef takes all of her guests on a personal tour through the gardens, waterways and forests where their raw ingredients are grown.
By working so closely with their farmers, Credo staff are able to develop a system that works both for their own benefit, for the benefit of farms and also with high regards to the sustainable aspect. Credo has always had a high focus on sustainability, but for the last 7 years, this focus has increased. “After our move to new locations at Lilleby in Trondheim we were able to develop our partnership with the farmers. In that way, we could introduce our guests to our philosophy, from growing vegetables and herbs in small areas, as well as composting food waste”, chef Bjerkan explains.
"Think about your own footprints"
She also says this way of thinking has been a leading one for her region, as more and more restaurants are starting to use the same kind of practices with focus on local produce and sustainability. Bjerkan also runs two other concepts in Trondheim (Jossa mat og drikke and Finnes Kafé) and claims that her main goal in the food scene is to make her businesses’ footprint on the environment as little as possible.
“We have a high focus on the entire process, from how the farms are run, how the produce is grown, how the transport system is set up, how all of our chefs are using the produce to its fullest, and eventually the food waste”, she explains. At Credo, they are also encouraging the neighbors to grow and harvest their own greens and compost their food waste.
“They are invited to toss their wood waste in our containers, where we take care of the composting process, and then our neighbors are invited to collect the soil to their own gardens”. Bjerkan’s hope is that she and her team can be able to affect people around (from neighbors to guests) to think about their own footprints, and start themselves their own personal revolution in favor of a better food environment for everyone.
Credo at a glance
Chef: Heidi Bjerkan
For Credo, sustainability is: making as little environmental footprints as possible.
Number of employees: 16 (among apprentices)
Main focus/projects on sustainability: A close relation to the food chain, from farm to food waste.
Awards / Recognitions in this area: Ingrid Prisen for engagement in promoting better food and sustainable land use practices in 2017. In 2019 Heidi Bjerkan was awarded the Chef's Chef in Norway