A grumpy politician from the Center Party, which normally protects and promotes Norwegian food, didn’t manage to spoil all the jubilation over new Michelin stars shining on Norwegian restaurants. Geir Pollestad, a Member of Parliament, wound up as the sour grape amidst the restaurants’ sweet success.
Most other politicians and local patriots were cheering a second star for Stavanger restaurant Re-Naa, the retention of stars for six others Norwegian restaurants, plus new stars for restaurants in Trondheim, Bergen, Oslo and even the small southern coastal town of Lindesnes. Pollestad, however, chose to brand the annual Michelin star awards as “elitist” and complain on social media that “food served with tweezers isn’t for me.”
Stavanger, the capital of Pollestad’s own home county of Rogaland, can now boast two Michelin restaurants (its small Sabi Omakase was among those retaining its star). The new partially underwater restaurant in Lindesnes called Under isn’t far away and also won a star after just 10 months of operation.
That didn’t impress Pollestad, whose party otherwise champions most areas of Norway apart from Oslo along with the locally produced food served at the restaurants that’s delivered by local farmers who may well be the Center Party’s constituents. Pollestad instead bashed the Michelin star presentation and, not least, the media’s coverage of it, writing on his Facebook page that it was simply “a good illustration of the central power’s/elite’s view of what’s important, and snobs’ big days.”
Pollestad went on to claim that “most people in Norway connect Michelin to tires and will never eat in a single Michelin-star restaurant.” He noted that he was glad Norwegian restaurants “were doing so well, but they all fail on one thing: the size of the portions they serve.”
Reaction was swift, and enough to make Pollestad choke. Norway’s new government minister in charge of agriculture and food Olaug Bollestad lashed out at her former colleague in Parliament for “ridiculing a great victory for Norwegian food. That’s incredibly strange and sad.”
It was Bollestad versus Pollestad, as she defended Norwegian farmers and those fishing up delicacies from local waters in all kinds of weather. It was a remarkable exchange by two politicians who normally agree on the country’s often protectionistic farming policy.
The county mayor of Trøndelag (now home to three Michelin-starred restaurants in Trondheim: Credo, Fagn and Speilsalen in the newly renovated Britannia Hotel) called for Pollestad’s resignation as leader of the Parliament’s committee on business issues. Norway’s new Business and Trade Minister Iselin Nybø from the Liberal Party accused Pollestad of “talking down” both “clever food professionals and good Norwegian ingredients.” Nybø told TV2 that she was certainly impressed by the Michelin recognition for them, and by seeing their “pride and joy.”
Finally a star in Bergen
The restaurant Bare in Bergen also won a new star and finally put the west coast city on Michelin’s map, while Omakase Oslo won a new star, too. Oslo restaurants Statholdergaarden, Kontrast and Galt kept their stars while Maaemo lost its three stars, but that’s because it’s been closed pending a move and reopening in Oslo’s newly redeveloped Bjørvika district.
The tourism promotion agency VisitOslo boasted that three other Norwegian restaurants won special new “Sustainability Emblems” from Michelin including Rest, Restaurant Einer and FYR Bistronomi & Bar. Einer, for example, is housed in a centuries-old building in downtown Oslo and offers a full vegetarian menu, while Rest is known for serving food that might otherwise be discarded, to reduce food waste. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported how the chefs at Credo in Trondheim and Stallen in Oslo have also been hailed for their sustainability.
By Tuesday Pollestad, who was further admonished by the former head of Innovation Norway and urged to be at least a bit proud that Norway has “such a strong national restaurant team and brand for food at this level,” was clearly left with a severe case of indigestion. After stirring up more than 100 critical comments, he actually admitted that he’d messed up.
“I just tried to boost our food and the national media’s poor coverage of food for the great majority of folks who have never visited a starred restaurant,” he wrote. “Whether I succeeded with that? Right there I must admit that it was a quite bad attempt at reaching the goal.” He gave himself a “two” on the Norwegians’ favoured scale of one to six, with six being best, also in many restaurant reviews.