Norway Out West
Norwegian Chef Oystein Solberg's pursuit of culinary perfection has taken him many places, but as a top instructor at Sage's Student Bistro, Omaha is the place he calls home.
Private dinners with Solberg and team allow an edible experience unlike any other, including hands-on demonstrations
Steve & Bobbi Olson
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(This story originally appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Nebraska Life Magazine)
A NORWEGIAN city center, the City of Lights and the Gateway to the West have more in common than you might imagine. In classic six-degrees of separation style, we ran into Oystein Solberg, a Norwegian chef shaping culinary artists in and around Omaha.
Solberg is Metropolitan Community College’s Culinary Arts and Management instructor. He hails from Steinkjer, Norway, but his upbringing isn’t far from that of many Nebraska natives. “I grew up on a farm, close to food,” Solberg said. “Early on I realized that this was my passion.” He spent holidays hanging around the stove, cooking and canning with his grandmother; his fondest food memory is hunting elk, hare and grouse with his father. “It helped me to raise a true respect for what was on my plate,” he said.
In 2003, Solberg finished his culinary apprenticeship and shortly thereafter packed for Paris, where he worked at the Norwegian embassy. In fairy-tale fashion, he fell in love in the City of Lights – with an American girl who called Nebraska home.
Fast forward to four years ago and the young couple settles here, in the heartland. Today, Solberg hopes to inspire his students in the same way he was inspired not very many years ago – with quality ingredients and a passion for making and plating.
Solberg calls teaching a two-way street and has learned a lot about his new community from students and staff at Metropolitan Community College. “The food scene here is on steroids,” Solberg said of Omaha area eats. If you’d like to see what Solberg, staff and students are creating, visit MCC’s Sage Student Bistro where students make the meals while guests enjoy five-star service.
Scandinavian Bacon Pancakes
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 oz bacon (the fattier the better)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz blueberries
The day before cooking, mix blueberries and 1 oz sugar and lightly mash together with a whisk. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Start by cutting bacon into 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch pieces and slowly rendering out with butter. Once bacon is well rendered, strain, reserving both the bacon bits and rendered bacon fat.
Mix eggs, sugar, salt and milk until eggs are properly dissolved. Add flour, stirring constantly until the mixture heavily coats the back of a spoon. Add reserved bacon fat, leaving a tad bit for frying the pancakes. Refrigerate batter for one hour.
Wipe down a nonstick skillet with reserved bacon fat; place on medium heat and ladle batter into the pan, swirling the pan to form a thin coating. The first pancake tends to turn out too thick – traditionally, this one goes to the dog. Cook to a light golden brown on each side.
Spread blueberries on pancake and sprinkle generously with bacon before rolling. Pancakes are generally served alongside either pea soup or cauliflower soup.