Portraits of Westbourne - Christian Ørner

Today I had the enormous pleasure of spending time with a man that believes that chocolate can change the world, he lives in Westbourne, has already done a TED Talk, and his name is Christian Ørner.

What do you do as a Private Chef and Chocolatier? 

As a Private Chef I specialise in bringing the complete restaurant experience to the comfort of your own home with bespoke 7 course tasting menus focusing on French, Modern European and Scandinavian cuisines. I use local suppliers including Peter Trebles Butcher (best butcher in Dorset at least), Greenslades Fish Market and Parkstone Fisheries in Ashley Cross for the biggest scallops I have ever seen! 

As a Chocolatier I create seasonal chocolate menus there I hand temper the chocolate for the shells of my chocolates and make each filling and sell them through my website and Facebook page. I also do 1-2-1 classes and demos and talks including a TEDx talk on “How Chocolate can change the world” which you can watch on YouTube.

You have an exotic name, tell us about it. 

Thank you. Well I am half Norwegian on my father’s side and half English. So my surname, Ørner, is Norwegian. It translates to “eagles” and is pronounced in a similar way to the English word “earner”. The Norwegian alphabet has three additional letters on top of the a-z of the English alphabet. The “Ø” is pronounced in a similar way to the first three letters in “earner” The “r”’s are both rolled. Something I have found English people to struggle with this, but Welsh people get it straight away. I am grateful to my Dad for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons is for speaking Norwegian to me and by brother from when we were born. As a result I am fluent in both English and Norwegian. Definitely something I will also be giving my children when I have them. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef? 

I was 23, so a relatively late starter in the Chef world as many chefs start at 16 fresh from school. But I had a year out when I worked in a crappy corner shop, sailed with my good friend Jo and partied whilst I decided what I wanted to do. It came to me one day almost out of the blue (much to the surprise of everyone in my family as I am quite far from the stereotypical chef (I don’t shout, I am far from aggressive, and previously I haven’t been a big foodie), however now I am a big foodie, but even after 12 years as a chef I still don’t shout and stress or get aggressive. 

How did Salt Cø. Private Chef and Chocolatier begin? 

I have been a chef now for 12 years and have worked in hotels, restaurants, a cruise ship, a 133m luxury mega yacht and a Dutch sailing ship. It got to the stage really when I had enough of working for other people and cooking other people’s menus that I thought let’s do this for me! I genuinely love what I do now: the variation, meeting new people each day, cooking new foods each time, talking food every day and working with the wonderful product that is chocolate! What is not to love?!

Tell me about the name Salt Cø? 

With pleasure. I chose to call my business SALT Cø. because salt is integral in both in sweet and savoury cooking. The Cø part is because co stands for “cooking”/ “corporation”/ “company” but most importantly it is my initials. 

What was the best bit about having your photo taken today? 

I really like the way you come across. Very easy to get on with, very professional and obviously is really good at what you do. I personally really like meeting and working with people like you. My very favourite part of today was when you were talking about your infant son and you said, “I cannot wait for my son to be old enough so I can give him some money to go travelling”. This was a really touching thing to hear, so much so I almost asked you to adopt me. 

What do you like to eat when you’re at home? 

I eat a lot of different things. I like trying new things. But mostly I eat quite a bit of meat and fish and fresh vegetables. My favourite meat is duck, but I tend to eat more steaks and pork. Leaving duck for special occasions. I love chocolate and ice cream too 🙂 

What is going to be the next big thing in the food world? 

Great question! As a Private Chef and Chocolatier and cooking in people’s homes I am doing what I can to have chefs cook in one’s home, but on a world wide scale I think that alternative protein sources such as eating insects will be a big thing. Maybe not right away but in the future. 

What is your favourite kitchen gadget? 

I like my knives. I use sabatier as a brand. My mum bought me a set when I first told her I wanted to be a chef. I have since upgraded the knives to different sabatier ones but I still use the butchery knife from my original set. Gadget wise I don’t actually have that many. My ice cream machine is close to the top, I make fresh ice cream or sorbet each dinner I do and churn it when I get to my client’s houses. That way they get super fresh ice cream. I also really like my electric whisk. I used to whisk everything by hand, but that has really changed my life the most! 

Which restaurant did you last eat at? 

I ate at Restaurant Roots for my birthday last year. Hands down best meal I have had in a restaurant for about 10 years. 

What do you have in your fridge at home right now? 

Some milk, cider, white wine, some cream ready to be churned into butter for dinner parties next week, fresh yeast, two slow roasted duck legs (dinner tonight).

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten? Whale meat possibly is the most unusual food so far. In Norway you can buy it in the super market. I was working as the chef on a Dutch sailing ship and we were up in Svalbard up by the North Pole. Being Norwegian I thought I would put a Scandinavian evening on and cooked it three different ways (with an alternative option for those who might not want to eat whale) I did a stir fry, a roasted joint and a Carpaccio. It tastes delicious, like a more flavourful Beef. Just to be clear, I don’t agree with some of the ways they are hunted, but I enjoyed the taste.

Which animals scare you the most? Why? 

I am not really scared of animals as such. I can deal with snakes and spiders quite happily. I am scared of drowning though, but at the same time I am a confident swimmer and love sailing. 

What’s one thing you would rather pay someone to do than do yourself? Why? 

The washing up! Believe it or not, prepping and serving a 7 course dinner for a dinner party makes a lot of washing up. But I don’t mind it too much…
And divorce paperwork. 

What’s your favourite question to ask? 

I do quite a few talks and demos about food, including a TEDx talk on “How Chocolate can change the world” I like asking questions and hearing the answers during my talks to keep my audience on their toes. 

What’s your favourite question to answer? 

Pretty much anything about food! 

What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve encountered? How did you react? 

I nearly drowned. I was sailing with my friend Jo and we capsized. Something we have done many times before so that was not a problem. But when we righted the boat I got trapped underneath the boat and I couldn’t reach anything to pull myself out. After what seemed like an age I felt Jo’s hand grab hold of my buoyancy aid and pulled me out. He saved my life and I am eternally grateful for that. And I still love sailing!

Does asparagus make everyone’s pee smell funny? 

Most people yes, but not everyone. It is a sign that your kidneys are working as they should. When the asparagus breaks down in your gut it creates a chemical that isn’t particularly good for you and your kidneys flush it out in your urine. It is that chemical that makes your pee smell after eating asparagus. 

Can I get drunk on kombucha? 

Not as far as I am aware. Maybe if you leave it to ferment enough it will turn into alcohol, but most likely not. 

Will poppy seeds show up positive on a drug test? 

Good question, I can’t say I have ever thought about it. I have no idea. 

Why do so many chefs have tattoos? 

Lots of reasons. To be macho, because they like the feeling of getting them, they are “cool”, they like having permanent artwork on them, because they decided to get them when they were drunk. I have a few myself and I am sure many people, not only chefs, got theirs for the same reasons. My initial thinking was “I cannot be a chef and not have tattoos” (although I got my first before I knew I wanted to be a chef). The reason I have the tattoos I have is that they mean something to me. Also I got them for me, not for anyone else. 

Is it true that bananas are radioactive, and if you eat too many it can kill you? 

Not sure about being radioactive, but eating too many definitely isn’t good for you. But it is the same with everything. Eat too much of anything isn’t good for you. Everything in moderation. 

Tell us stuff about yourself that we would never guess.  

As a child my parents struggled to get me to eat anything but pears (hence the confusion about why I wanted to be a chef) On my very first day of my very first chef job, I called in sick because I had a really bad hangover. Thank you Jo Baynham. I despise baked beans.

How can we contact you to book you to come and cook for us or for you to do a demo/ talk? Either through my website or Facebook  T: 07742502799
E: [email protected].  You can also find me on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

If you’re reading this and fancy getting involved then please do get in touch. Business owners, community groups, social clubs, or simply individuals with a Westbourne tale to tell, you’re all welcome, and I’d love to chat with you and make a portrait or two with you. 

Antony Northcutt shoots corporate and children’s portraiture, food, and bespoke photography projects.

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