Maritt is a Norwegian from the Lofoten Islands. She is one of the ten partners who invested together and launched the Maren Anna restaurant in 2011. She is one of the three partners who work in the restaurant with Aneth the Head Chef and Trond who works at the bar.
Rando-Lofoten: You have worked at Maren Anna from the start. How did it all begin?
Maritt: The restaurant opened in July 2003, which means that this year is the eleventh season. Before that I worked for 21 years with the Post Office, firstly in Sørvågen, then Reine, followed by Ramberg on the Island of Flakstad. I moved around as the post offices gradually closed down.
It’s what’s happening everywhere in the country. The next stop would have been Leknes and I realised it was too far to drive every day from Sørvågen to Leknes (75 km each way, 80 minutes by car). The idea for the restaurant came along at just the right time. Aneth, who is the chef and a few other people came up with the idea and asked me if I’d like to join, which I did. Before this building became the Maren Anna it was used to store old fishing equipment.
R-L: Did the restaurant take off immediately?
M: Yes, it was more or less successful right from the start because we opened in the middle of the tourist season in July and so there were quite a few foreign and Norwegian tourists. It’s different for the inhabitants of Sørvågen, they didn’t come at the beginning. We think they were perhaps a bit intimidated and didn’t really know if they could just turn up in their anoraks and hiking shoes. They now know they can come as they are.
R-L: What can you eat at the Maren Anna?
M: Our dishes are mainly based on the fish caught around the Lofoten Islands and also whale meat which is a local tradition. Aneth wanted to serve local cuisine but with a special touch. Her mother comes from the Lofoten Islands and her father is Swedish of Indian origin so she isn’t scared of mixing flavours and inventing new things. Of course we also serve more standard beef, chicken, etc. based dishes
R-L: Why do you have so many people of different origins working here?
M: It is very difficult to find locals, Norwegians, to do this work because they want to be sure of a job all year round. We haven’t really looked for anyone in particular, to tell the truth people tend to come to us. Someone new comes to the restaurant each year, we hire them and they become one of us. Foreigners come here mainly for work. They work during the tourist season, which lasts 4 months, then go back home and come back to work the following summer. We find this international mix very enriching, I think they are all outstanding. It’s great to work with them and they are very professional. If they have to work an extra six hours for a special occasion they always come up to the mark. They are here because they want to work and the impression I have is that they are happy. We even have a waiter from Tenerife even though there are thousands of restaurants in the Canaries and therefore lots of work for waiters, but he always comes back to us each summer.
R-L: What’s so great about the Lofoten Islands?
M: The Lofoten Islands is a special place, I was born here and I think it’s fantastic to live here. The main difference with Norway is the mountains that are very rugged and only an hour’s drive away from Sørvågen. There are also lowland areas with farms… in fact we have everything in the Lofoten Islands. It’s a miniature Norway. Even though it only takes a few hours to drive from one end of the archipelago to the other, you see every possible type of landscape. I love going into the wilderness, I try to escape from the roads two or three times a week to really get back to nature, whether for a walk a boat trip. I love this place! What’s strange is that wherever I go on holiday, and I try to visit different countries whether it’s Turkey or Greece for example, I always end up in places where there is the sea and fishing boats that remind me in a certain way of the Lofoten Islands. I quickly get nostalgic (laughter).
Steak de baleine et légumes croquants servis au Maren Anna
photo d'Anette Bjørnsen