The real Hell's kitchen

When thousands of Trident Juncture troops need food, sleep and electricity, Norwegian local businesses come to the rescue. One of them is Hell Catering.

Text by Anders Fjellestad   Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces

"These weeks I get up at 3 in the morning and work all day. And then I go to bed before 19:00. Of course it is hectic, but it is also so much fun."

Turid Svensson walks into one of the large food tents that are set up inside Værnes Garrison, a 30-minute drive from Trondheim, Central Norway. Her mobile phone rings and beeps constantly. It he manager of Hell Catering has busy days.

"Hell Catering?" you might wonder. That is indeed the name of the company. However, the name does not mean what you think it means. It is taken from the nearby village named Hell, which then again has gotten its name from the Old Norse word "hellir", meaning overhang or cliff cave.

Hell or not, during NATO's exercise Trident Juncture, Svensson and her 28 employees will provide food and drinks for up to 6,000 NATO troops stationed at Værnes and two other camps nearby.

"I have a chef who takes care of the company's daily business. The rest of the employees I have brought with me to Trident Juncture," she says.


Local contributors

Exercise Trident Juncture is big business. A gigantic and complex system needs to be on place to handle all the people and the equipment that arrive in Norway this month. An important part of this system is local, Norwegian businesses. So far, NATO and the Norwegian Armed Forces have signed contracts with Norwegian companies worth more than NOK 1.5 billion (USD 180 million, EUR 160 million). Among these companies is Hell Catering.

"Of course the exercise means a lot to us, and it is fun to be asked. And it is easy to see that my employees are looking forward to this as well," Svensson says.

Onion soup for the French

After working as a chef for 30 years, Svensson wanted to try something new. Then she started her catering business in 2014, and two years later she got her first large contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces – during exercise Cold Response.

The live exercise is still a couple of weeks away, but the first units of French and American troops have already arrived. That gives time and room to provide some extra service for the first soldiers.

"I served French onion soup to the French soldiers the other day, and they were very happy with that", she laughs.

During the exercise the menus will be more or less set, with food adjusted to American and European stomachs, serving all allergies and religions. There will be no typical Norwegian food like dried fish or smoked sheep heads, she promises. And she likes serving food and drinks to international guests.

"We have been well received by the foreign soldiers. And you see how serious the marines from U.S. Marine Corps take their jobs. I think this exercise is positive for Norway. It is a great advantage for the Norwegian Armed Forces to have this exercise in Norway."

I served French onion soup to the French soldiers the other day, and they were very happy with that!

Black belt in fixing things

But things that are consumed need to go out. Then you need mobile toilets and sinks. And you need light poles, engine-generators, fences – just to name some. This is where Maskinutleie Stjørdal (Machine rentals Stjørdal) and its manager Fredrik Holmen come into the picture. He is the exercise's very own civilian caretaker. If something goes wrong, they call Fredrik. If NATO suddenly needs a truck or three extra mobile toilets, Fredrik fixes it.

"During exercise Cold Response in 2016 we delivered all kinds of things to the Norwegian Home Guard. We had to improvise a lot, but we fixed it," Holmen says.

Working for festivals and events all over central Norway has given him important contacts and a black belt in fixing things. Fredrik and his four employees take care of anything, anywhere, anytime. Once he was even escorted by the police to an urgent job in Trondheim. In other words, Maskinutleie Stjørdal is the perfect partner for NATO and the Armed Forces – and vice versa.

"The Armed Forces and Trident Juncture are good costumers for us, and it means a lot for our turnover and economy. But most importantly, it is fun working with them," he says.


When something
comes up

Holmen walks into the company's warehouse, a heaven for gadget lovers.

"We are well-prepared, but expect something will come up during the exercise. So we have purchased a lot of new equipment, and we have set up on-call shifts. Just to be prepared."

For the local business owner, 2018 has been a hectic year thanks to Trident Juncture.

"But I like it. And it is great that things happen here. We have had a good dialogue with the NorSea Group, the link between us and the military", he says and finds a pack of the company's signature article; a boxer shorts with the slogan "Straight from Hell". Referring to the village, obviously.

Chocolate and energy drinks

Another company that loves the Hell pun is Shell Værnes. Every time there is a military exercise in the area, the petrol station gets very busy. The station has even made its own gift packs containing playing cards and shot glasses with "Hell" written on them. The gift pack is especially popular among English-speaking visitors, who can bring home solid proof of having been to Hell.

"During exercises we also see an increase in sales of energy drinks, fast food and Norwegian sweets such as milk chocolate," says general manager Sarah Aspaas.

"And snus. The foreign soldiers love to try it," says station retailer Steinar Leirvik. (Snus is the traditional Scandinavian powder tobacco to be placed in the upper lip.)

During exercises we see an increase in sales of energy drinks, fast food and Norwegian sweets such as milk chocolate

Sandwiched between the airport and the main road, the petrol station is busy all year round.

"So we are used to a lot of traffic. But an exercise like Trident Juncture increases the volume of the fuel we sell. So we like it when traffic increases," they laugh.

Back in the kitchen tent at Værnes Garrison, Turid Svensson has just checked that everything is ready before the coming NATO deployment. But she is far from stressed.

"No, we have everything in place. We have not had any surprises so far, because of our experiences from past exercises. Now we are just looking forward for the exercise to start," she says.

"And I look forward to having a vacation after the exercise. Then I will travel to Las Vegas. I think I will be needing that," she laughs.

 Further reading

 

 

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Published 11 October 2018 09:56.. Last updated 15 October 2018 14:36.