Norwegian Mette Visted: My Singaporean adventures

Photo: Mette Visted

Singapore is a wealthy Island city-state, once a British colonial trading post, today it is a thriving global financial hub, a multi-cultural food paradise, and a diverse society jammed with nature. Singapore is also home to Norwegian Mette Visted and stands as the foundation of some of her life’s most important milestones and revelations. 

Besides being a professional chef and a very ambitious baker, Mette is a wife and mother of three who never let life’s challenges defeat her. She is adventurous and dynamic and an active part of the Danish Seamen’s Church in Singapore. She is also an excellent example of someone who has never been afraid to take a leap of faith and embrace change.

Mette’s Norwegian traits shine through our conversations and I quickly sense that she consists of the integral parts of Norwegian culture which includes a strong sense of family and national identity, a love of nature, a desire to help those in need, and a willingness to work to reach a worthwhile goal. I catch Mette remotely after a busy Chinese New Year in Singapore in between taking care of her family and keeping up on orders of Danish Flødeboller (dream puff’s), Norwegian Kransekage (almond confection), and Rugbrød (sour-dough bread) for her newly established business. An adventure that’s been taken by storm and within just a few months has sweetened the life of the local Singaporeans and the Scandinavian colony by the thousands.

But before we dig into her mouth-watering adventures of ‘Madame Puff’, let’s go back in time.

Born to be wild and free

“I was a high-spirited child full of energy and perhaps a big mouthful for parents of that time.”

Mette was born in Bergen, Norway into a traditional family with mom, dad, and an older sister. Growing up Mette led a trouble-free, adventurous and outdoorsy life. With the Norwegian mountains as her playground, she developed a special love for nature, and to this day, the nature of Norway, and nature, in general, are elements Mette feels strongly connected to.
Disaster struck when Mette at the age of 14 lost her mother to cancer and she recalls it as a period of turbulence in a time where support groups for children were still a quite unknown phenomenon. It led to a few years of wandering and Mette says she came out of her youth a lot more resilient due to life’s challenging experiences. Trained as a professional chef with an apprenticeship at Bergen’s most prominent hotel at the time, Mette worked four years on different platforms in the North Sea before her desire for adventure became too hard to resist.

Singapore is calling

“I moved to Singapore, 24 years old and full of adventure.”

Mette first came to Singapore in 1991 and lived in the island-city state for five years. Here she met her Danish husband and the couple expanded their family by adopting a little girl from Indonesia. “That she came to us here will forever tie us to Singapore,” Mette says. Mette’s daughter was baptized in Sjømannskirken in Singapore (The Norwegian Church abroad) and the family spent the first three years of their daughter’s life in the Island city-state.
In December 1996, the family of three moved back to Denmark. In 2001 they welcomed their second child and in 2005 the family was completed with the birth of their third child.

Hamster wheel kinda life

Denmark offered a lot of new opportunities for the family but it was also marked by the Nordic way of life where everyone is so busy and everything seems to require scheduling. The hamster wheel life as Mette calls it was not appealing and when Mette’s husband who works in shipping got offered a job opportunity returning to Singapore, the family went for it.

“When you have lived abroad once it kinda sticks to you and the dream of another trip is always there,” Mette says. Coincidence has it and the fact that Mette lost her job in customer services in Denmark the day they signed their Singapore contract was just another sign that the family was ready for new adventures. So after 18 years back in Denmark, Mette and her Danish husband returned to Singapore in 2014 together with their two youngest sons aged 9 and 12 at the time, while their oldest daughter aged 20 at the time stayed in Denmark.

Singapore over time through Mette’s eyes

“It’s been an incredible journey to experience Singapore over two periods in my life and have had the opportunity to come “home” again after 18 years.”

In 1991, Singapore was a state going through a rapid development after being declared independent just 20 years prior. There was still a clear division between the local Singaporeans who lived in primitive kampongs and the ‘nouveau riche’ generation living in the fancy new condos in the city. Mette recalls that the lifestyle in Singapore in the ’90s was marked by an exclusive superior elite leading the ‘good life’ as many foreigners stationed abroad in Singapore came out on fancy all-inclusive contracts. The contracts included in addition to a higher salary also housing, cars, schooling, and trips back home. Mette tells me that she also witnessed a hierarchy within the Scandinavian community especially between the women at the time and it was very different from what is seen today. Back then director wifes seemed to only mingle within their social class and the privileged few were seen traveling across the state in expensive Jaguars with carefully chosen drivers.

“But amongst the superior and swaggering tendency, it was amazing to be there and experience the real Singapore. At the time the bustling city-state was full of local street food, noodle stations on every corner, copies of designer bags, and “lolex” being sold to tourists, and people traveled around on rickshaws. There was a magical sense of Asian charm and it was incredible to experience those five years and not the least to come back 18 years after.” 

“And wow! How the place had changed. It was barely recognizable and had gone from being a small Asian city to resembling ‘New York’ in Asia” Mette says.

What met the family in 2014 upon returning to Singapore was a multicultural society with a lifestyle that was no longer marked by the wealthy elite but had faded into a culture where everyone was somewhat equal. The family had a lot of reliving to do, started exploring every corner of the city-state again, and have over the years been driving the island thin -with much excitement and sadness for their boys who were always dragged along the adventures Mette says and laughs.
Food is an important factor in Singapore and the family loves trying everything. Not all are equally well-received but all is tried. Mette says that they still discover small pieces of heaven within the city but it is clear that Singapore now is a big city with everything to offer and then some. “From food, culture, and charm, Singapore is a fantastic place to live”.

Photo: Mette Visted and her family exploring Singapore

Life in the Island city-state

Returning to Singapore in 2014 with two pre-teenage boys who barely spoke English was not without struggles and the first few months were hard for the boys and Mette as a mother. The boys started at Stamford International School and after a few months of frustrations, they suddenly excelled at life abroad. Today Mette is beyond proud of her two little world citizens who are so open-minded and judge-free and says that it’s one of her life’s biggest bonuses that they have been able to give this amazing experience of living abroad to their children. Both of the boys have had their confirmation at the Danish Seamen’s church in Singapore and Mette’s oldest son has since finished his IB exams in Singapore, started as a shipping trainee in Denmark. Mette’s youngest son is currently finishing his studies in the Island city-state.

Mette’s oldest daughter also is a regular guest in Singapore and they see each other as often as possible. Two years ago the family was able to visit her Indonesian roots on a holiday to Bali and Mette says that it was a very rejoicing experience. Not only did Mette’s daughter feel at home and could easily identify herself as she looked like the locals, but she was also spoken to in the local language too much amusement for the entire family.

Mette has always been a social light amongst groups of creative women and hard at work on different projects in her life in Singapore. From importing and selling different items to hosting an annual Christmas Bazaar. She is a fire soul and very active member of the Danish Seamen’s Church and has in the last five years been an important part of establishing the annual Christmas Bazaar at the Church with planning to start yearly from as early as April.

Photo: Mette Visted Singapore 2017

Accommodating the pandemic

When it became clear that Covid-19 was here to stay in early 2020, Mette and her family once again found themselves in a situation where adventure was calling. Mette’s husband had just resigned from his job and stood in front of new possibilities in Singapore and abroad. The pandemic however put a stop to that and adaptable as always, the family were planning on returning to Denmark. Without work but excited at the prospect of once again being close to family and friends. Once again, however, call it faith, coincidence, or simple luck, a job opportunity for Mette’s husband presented itself and it was an offer too good to resist. So with only six weeks until departure to Denmark, the family decided to stay in Singapore.

When life gives you cabin fever, you bake!

It is very clear by now that Mette is a dynamic adventurous soul and feeling limited due to the restrictions the pandemic brought along, she found herself in cabin fever mode sometime during October last year. But when life gives you lemons… as they say, Mette grabs life by the horns and the corona lockdown kick-started her desire to create something that is her own.

But what to make was the million Singaporean dollar question and an intense brainstorming session with her close friend and business advisor resulted in “Madame Puff”. Before the day was over the brand was established, a freelance designer was hired to produce the logo and Mette embarked on her new business adventure of sweetening the life of Singaporeans and the Scandinavian colony in Singapore with delicious Danish Flødeboller.

Flødeboller is an old, traditional Danish treat, a mandatory sight on any table of celebration and loved by any age. Photo: Mette Visted

Delicious with capital D

Practice makes perfect and after a few attempts Mette posted her creation of perfectly round Flødeboller on Facebook and within 10 minutes her first order was placed. After that, the quest for her sweet delights was taken by storm and the first week she produced 100 Flødeboller, the week after 400 Flødeboller and before she knew it she was producing and selling 7-800 Flødeboller a week. After just a few weeks in business, she landed an order of almost 1000 Flødeboller to be delivered at Christmas to the employees of a big American company in Singapore, and in addition requests for Norwegian, Kransekage started rolling in.

“It was completely crazy up until New Year’s Eve and I was making Flødeboller 24/7.”

A couple of weeks ago Mette was asked if she could make Rugbrød (Sour-dough bread) and now it’s a regular part of ‘Madame Puff’s’ products collection too.

Whether Mette and her family will stay in Singapore indefinitely is still unknown and maybe in the future, their sense of adventure will require new mountains to climb so to speak. One thing remains certain for now and that is that if you live in Singapore or pass through the vibrant Island city-state you absolutely must enjoy a sweet indulgence from ‘Madame Puff’. All of Madame Puff’s products are handmade using natural and pure ingredients.

To enquire sweet delights from Mademe Puff please visit Madame Puff’s Facebook page

Photo: Mademe Puff
Photo: Madame Puff
Photo: Mademe Puff

About Mette Larsen

Guest writer

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