Arctic Street Foods Tasting and Local, Northern Foods Dialogue

Event Participants

  • Chef Aaron Apling-Gilman (Alaska) -Seven Glaciers at Alyeska Resort.
  • Chef Viktor Örn Andrésson (Iceland) – named the Icelandic Chef of the Year in 2013, Nordic Chef of the Year in 2014 and won two gold medals at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg in 2014.
  • Chef Nikolay Gabyshev (Russia, Sakha Republic) – chief chef at the Muus Khaya restaurant in Yakutsk, Yakutia; specializing in local and northern foods.
  • Chef Jørn-Eirik Johnsen (Norway) – Based in Tromsø, Chef Johnsen is the Arctic Menu project manager for the Norwegian Hospitality Association.
  • Svein D. Mathiesen – International Centre of Reindeer Husbandry

Event Highlights

The four participating chefs along with seven local Anchorage food trucks participated in the Arctic Street Food Tasting event on the Anchorage Museum Lawn.  Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute donated several varieties of wild Alaska seafood that the chefs and food truck vendors transformed using new and different methods and recipes from the eight Arctic states. Over 700 people attended the event and about 400 individuals purchased the chef’s creations (the Alaska Food Policy Council received fifty percent of proceeds). The visiting chefs offered a unique opportunity for local culinary students at University of Alaska Anchorage to work alongside in the preparation of these dishes, while the team from Seven Glaciers participated in the actual implementation and distribution.

Panel Discussion Summary

The panel discussion included chefs from Alaska, Iceland, and Russia, as well as Norway’s Svein D. Mathiesen from the International Centre of Reindeer Husbandry.  Panelists began the discussion by attempting to define “Arctic Foods” and articulating how this genre of food differs from “traditional” or “native” foods.  Each panelist agreed that Arctic foods require a special skillset to not only obtain the raw ingredients (e.g. hunting or fishing), but also specific methods to store (such as fermentation) and season this “harsh” cuisine. There was a collective sense that the skill set needed to produce, store, and sell Arctic cuisine is not being preserved and is thought of as “recipes of the ancestors” by younger generations.

The panelists further discussed the importance of training and engaging growers given that in their home countries a major issue is obtaining raw ingredients to prepare.  In a place like Alaska, Chef Apling-Gilman reflected, policy affects what people are eating since game meat can’t be sold commercially in many cases. In Russia and Iceland, the chefs remarked that Arctic foods often are not sold in restaurants – they are the cuisine of home cooking; thus, consumer education is needed to make Arctic foods more accessible both in terms of how to obtain them and how to use them in everyday cooking.  Chef Nikolay Gabyshev, head chef at the Muus Khaya restaurant in Yakutsk, Russia – a restaurant specializing in Arctic cuisine – explained that restaurants need to understand better the economic benefit of serving Arctic foods and only restaurants can make the cuisine popular.  Mr. Mathiesen from the International Centre of Reindeer Husbandry, who travels throughout the circumpolar north region, emphasized that the “stories of people from the region are told in their recipe.” Svein agreed with Chef Gabyshev that restaurants are central to popularizing Arctic foods as restaurants, in many Arctic communities, serve as places where individuals meet and connect in a public setting.

Future Research and Opportunities

  • Trainings for how to butcher/use/cook an entire animal as well as cultivate wild ingredients in the Arctic
  • Trainings for restaurants on how to acquire, serve, and market these kinds of foods
  • Oral history project of Arctic foods conducted through archiving recipes of home cooks

Example projects: