In February 2013 the Danish food and wine magazine, Gastro, brought a report from Ilulissat entitled “The World’s Wildest Kitchen". Here, an enthusiastic critic wrote about Hotel Arctic’s Restaurant Ulo, where the guests have views of the colossal icebergs drifting from the inland ice out into Disko Bay:
A view of the world’s biggest sculpture park
“The restaurant is tastefully decorated in Nordic style and it has one of the most spectacular views in the world.
This evening, the gourmet menu offers a selection of flavour experiences based on the very special ingredients that belong to the fells and fjord: consommé of local prawns with Greenlandic thyme, Greenland halibut tartar, compressed cucumber and apple with cauliflower purée, poached musk-ox in its own soufflé with smoked Spanish paprika, swede, musk-ox glace served with pearl barley folded with salted musk-ox heart, sorrel and parsley, red-wine poached pear with dehydrated marshmallow, Labrador tea, mazarine tart, lemon crème brûlée, artificial sand, honey and vanilla ice cream.”
In the article in Gastro, former restaurant chef Jeppe Ejvind Nielsen expresses how much he enjoys working with Greenlandic ingredients: “They have a pure flavour. Nothing is cultivated. Everything is wild and it comes straight from nature. Everything is therefore always 100 per cent organic".
Innovation and development
After examples of the kitchen’s bold use of local ingredients, Gastro brings this conclusion:
“This gourmet restaurant, which is located 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, keeps the gastronomic banner flying high, although there are not many competing gourmet restaurants at these latitudes. Innovation and development are apparently part of Jeppe Ejvind Nielsen’s nature and professionalism", wrote the critic and gave the chef the last word:
“I think it is important that our kitchen is in a constant state of development and that we experiment, so we don’t come to a standstill. We cook a lot of classic dishes, but we are constantly developing our techniques and testing new ingredients. For example, at the moment we are experimenting with Greenlandic herbs in our desserts".
Read former chef Jeppe Ejvind Nielsen’s thoughts on philosophy, ambitions and practices below.
This page contains a thorough introduction to the development of the kitchen at Hotel Arctic. The focus is on innovation and inquisitiveness in the use of local produce – and on the training of new cooks at a high, professional level. The text is written as a recommendation for Brugsen’s 2012 award for the use of Greenlandic ingredients:
Upon arrival at Hotel Arctic, the first thing you notice is that you come into a reception where the receptionist’s desk is covered with sealskin and shaped like an Ulo, which is also featured in the restaurant’s logo. If you look around the hotel, you will see Greenlandic art decorating the walls and you will be greeted by a receptionist, who masters the Greenlandic language. Guests who enjoy a meat dish in Restaurant Ulo, are introduced to our special steak knives which have reindeer-bone handles and are engraved with the restaurant’s logo. . . . but all this is just the beginning.
In the kitchen we have made a conscious choice to concentrate our efforts on developing products with Greenlandic ingredients. Our cooks are constantly developing new dishes with a view to global sales, but with their feet planted firmly in the Greenlandic fells and fjords. This was apparent in 2007, when chef Jeppe Ejvind Nielsen published the cookbook “Grønland – til lands, til vands and i luften” (Greenland, on Land, at Sea and in the Air), and this is illustrated in his blog on Royal Greenland’s home page, where he writes about the opportunities and challenges involved in being a cook in Greenland.
The organization “New Nordic Food” under the Nordic Council of Ministers, gave its prestigious award to Hotel Arctic in 2009. Other restaurants in the running included Copenhagen restaurant Noma with two Michelin stars.
Cooking ambassadors abroad
Our cooks are always taking part in international food events. At the time of writing, our sous-chef for the kitchen is in Italy, taking part in a slow-food fair. He is also chairman of this organization in Greenland. Last December, the chef was in Washington at the Danish Embassy to cook for a reception, where the theme was Greenland. Furthermore, the chef has been invited to go to Korea in December this year to make a presentation of Greenlandic ingredients in connection with prime minister Kuupik Kleist’s visit to the country.
In the winter period, about half of the main ingredients we use are of local origin. In the summer, from the middle of May until September, when many tourists come here from all over the world, they can experience Greenlandic food presented in the best possible way every day. Our work is focused on the strategy of serving as much local produce as possible and we make the major part ourselves. The smoked Greenland halibut that is served at our breakfast buffet every day has been salted and smoked in our own smoker. The breakfast buffet also serves honey from Ole Guldager in South Greenland. Ingredients such as musk-ox, reindeer, Greenland halibut, Arctic hare, ptarmigan, wolffish, mussels, sea urchins, redfish and much more are included daily in our repertoire.
Greenlandic herbs instead of foreign – a new brand for Hotel Arctic
This summer, we chose not to use foreign herbs. Anyone who has dined in a restaurant knows how important the green element is for the presentation of the food. We tasked ourselves with exploring what we could find on our own doorstep. Through this, we discovered some herbs that were new to us, such as sheep sorrel, knot weed, mountain sorrel, lousewort, northern marsh yellowcress, common mouse ear, knotted pearlwort and many more. In a very short time, this philosophy has become a brand for us. Throughout the summer of 2012, our guests and others have had the opportunity of joining us on these excursions. For us, this has not been a commercial business, but an opportunity for guests to gain some degree of insight into what nature in Greenland also has to offer. We have now extended the herb season by growing several local plants indoors, so we can use them even when the snow lies heavily on the fells.
Greenlandic lichen – teaching our cooks
We work a lot with lichen, which is widespread all over Greenland. In the summer of 2012 we were paid a visit by professor Eric Steen Hansen, who specializes in lichen. He has devoted himself to this subject in the book : “Grønlandske lav” (Greenlandic Lichens). The Professor taught our cooks about lichen and its uses and took several trips to the fells with the cooks to teach and to collect samples.
Greenlandic vegetables, strawberries and seaweed
During the summer we have vegetables flown in from Nuuk that are grown in the Ameralik Fjord by hobby farmer Steen Pedersen. On old Norse land he grows onions, carrots, kale, potatoes, broccoli and turnips, to mention just some of the unique products our guests meet, when they dine at Hotel Arctic. Finally, we have had Greenlandic strawberries from Uperniassuvik. At present, we have a larger portion of Greenlandic banana potatoes in stock which we are working with this autumn.
In the winter we dry our own Greenland halibut for year-round use. Since 2011 we have worked at developing our own winter-dried musk-ox. The background for this project is that we want to use our dry air and unique resources to make dried meat of the same high quality as Serrano Ham. This project has attracted a great deal of interest with regard to commercial exploitation from companies such Arctic Greenfood.
Our refrigerator is filled with preserved angelica and turnips. Our freezer contains crowberries, blueberries, Labrador tea and thyme. Our dry stores contain “dried fells”, angelica leaves, crowberry heather and much more. All these products, most of which we have collected ourselves, are used during the winter when it is impossible to get them from anywhere else.
Seaweed has been up in the media recently as a potential natural resource that could be used for export. At Hotel Arctic we have worked with this resource for many years and we can only endorse the enthusiasm surrounding this product. Seaweed is included in salads, ground as a seasoning, in emulsions and in soups and much more.
Fish and seawater from Disko Bay
We work closely with several local hunters. Most of the fish and game we serve is delivered straight to the “kitchen door” almost daily by the fishermen. For us, it is specifically the fishermen who possess a wealth of knowledge about local conditions. In the kitchen, we contribute with our knowledge of the best way to handle these unique ingredients during preparation and cooking. Several of our cooks and trainees sometimes go out and catch the fish we serve.
Here in Greenland we are blessed with some of the purest seawater on earth, so it borders on being a crime not to exploit this opportunity in our kitchen. Sea water is a regular ingredient when we bake bread each day and blanche vegetables etc. We also use seawater to poach fish. Furthermore, we developed dishes using this technique already last year and therefore we chose to undersalt the whole dish. This allows our guests to savour the flavour of Greenland halibut poached in its natural element. It is the undersalting that is important, because the seawater in Disko Bay contains much less salt due to the melting icebergs.
A different Greenlandic resource: Talented trainee cooks
It is imperative for us to train as many young people from this country as possible. The aim is to ensure that the special skill of using Greenlandic produce becomes rooted in the community.
Alone in 2012, Hotel Arctic completed the training of two cooks, one of whom was awarded a fine bronze medal. At the beginning of 2013, three more trainee cooks acquired their Certificates of Completed Apprenticeship. By the end of the year we will have five trainee cooks in the kitchen. In order to give them the best possible foundation, we send them out to work in other restaurant kitchens on their own initiative. This year, two trainees have each had a one-month internship at the renowned restaurant “Mielcke and Hurtigkarl” in Copenhagen and one trainee will spend over a month’s internship at restaurant “Gammel Mønt” in Copenhagen.
In connection with the trainees’ school periods at Food College in Aalborg, we also send them out to the Danish farmer Søren Wiuff in Lammefjord to give them an understanding of what grows in the ground. Wiuff supplies vegetables to e.g. Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen.
All this is done on the assumption that the young people will one day return to Greenland and hopefully continue the development we at Hotel Arctic, in all modesty, hopefully contribute to, in our daily work.
We use local resources:
Fruits of the sea, mammals, vegetables, sea water and herbs are used daily.
We provide information:
We write blogs, articles and books about Greenlandic ingredients. We take guests into the fells to teach them how to collect and use what they can find. We work together with the hunters to ensure the best possible quality in our ingredients.
Our philosophy is that each year, we do things a little bit better than we did last year. This means that we are constantly developing new dishes and discovering many new ways in which we can use our ingredients. Winter-dried musk-ox and lichen are examples of this.
We safeguard the future:
By teaching our trainees how to exploit the plants and herbs they can collect on our doorstep, we are making a contribution to increasing the focus on these products. By teaching them how to use the local fish and mammals, we give the trainees the courage to develop these resources.
We are committed, nationally and internationally:
By training our trainees and through close contact to hunters and growers, we seek to influence the development of an increased focus on quality. And by sending our cooks and trainees out into the world, we are making a contribution to the promotion of our flavourful and unique ingredients.
Managing Director Morten Nielsen