As everyone in the restaurant industry knows getting away from work is very difficult, if not impossible, and when you do have time most of us opt to spend it with our families. Of course we all want to take these trips to see our farmers and fisherman. Butchers and foragers. We always make the excuse that there just isn’t time. Last week I, Lars, Rosi and Mark Emil were fortunate enough to be able to make the time to go and visit Roderick Sloan up above the Arctic Circle — or on the “other side of the wall” as the locals say.
I arrived one day earlier than the others and after numerous delays at different airports and a four-hour drive North to Nordskot, we found ourselves looking into an abyss of darkness with a little light coming from a house on an Island about 1 km away. Roderick, a man with usually not a serious bone in his body, turned very serious and instructed me to put on a survival suit because we were going to take a little metal boat to the island. I don’t think I fully grasped what was going on and the potential consequences that were at hand – a winter storm was churning in the waters. Christian was kind enough to offer his house to us for the weekend and joined us on the trip. We made it to the island and he asked me if I was scared at any point on our crazy boat ride over to the island. I casually said not really. He said that he was pretty scared and that he had never had to cross in that kind of weather before. The longer you are in Nordskot the more you realize that you can JUST DIE in that environment and if I knew then what I know now I would have been scared shitless.
We woke up to a landscape that was something out of a National Geographic pictorial.
It was actually amazing to arrive at night in those conditions, because you cannot see the surroundings. When you wake up to sunny skies after being exposed to extreme weather and darkness the landscape is overwhelming to the point that it takes a few minutes to comprehend what you are looking at.
I could easily go on and on about all the little details of the landscape but I will try and summarize the rest of the trip. The rest of the crew arrived the next day to mostly sunny skies and settled in. Roderick and I did some mise en place after a little road trip earlier in the day. Did I forget to mention that we were doing a dinner for 25 people on Saturday? It is so inspiring to be in a region like this so we really based our dinner on the products that Nordskot had to offer. It was quite surreal cooking in this little building in a kitchen with no modern equipment It was quite surreal cooking in this little building in a kitchen with no circulator, vacuum machine, Pacojet, or combi oven, etc.I think it would have felt a bit strange to have all this modern equipment in a place that was so raw. The pass was draped with a plastic table cloth that had bunches of strawberries on it and the grill was the size of a toilet seat. If Lars, Rosi and myself couldn’t make it happen then we should start to consider a career change. Adapting to your environment and the situation in which you are in is one of the great parts of this job. Nothing should be set in stone!!!!!!
The dinner was great. We met lots of really cool people and drank lots of boxed wine after service (we saved all the good stuff for the guests). Sunday was the big day. Roderick was going to take us diving. For me personally this is one of those opportunities that do not present themselves often and when they do, you do not hesitate to take advantage of it.
Diving above the Arctic Circle in water that is -1 degree Celsius. The only reason it does not freeze is because there is too much movement in the actual water, i.e. currents, tides, etc. Lars went first and I can honestly say that standing outside in my dry suit was far colder than being in the water. Lars was definitely the more experienced diver out of the group with twenty plus dives under his belt. Myself being from San Diego had a few diving along the shallow reefs for lobsters and urchins.
Diving in a dry suit changes all the rules and you feel like a beginner at first. The buoyancy and equilibrium are so different. Once you figure that out, it’s fine (thank you Pawel for being my training wheels the first part of the dive). Next was Rosi. Being from Chicago she had zero dive experience but did not hesitate to put on a dry suit and snorkel around. We finished the dive and headed inside and proceeded to drink another box of wine to celebrate. That night we cooked an amazing dinner on the island and witnessed one of the most intense displays of the Northern lights that the locals had witnessed this year. A fitting end to a life-changing trip.
Thank you Roderick, Pawel, and Christian for making it all possible.