There’s a definite trend of late; immersion; immersive cooking, experiences, food, holidays and relationships. We are no longer satisfied with a veneer of ornamental existence or luxury. Rather, we expect and demand to be exposed to the very raw fractions of life. How would we feel about hunting, catching and fermièring our own meat? A farm-to-table approach in which we, the consumer, are rigorously involved in the process, from conception to creation?
“I kill my meat, I use guns, I use fishing rods, these are kitchen utensils tome,” says Valentine Warner, acclaimed chef and BBC Cook.
“All cooking is the outdoors brought indoors. My hands are more in what I do – quite literally. I am a very visceral cook.”
Warner is a culinary polymath: he’s worked in numerous London restaurants (citing Alastair Little as his mentor), set up his own private catering company (Green Pea), owns and runs a distillery and starred in numerous BBC food programmes. Intriguingly, he’s passionate about having an emotive relationship with food and sustaining an intimate and tangible link between the environment and the food it produces.
Lofoten’s remote kitchen
These two partialities have fused together to create Kitchen on The Edge Of The World, a programme, pioneered by Warner, which connects guests, authors, creatives, foodies, chefs and bartenders in a holistic and culinary retreat located literally, on the edge of the world.
The Lofoten Islands are really as far habitually north as you can get; an archipelago community inside the Arctic Circle and subsequently utterly reliant and observant to the natural environment. These ingredients ensure that its inhabitants are respectful, mindful and synonymous with their settings.
The Kitchen On The Edge Of The World series is held here and run as a kind of ‘Soho House’ of the north by couple Ingunn Rasmussen and Trond Melhus. Honesty, generosity and humour are the pivotal ingredients to this retreat in which there will be three during the course of 2019, during which Warner will be displaying his stealth for hunting, foraging and subsequently cooking. The Kitchen On The Edge of The World will also host numerous acclaimed creatives; Mark Hix, Gill Meller and Nathan Outlaw are just some of the chefs who will be appearing.
“I cook with a sense of environment”, explains Warner, “in Norway, the lambs go down the shorelines to eat. I find seaweed on the shoreline, I steam the lamb in the seaweed and on the way back I find some juniper berries and I cut bunches off while the lamb is being steamed in the wood fire.” The deep fjords surrounding the Lofoten Islands also boast some of the greatest fishing in the world and are a haven for the culinary curious like Warner.
“I am mad about fishing – fly fishing. There will be snow cod, particularly large species of cod which comes and mates up in the waters. The first retreat is based around cooking cod every day. In the summer it’s halibut season, and in the autumn it’s the game season with snow hares and tarmmigan.”
Nature in Norway
The entire Kitchen On The Edge Of The World experience is based on the premise of immersion, but also initiating a conscious respect and mindfulness to the meat we consume and the environment we inhabit. It is this mindfulness that Warner wishes permeated more in our modern society: “I meet these people who are completely city conditioned,” he explains. “Everything they relate to is through magazines and screens.
“Nature is our default setting, it’s right here in our core. We are nature.What is wrong, in a way is that there’s nature, and then there are humans. We have separated ourselves. We are nature too.” A palpable way of forging this reconnection is through the act of hunting. Or, for the more faint-hearted, being emotionally involved in the purchasing and consumption of meat.
“Hunting is ancient hording, it’s in our marrow. You don’t ignore hundreds of thousands of years of something which has been fundamental to the reason why I am sitting here right now. It’s just that what you hunt has changed.
“I am quite primal in a way. I will take a gun and walk out through the door. Other people might hunt Instagram followers, whatever it is there’s a definite hunter/forager relationship.”
Hunting and particularly foraging are gastronomic buzz words of late, but in the cascading snow-capped peaks and glaciers of the Lofoten Islands the concepts have real resonance. Here, in the isolated wilderness and sheltered sparse bay, inhabitants are truly at the mercy of nature. It’s a humbling, enlightening and palpable experience and will not be kept secret any longer, if Warner can help it.
The four-night Kitchen on the Edge of the World programme in Holmen costs from £3,000 per person, including all meals, drinks and activities. holmenlofoten.no/go.
For details on how to get to the Lofoten islands visit lofoten.info.
Edge of the World published in Sunseeker Magazine Issue 59