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Cook It Raw - Lapland 2010

Into The Wild

It is September 2010 and we are on an isolated farm in the heart of a forest in Finnish Lapland. The Northern Lights dance in the night sky above. This uncanny location, aptly named "Skylight", is the backdrop for the dinner party of the third "Cook It Raw" event, dubbed "Into the Wild" and sponsored by Nespresso. The concept combines creative cuisine with a genuine concern for the environment, and is blazing a trail that others will surely follow. "Cook it Raw" is both innovative and pioneering, much like its partner Nespresso who is committed to sustainable development and culinary excellence. All in all, "Cook It Raw" and "Nespresso" are a match made in heaven.

"Cook it Raw" is the brainchild of Andrea Petrini, a food journalist, and Alessandro Porcelli, former sous-chef to the Dane Rene Redzepi (whose restaurant, "Noma", in Copenhagen was named best in the world by S. Pellegrino’s 2010 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list). These two connoisseurs are doing more than just highlighting the difference between raw and cooked food, in the footsteps of ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who explored the opposition of nature and culture (what Greek philosophers called physis and nomos). Instead, these innovating individuals aim to raise awareness about the richness of plant-life and animals, while limiting our impact on the environment.

Following the editions held in Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2009 and Collio (Italy) in early 2010, this time the two organisers assembled fourteen internationally renowned chefs to apply their talents to products from the frozen north. The Finnish authorities welcomed these chefs as honoured guests, while the Levi Spirit resort afforded them the freedom and peacefulness they so often lack in their respective establishments, where both the customer and the clock have a tendency to dictate. At least, this was what Pascal Barbot explained, chef of the 3 Michelin-starred "L’Astrance" restaurant in Paris, during an on-location debate chaired by the English journalist and writer, John Lanchester.

The chefs were set free to explore and improvise for four days. They crawled on all fours through forests, their noses and taste-buds at the ready, picking herbs, mushrooms and berries by the dozen, and gleaning mosses and barks to flavour the soup-pot. They rose at the crack of dawn to hunt, fish, invent and indulge their culinary whims. Iñaki Aizpitarte (from "Le Châteaubriand" in Paris) and Petter Nilsson (from "La Gazzetta" in Paris) competed in the art of filleting freshly caught white fish under drizzling rain and in unaccommodating temperatures, while Massimo Bottura (from "Osteria Francescana" in Modena) slaved over a reindeer tongue for an entire day. His compatriot Davide Scabin (from "Combal.Zero" in Turin) dreamt up a way of braising wild trout using layers of vegetation in a covered hole he had dug in the ground with his own hands and lined with hot embers. Meanwhile, Claude Bosi (from "Hibiscus" in London) spent hours pulling up reeds from the edge of a lake before cooking their artichoke-flavoured roots.

The atmosphere was relaxed and bubbling with creative energy and everyone tried new ways of working together, in twos or threes. These great personalities sometimes even served as one another’s kitchen hands to produce fifty plates of each new recipe. After an out-of-this-world meal featuring the flavours of the forest and a touch of reindeer blood, everyone left with a head full of memories, already looking forward to the next gathering in Brazil in June 2011.

By Stéphane Méjanès, our special correspondent in Lapland.




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