Public food is the key to a food revolution

More locally sourced ingredients should be used in publicly funded kitchens such as schools and kindergartens. It’s not only more delicious than imported food, but also cheaper and better for the environment, says star chef Viktor Eriksson.

A number of top restaurants such as Copenhagen’s Noma and KOKS in the Faroe Islands have made Arctic food world famous. However, locally sourced ingredients should be used on a larger scale in order to make a profound difference.

“We have the finest top restaurants leading the Arctic food movement, but it’s very important to have society as a whole behind this idea,“ says Viktor Eriksson.

He has been part of the Arctic food movement from the beginning. As former head chef at renowned restaurant Silverskär in the Åland Islands, he is an expert when it comes to cooking with locally sourced ingredients. 

These days Viktor is using his skills in event planning and courses to inspire staff in publicly funded kitchens to use more local food. Viktor believes his “mission” can have a far-reaching impact.

“I believe that people will be inspired by what they are served in public kitchens. In that sense, publicly funded meals are the main driver of the Arctic food movement. We produce some of the best food in the world in the Nordic, Arctic and Subarctic regions. So it’s ridiculous to import inferior produce to serve to children in schools and those in homes for the elderly. On the contrary, this is where we should serve the best food we have.”

Game for lunch

Viktor and his colleagues advise municipal kitchen staff how to work within the regulations of public kitchens, for example in terms of what food they are allowed to buy, in order to bring about positive changes. They also inspire them to shop locally. 

“We promote locally sourced food and we lobby to get it into public kitchens. We try to connect staff with farmers and fishermen in order to find ways for them to buy more local food.” 

Among others, Viktor has helped Brändö municipality in Åland to source and butcher whole animals from local farmers in order to provide higher quality meat in their school.

According to Viktor, local game also has great potential for use in publicly funded kitchens.

“We have a lot of game here, including Roe deer that are hunted to control population density. The less valued cuts could be used for minced meat, and here public kitchens could play a major role, as they use a lot of minced and stewing meat. The finer cuts could be sold to restaurants or used for special occasions.” 

Although, as things stand, it is not easy to introduce game into the public food system, says Viktor.

“We work with politicians to try to make it easier for restaurants and publicly funded kitchens to buy game. Obviously it should be safe in terms of hygiene, but as things stand, we have regulations that make it almost impossible to do this” Viktor says, adding:

“Basically what I am most inspired by is making the best use of produce that is overlooked – because with our current consumption-based lifestyles, resources are being wasted, and this is not sustainable.”

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