Swedish Magnus Westling and Norwegian Kristine Ildjarnstad are two of the five young Nordic food lovers who get to travel to Washington D.C. in October, and teach American school students about Nordic food culture.
- It felt really great! both Westling and Ildjarnstad reply when I ask how they reacted when being told that they had won the cooking competition.
21-year-old Magnus Westling read about the contest on Twitter. 18-year-old Kristine Ildjarnstad saw an ad on Facebook. Both of them immediately became eager to participate.
- The trip is an experience in itself and it also is a great opportunity to make new contacts, Magnus Westling, who studies the Culinary Arts and Ecology Programme at Örebro University and works as a chef during summertime, says.
- I look forward to going to Washington and meet new people and show American schoolchildren what we eat here in the Nordic countries, Kristine Ildjarnstad, who is a senior student at Asker Upper Secondary School, and has cooking as a hobby.
Magnus Westling's contribution to the contest is a salad based on Nordic raw materials.
- I made this salad last summer that I thought tasted very well, and decided to use it as a base. In addition to thinking in a healthy way, I also wanted to use some simple flavors that are easy to like.
Kristine Ildjarnstad decided to go for burgers that American children easily can relate to, but to make them with a Nordic touch, as using fish instead of meet and grated carrot in the bread.
- When I make food I generally prefer using Nordic raw materials which are locally produced and easy to find, she says.
Also Magnus Westling is very fond of the Nordic food culture – and the school meals as well.
- It would be interesting to work with the food in Swedish schools, both with the food in itself and when it comes to thinking green. It should become more attractive to work as a chef in school kitchens, we need more passion! At the same time we should be more concerned of the environment and for example do something about the huge waste.
Try something new
The contest is a part of the cooperation between the Nordic Embassies in the U.S. and Nordic Innovation, which teaches North Americans about healthy, Nordic food. For example, 30,000 American school children on the 26th of October get a taste of Nordic food which among others Magnus Westling and Kristine Ildjarnstad get to plan and prepare.
Melita Ringvold Hasle, Communications Manager at Nordic Innovation and responsible for the project, called Nordic Food in DC Schools, says that it is about showing Nordic traditions and the value of a healthy diet to American children and youth.
- The branding of Nordic food culture abroad mainly revolves around gourmet experiences. We wanted to do something completely new that is addressed to an entirely different audience. As most of the Nordic countries have a tradition for serving food in schools, we thought it was a good idea to focus on the school meals.
Ringvold Hasle says that Nordic Innovation has experienced a surprisingly big interest in the project – just because they have dared to think outside the box.
- We are thankful for all the mentors who voluntarily set up with knowledge and commitment. And we are proud of the young people who have taken part in the contest. At the same time we are also creating a Nordic added value as the project is something that the Nordic countries do together.
Mads Holm, Manager for the project Nordic Food Culture at the Nordic House in Reykjavik and a member of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ working group for the New Nordic Food programme, is one of the mentors in the competition. Besides of having taken part in selecting the five winners, his assignment is to give hints and advice to the young chefs.
- When choosing the winners we emphasized the use of Nordic raw materials and the general content of the dishes, but also the young people's presentation of themselves and their motivation to participate in the contest.
Holm says that the quality of the contributions was high, both technically and when it comes to the description and knowledge.
- I am absolutely convinced that the winners can present themselves and the project in the best way possible. They represent what we want the Nordic cuisine to stand for: joy of food, good taste and versatility.
According to Mads Holm the project is especially exiting because of its double-sided process: That is, both to raise interest in Nordic food and food culture among Nordic youth and to spread the joy of cooking and eating healthy – and tasty – food in American schools.
He hopes that the winners will enter the project with an open mind.
- I myself was in the U.S. when I was younger and got to know an exciting food culture which left its mark on me in many ways. Hopefully these young people will experience something similar.
The other winners of the cooking competition are Hanna Nilsson and Evelina Bravenius from Sweden and Maggi Jirayut Andrésson from Iceland. The trip to Washington will take place on October 21st to 28th.
Besides Mads Holm, the other mentors of the project are Annika Unt Widell, Jeanette Roede, Eivind Haalien, Kim Palhus and Gutti Winther.