Nine star chefs from Michelin restaurants throughout the Nordics. Flavourful food grown and matured in the land of the midnight sun. Seasoned with northern lights, fire and ice and served in a unique restaurant, in the midst of the wilderness. Et voilà, here are the Stars du Nord.
In the midst of the forest next to a lake stands an old door with chipped paint. Open it, and step into the restaurant Materia. Feel the rays of the low evening sun warming you and breathe in the scents of pine, grilled onions, spices and the smoke of the fires. Follow the path through untouched blueberry and lingonberry bushes between the sparsely growing pines and find your place among stumps and logs.
On two clear autumn days, the Stars du Nord gastronomy festival takes place here, a couple of kilometres away from the Storklinten Ski Resort in Svartlå in Boden municipality. Nine Michelin chefs from Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden gather to cook outdoors, over an open fire, on nature’s terms. All ingredients come from the local area and are produced within a radius of 200 kilometers.
In five temporary outdoor kitchens, laid out in a ring around the seating area, the chefs stand in pairs and prepare the evening’s meals, each with their own dish. Later, just before serving, all nine gather together and help put the finishing touches on the food. One of them is the Danish Nicolai Tram. With the help of a neat metal funnel on a handle, a flambadou, he ignites a dollop of elk fat which immediately flares up in a fiery cloud. It is the base of his sauce.
”I like the ingredients that are available here. I work with reindeer and with beets, which take in the fire and smoke quite well. I have lingonberries in the sauce and when we look around, there are lingonberries everywhere so you almost feel like a bear that goes straight out and eats from the ground”, says Nicolai.
Further out in the forest, Finnish colleague Tommi Tuominen sits by a fire pit. Beneath the fire, six ”robber roasts” of leg of lamb are cooking for six hours.
”This is fantastic, it’s so nice to be outside and cook in the wilderness, without electricity or anything”, he says.
Throughout the evening, lobster, reindeer, courgette, cauliflower, celeriac and onion and many more items are served as part of carefully balanced flavour compositions. An important supplier is the local Svante’s Vilt & Bär in Harads, but there are also vegetables from Vittjärv and Smedsbyn, berries from Mockträsk and Kalix vendace roe. This is accompanied by craft drinks from the Nordic countries, such as nonalcoholic gin from Kalix and pot boiled coffee from Lemmelkaffe in Gällivare.
Jens Thoms Ivarsson and Arne Bergh at Poikpikike are responsible for the design of the temporary restaurant. For many years, they worked as creative directors at the world-famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.
”The idea was that the restaurant should feel like it is growing out of the forest. Then the concept emerged, working with logs, the timber from northern Sweden, that has its entire age range on display in the table surfaces. You can sit there and read the history of the trees, and on top of this, magnificent dishes are served. The chairs are stumps, but a little more comfortable”, says Arne.
They have made all the furniture themselves, using a chainsaw and other tools, at home on Arne’s farm in Piokkijärvi. They have even cut down a couple of trees. Tables and chairs have been placed in mushroom-like installations allowing each seat to be the best, with a view towards either the lake, the forest, the music stage in the middle or the chefs around them.
”We want to make as much as possible of the natural experience. It should feel exciting, natural and pleasant”, says Jens.
Organising two nine-course dinners for 50 guests in the middle of the forest, without electricity or water, requires a certain amount of logistics. The lighting is powered by kerosene and solar panels, all plates are heated in a smoker before serving and washed on the spot with water that has been boiled over the fire. Thick woollen blankets and several fires keep the guests warm when the temperature drops.
When the party arrives and everyone enjoys an aperitif at the ice bar, the forest is still bright. As the evening progresses and the dishes are served, the guests get to experience nature’s shift towards night. Just in time for dessert, the autumn’s most intense northern lights appear in the sky, on these two evenings.
”It’s so beautiful in the evening, when dusk sets in, with the fires all around and all the strings of lanterns. It’s magical – when the guests enjoy their meals and the chefs work like crazy, and I tell the guests: ”You have to look up”, and the sky just erupts with colour”, says restaurant manager Thomas Lidberg.
Among the 100 people who settled down on the stumps are not only visitors from the USA, Canada, Italy and Germany but also a number of Boden locals. With ticket prices of € 700 per person, the festival is primarily aimed at high-end connoisseurs, just like Boden’s tourism industry flagship Treehotel and Arctic Bath, both close to here. One of the guests is Isabel Nybom, who lives in Stockholm but is originally from Boden.
”It was absolutely fantastic, truly an evening to remember. The best part was probably the experience as a whole, but what I was most pleasantly surprised by was the beverages. They were really good and interesting wines”, Isabel concludes afterwards.
The purpose of the festival is to market the Nordic culinary art towards an international market and give our chefs, winemakers and regions both national and international attention. The agency Swede Concept is behind the event.
”It’s great that more people are opening their eyes to this food, that’s what matters to us here in Harads. Our local chefs make food like this today, but it’s fun that these Michelin chefs travel up here and get to know our local products”, says Britta Lindvall-Jonsson.
She is known as one of Treehotel’s founders and as a strong and enterprising force here in the Harads area. Britta has been involved in preparations for the festival and has, among other things, organized the venue, staff and product lists with local producers, and not least the restaurant’s entrance.
”The door, yes, I had it at home. I collect old doors.” #
Text: Josefin Wiklund / Foto: Håkan Stenlund, Mats Engfors och Stars du Nord
Nordic langoustine, juniperberry from the forest and smoked sauce
BJÖRN SVENSSON / Schlägergården *
Tartar of reindeer with forest flavors
TORSTEN VILDGAARS / Michelin veteran 2019
Caramelized onions withhomemade sour cream and löjrom
CHRISTOFFER NORTON / Domestic *
Cod, chanterelles and local gin
KRISTIAN VAGNEN / Bare *
Wild chanterelles, blueberries and thyme with kelp and fermented mushrooms sauce
JONAS MIKKELSEN / Frederiksminde *
Zucchini med grillad grädde, vilda inlagda örter och renlav
BIRGIT MALMCRONA / Naturaj *
NICOLAI TRAM / Knystaforsen *
Slow-cooked lamb, celeriac, and rosemary
TOMMI TUOMINEN / Finnjävel *
Fresh cut grass, pine cones and berries
ERIK MANSIKKA / Kaskis *
See more: Experience the destination Boden in Swedish Lapland