TORONTO — Toronto’s Drake Hotel recently welcomed media to meet Hakon Mar Orvarsson, a guest chef from Iceland Naturally (the country’s council of Icelandic brands), who’s in town to promote the Scandinavian country’s culture and cuisine.
Orvarsson presented a “Taste of Iceland” menu, introducing native Icelandic food to Canadians. “We want people here to experience what a meal looks like in Iceland, so we brought in our renowned traditional and modern produce to make our menu,” said Hakon, whose dishes included hardfiskur (dried fish), prawns, pickled herring, Icelandic salmon, free-range lamb and a dessert made of Skyr, a traditional soft cheese.
The country’s recent troubles spawned the public relations initiative. “In 2008, we had the bank crisis and then we had the volcano, so the government wants to push a positive image of Iceland to the world. Promoting our cuisine is a big component of our promote-Iceland work,” said Liney Arnorsdottir, project manager, Promote Iceland.
Icelandic cuisine has yet to catch on around the world. “It’s relatively unknown,” said Arnorsdottir. “Icelandic traditional cuisine consists of rather unusual foods like putrified shark and things like that.” That said, traditional foods such as Hákarl, sheep heads and sheep testicles are outdated stereotypes, now replaced by fresh, organic foods. “That’s not what we eat,” laughs Arnorsdottir. “We have some of the cleanest ingredients in the world. The majority of our food is hormone-free; our vegetables are grown in greenhouses and the cuisine is very healthy. And, of course, fishing is our most important industry and is very carefully managed.”
Hakon and his team annually visit several cities to publicize Iceland. Hakon will cook his “Taste-of-Iceland” menu at the Drake Hotel until March 24.