Disaster Strikes…

Word of advice. Never drink with Icelanders. Never drink with chefs. And most certainly never drink with Icelandic chefs. In my drunken stupor I had spectacularly printed off the wrong flight details resulting in missing my flight to NY by a full day. Foolish boy vs Foodish boy. Mum if you’re reading this before you offer any form of criticism let me remind you about the time you got the wrong Christmas day (and coincidentally so did Santa for that matter!) Here’s a few pics from my extra few (unplanned) days in Reyka…

Reyka day out-10Icelandic Church

Morning coffee with Tumi at the incredible Kaffismiðjan - best coffee in town.

Morning coffee with head waiter Tumi at the incredible Kaffismiðjan – best coffee in town.

Black pepper liquorice

Black pepper liquorice

Hot girls doing weird things

Special dedication to my good friend Mr Ralgar – “hot girl doing something weird”

Reyka day out-17 Reyka day out-19 Reyka day out-21

Reyka day out-3 Reyka day out Reyka day out-13 Reyka day out-4 Reyka day out-6 Reyka day out-8 Reyka day out-7 Reyka day out-24

Last Supper

Last supper at Kex hostel. Possibly the greatest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Goat’s cheese and beet salad. Washed down with wheat beer.

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My Midsummer Night’s Dream

21st June 2013: a day I’ll never forget. Having spent two days working lunch shifts, I  stepped into my chef whites for the first time to cook a dinner service for a fully booked Dill Restaurant. I really don’t like to make life easy for myself. My first time in a profesional kitchen? A 7 course tasting menu at Iceland’s leading restaurant.  Heart pounding, hands shaking, butterflies in my stomach; I hadn’t felt this nervous since my grade 1 piano exam.

Dill Restaurant situated in the stunning Nordic House

Dill Restaurant in the stunning Nordic House

Learning from the best - Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason and I

Learning from the best – Head Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason and me

“Lexi, table 4. 4 Snacks. Go!” Chef Gunnar calls the first order for the snack and amuse-bouche. Deep breath. Here we go… Snack ready. “Service” I announce as I send out my first ever dish in a professional kitchen. I’ve never felt so alive. The buzz and adrenaline are incredible.

Rye bread, Sour Cream and Chives

Rye bread, sour cream and chives – my first ever plate in a professional kitchen.

Preparing the Amuse Bouche

Delicate work for a nervous chef. Preparing the amuse bouche. (left to right) Cumin pastry with cream cheese angelica. Dried cod with mustard and chervil flowers. Scallop with dill mayonnaise.

Steadily the tables started to fill up and the pace quickened rapidly. Dill has an open kitchen and diners can keep a watchful eye on your every step. “Lexi, always keep good posture and cook with energy and grace.” Certainly an aspect I never considered when cooking at home (unless I’m trying to impress a woman of course.)

Snacks complete it was time to take down the station and move on to the main substance of the menu. Plating up the first course of rutabaga, cheese foam, sweet and dour dill sauce and crispy millet I was still struggling to fathom how such responsibility had been given someone with no kitchen experience beyond two days training. I had to pinch myself…yes, it was really happening.

Rutabaga and Dill

First course ready to go…

Raw and smoked arctic charr with sour milk and cucumber. Gunnar smokes the charr with sheep manure and proudly announces "eat shit!"

Raw and smoked arctic char with sour milk and cucumber. Gunnar smokes the char with sheep manure and proudly announces “eat shit!”

Course 3 - plating up Cauliflower, burned butter, Rhye bread and boiled egg.

Course 3 – plating up cauliflower, burned butter, rye bread and boiled egg.

The next few hours flew by in a daze of colour and heat. I became so engrossed in the orders I sometimes lost all sense of my surroundings. “Lexi, when I say something you respond yes. If we were in France you’d have to answer oui chef…because the French will be French.” Chef Arnar jokingly made sure I maintained good communication in the midst of chaos.

Course 5 - Pork belly in whey glaze with herbs, apple, pickled angelia root and celeriac chips.

Course 5 – Pork belly in whey glaze with herbs, apple, pickled angelica root and celeriac chips.

Before I knew it the first 5 courses were complete and only the puddings remained. Relieved to get away from the hot stove it was time for some fun with the liquid nitrogen.

Skyr, rhubarb and sorrel. With a bit of nitrogen flare.

Skyr, rhubarb and sorrel. With a bit of nitrogen flare.

At the end of a gruelling 14 hour shift I sat down for an ice-cold beer with Gunnar, Arnar and head waiter Tumi. As I gazed at the early morning light on the longest day of the year, I struggled to take in what an incredible experience this had been. It really was a Midsummer night’s dream.

A Midsummer's Night Dream! Cooking in Dill restaurant.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream = Cooking in Dill restaurant.

The dream continues. Next stop: New York City…

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The (Real) Adventure Begins

The moment had finally arrived. The moment to say my goodbyes, pack my bags and step on a plane for 11 months around the globe. Following one hell of a send-off, which even featured my 9 year old cousin standing on the table and downing a glass of coke, it was an early start and short drive to Gatwick for me. At departures came the final farewell to my girl Phili. Less than a little sleep, a hangover from hell and emotional goodbyes are not a good combination. I’m not sure how many times security have carried out a routine body check on a 25 year old man crying like a baby. Advance warning: never try and hug them while they’re searching you – they really don’t like it.

Foodish Boy Departs

Leaving on a jet plane…

First stop: Iceland. Upon arrival in Reykjavik I was in a slightly sombre mood with 2 days to kill before I started job 6 at Dill Restaurant. Not one to pass on opportunities I sent a quick message round some Couchsurfing forums and a few hours later I was with new friends planning a road trip along the South coast.  Iceland is an incredibly stunning country with a breathtaking richness of natural landscapes that change dramatically at every turn (as did the weather for that matter). One minute I was looking at a beach, the next an iceberg lagoon. Here’s a few pictures from our journey…

Arriving in Reykjavik Foodish Driving Tour Iceland Waterfall Iceland Icelandic Waterfalls

Eyjafjallajökull

Above the clouds is Eyjafjallajökull. The volcano that “chundered everywhere” in 2010. It also chundered on the hot springs we were supposed to swim in.

Mountains and Beaches Iceland Black Beach Beach Spanning Miles By the Sea in Iceland

Iceland Glacier

Bleedin’ freezing

Icelandic Glacier

One of many glaciers

Iceberg Lagoon Iceland

Didier – my French Couchsurfing buddy.

Iceberg Lagoon

Iceland Ice

Iceland by name. Iceland by nature. Great source of ice for some G&Ts at the end of a long day.