As one of the most remote and far-flung places in the world, the Faroe Islands are known for their otherwordly, rugged landscapes. But one young chef is also putting this destination on the culinary world map, showcasing the unique traditions and ingredients with a remote, fine-dining experience. Poul Andrias Ziska is the Faroese chef behind KOKS, a two-star Michelin restaurant situated in a 16th century Faroese house in Leynavatn.
In the new documentary, Nordic by Nature, director Rasmus Dinesen is given a rare window into this ambitious restaurant, learning about Ziska’s philosophy on food while showcasing the stunning, and oftentimes brutal landscapes of the islands. No stranger to documenting culinary tales, Nordic by Nature debuts five years after Dinesen’s acclaimed Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen. We sit down the the filmmaker to learn more about his Faroese tale.
How did this project come about?
This was actually the start of a sequel for Michelin Stars, but then Covid came and we couldn’t travel the world. But we could go to the Faroe Islands, because they are under the autonomy of Denmark. We decided, let’s make the entire film a portrait of Poul Andrias and the restaurant KOKS.
It must have been great to delve into this one story…
Yes, because Poul is not the guy with the loudest voice or big personality to show off. It’s all about doing what connect with the character and following Poul in his own easy way. It was kind of relieving and not so stressful as a director, just following this very calm and empathic chef.
The film opens with a retelling of a myth about seals who were believed to be former human beings. What was the intention behind that?
As a documentary filmmaker, it was a chance to jump into a little bit of fiction. We thought the myth was fascinating and tells the story of what the Faroe Islands are about. It’s about connecting with water and living in the world of those animals.
What moments throughout the filming stood out for you?
I remember being on the ocean and you see Poul Andrias and his staff jump to this little cliffside and cooking an omelette and grilling cod. That was an amazing day.
The film does not shy away from showing more graphic moments, of animals such as goats and whales being killed. Some might consider it controversial, but its clear Ziska feels strongly about the reasons why he follows these traditions in keeping with sustainability. What were those scenes like to film?
At the start, coming to the harbour and seeing the whales lying there, it was a little bit strange. But when you look at the kids running around, it was so normal for them. It’s not a commercialised thing. They give the meat out to everybody, it’s a community thing. They are doing what they have always done and that’s good enough for me.
What was Ziska like to film? Was he quite involved in the vision?
He started out as he ended, very calm and collected. When we showed him the first edit, he said ‘now I know what you guys are up to. Let’s finish it’.
What has the response been from the Faroese community?
I think they like the film. It’s not a big community, and not everybody on the Faroe Islands goes to KOKS. But they’re proud of their country and proud that they have a restaurant that really portrays their gastronomy to the rest of the world.
Nordic by Nature is screening at the Scandinavian Film festival which runs across Australia until August 10. For information and session times go to scandinavianfilmfestival.com