Q: Which television show is viewed by millions and filled with delectable dishes served up amid spectacular scenery by native Nordic chefs, who sprinkle cultural, historical, and lifestyle fun facts throughout each season? A: New Scandinavian Cooking.
In more than 100 countries, including the Nordic ones, the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, and China, 200 million people watch New Scandinavian Cooking each year. What makes the program so immensely popular is its unique brand of edutainment, which incorporates Nordic food, travel, culture, history, lifestyle, and even a bit of trivia.
Shot entirely on location, the stunning scenery fires up the wanderlust for the exoticism (or homeyness, depending) of Nordic archipelagos, fjords, and fields — locales that serve as backdrops for the hosts who prepare dishes using locally-sourced ingredients. And I don’t mean cooking from inside a tricked-out kitchen, either. Nooo.
Each Nordic native does his or her food prepping, cooking, and plating using portable cooktops, firepits, and the like, in settings that are decidedly non-kitcheny (even those that are indoors), such as the deck of a ship in Norway’s waters, a Viking banquet hall in Sweden, a lighthouse on one of Denmark’s islands, and a rocky seaside cliff in Finland. Awesome, right?
Both New Scandinavian Cooking and its sister series, Perfect Day, which features more travel adventures and explorations along with the food, are the televisual versions of a fabulous, fun, flavorful trip to Nordic lands, with TV chefs Andreas Viestad (Norwegian), Tina Nordström (Swedish), Claus Meyer (Danish), and Sara La Fountain (Finnish) serving as our local tour guides.
Andreas Viestad, a host and co-host for nine of the show’s eleven seasons now, is a world-famous TV chef, respected food columnist, restaurateur (St. Lars in Oslo), founder of the Geitmyra Culinary Center for Children (also in Oslo), and award-winning author of Kitchen of Light: The New Scandinavian Cooking and Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route.
What makes Andreas so popular with viewers is his blend of cooking and storytelling. He infuses the how-tos with bite-sized fact morsels about dishes, ingredients, and Norwegian culture, history, and traditions. Viestad also offers up modern substitutes for ancient ingredients, while for other ingredients, a bit of trivia. (Q: Which cooking oil is used as fuel by some diesel car drivers in Norway? A: Rapeseed oil.)
In addition to cooking in various parts of his native Norway, Andreas also travels to Japan, Italy, Scotland, St. Lucia, and Iceland, where he grills lamb on a volcano and cooks salmon and vegetables in a secluded geyser. (Wow.)
Tina Nordström, voted “Sweden’s Most Popular Female TV Host” for her 2001 series Mat med Tina Nordström (Food with Tina Nordström), is a celebrity chef whose early culinary career includes being the first female finalist in twelve years in the 2000 Chef of the Year competition, and receiving the Scandinavian gastronomy prize in 2002. She is also the author of several cookbooks, including Tina Nordström’s Scandinavian Cooking: Simple Recipes for Home-Style Scandinavian Cuisine.
As host and co-host of New Scandinavian Cooking and Perfect Day, Tina doesn’t just travel across Sweden (plus Norway and Finland) to give viewers the lowdown on her native culture, lifestyle, history, and food. She has adventures, including competing in a reindeer race, fishing on a frozen lake, and diving into the North Sea for oysters.
And she cooks, making delish dishes such as Swedish meatballs with creamed carrots and smoked eel with scrambled eggs. Her enthusiasm for food is infectious, and her bubbly personality makes viewers (like me) wish they (and I) were cooking right alongside her.
Claus Meyer, a leading Scandinavian food celebrity who hosted his own series, Meyers Køkken (Meyer’s Kitchen), on national Danish TV from 1991-1998, is today a host and co-host for New Scandinavian Cooking and Perfect Day.
From Claus’ extensive CV, his being the former head of the Danish department for Eurotoques (the European Community of Chefs), the winner of the Media Chef of the Year prize at the 2008 Madrid Fusion Expo, and the author of 14 cookbooks to date, are but a few of his accomplishments. Then there is Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that he opened with Chef René Redzepi, which has been awarded two Michelin stars and named Best Restaurant in the World four (!) times by Restaurant magazine.
A proponent of the New Nordic Cuisine Movement, Meyer shares his expertise about local raw produce, fish and shellfish, and other indigenous food sources in Denmark and Greenland, while preparing dishes such as a salad of lamb and Roemoe shrimp with dark rye croutons, and a pâté of hare and pheasant with nuts and mushrooms. And his presentations of Danish culture and history are a lovely accompaniment to the food.
Sara La Fountain, a former guest chef on New Scandinavian Cooking and a co-host of Perfect Day, is a multi-talented Finnish-American graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, food and lifestyle columnist/writer, tabletop- and kitchen-ware designer, food brand consultant, developer of food product lines, model, and more.
Her two Finnish TV series, Avec Sara and Sara and Meri-Tuli’s Metropolis, have both been hits, and her first two cookbooks, à la Sara and Passion for Food, are Gourmand World Cookbook Award winners. The third, Healthy Kitchen, features organic ingredients that are used to both prepare dishes that promote a happy and healthy lifestyle, and to make natural skincare products for the face and body that let us pamper ourselves til the cows come home.
In the “Rye Bread for a Queen” episode of New Scandinavian Cooking, and the “Among Lakes and Berries,” “Helsinki on a Plate,” “Secrets of the Baltic Sea,” and “Sara’s French Connection” episodes of Perfect Day, Sara gives viewers insights into Finnish history, traditions, nature, and seasonality through her dishes, such as flame-broiled lake salmon with a wild mushroom salad, and pan-fried white fish with a summer potato salad.
For a visual tour of some of the dishes prepared on New Scandinavian Cooking, click on any of the thumbnails below to view larger images of these and other food photos. (All pictures are courtesy of APT.)
Every public TV station in the US has access to New Scandinavian Cooking and Perfect Day through American Public Television, so if you’re in the States, check your local listings for the station that serves your area (and its digital Create channel, as available) for carriage and air dates and times. Viewers in the UK and Nordic countries should check the respective BBC channels and schedules.
Tellus Works AS, the Norwegian media company that produces both programs, has all episode details and recipes, and several video clips, on its website. A selection of recipes and videos are also available on the Create website. The largest collection of videos from both shows is on the Tellus Works YouTube channel.
Who’s ready to cook now… in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden!