Exclusive Interview with Chef Valentine Warner, Kitchen on the Edge of the World

Exclusive Interview with Chef Valentine Warner, Kitchen on the Edge of the World

31 July 2023
Exclusive Interview with Chef Valentine Warner, Kitchen on the Edge of the World

Kitchen on the Edge of the World, Holmen Lofoten, Norway

Chef Valentine Warner and the team at Holmen Lofoten are joined by different internationally acclaimed chefs for long weekends, including Rick Stein, Masaki Sugisaki, Nuno Mendes and Nieves Barragan Mochacho, offering guests a completely unique culinary adventure. We asked Valentine Warner what guests can expect from a long weekend enjoying the Kitchen on the Edge of the World at Holmen Lofoten...

Holmen LofotenPhoto Credit: Steffan Fossbakk

Tell us about your first ever visit to Norway?

Having previously filmed there I had a yearning, a burning desire to go back. My love of wild places and stories of Norway, its dark forests, gods, legends and trolls (yes they live in the mountains here so watch out) just fascinated me. My father, (the diplomat Sir Frederick Warner) used to say to me as a child ‘send quiet desires towards the astral clockwork and they will more often than not be answered accurately’. Seems I was heard, as out of the blue I was contacted by Ingunn Rasmussen, owner of the Holmen Lofoten in the Lofoten Islands in the far North-west of Norway and invited to the beautiful place she lived. In short I accepted a ticket from someone I had never met and I spent three days talking with Ingunn, who had grown up in the islands from birth. We drank Aquavit, fished, and came up with the idea, that certain Chefs would love to come up to experience this magical place and cook for guests.

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Ed Schofield

How did Ingunn Rasmussen, owner of Holmen Lofoten, contact you, and why did you set up Kitchen on the Edge of the World?

Ingunn cold called me, and I like cold calls! I believe that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. The worst that can happen is that someone says no, right? We wanted to offer something unusual; a place where you get a chance to meet and spend proper time with the Chefs cooking for you, where you can see the process happening. We don’t navigate by Michelin stars as it isn’t necessarily appropriate up here. We wanted our guests to come to Holmen Lofoten to see and react to the amazing larder you can source in the muscular super nature we have around us. Perhaps a mountain hare seaweed pie for example. We wanted to encourage our guest chefs to cook what is directly outside their kitchen window while also using deliciousness from our local producers. We knew, because the weather is master of everything here, that we would have to incorporate experiences other than the hiking and fishing, so that when Odin roared thunder overhead and you could not go outside, that we had craft workshops to offer. Two examples of who we invite, are Alex Pole, a brilliant blacksmith, who uses traditional techniques in his own Devon based workshop. He’ll teach and spend time with our guests to make, for example, their own grill ware. Another is Gunvor Tangrand, a local ceramic artist who grew up in her mother’s pottery workshop (and who is responsible for equipping the restaurant with its beautiful tableware). She helps the guests create their own works of art. Art using your hands. Analogue not digital…..hooray!

Holmen Lofoten Norway Photo Credit: Ed Schofield

Do you prefer cooking indoors or outdoors?

Always outdoors, if it’s practical. Bring the outdoors indoors and bring in the wood. Wood smoke is an ingredient and the idea of what is outside dictates the menus. In the beginning we had to order more produce in from outside, but as we grew, Richard, our lovely head chef, developed strong relationships here with producers and so we now have very solid local contacts. We know an exceptional farmer-butcher, and an excellent dairy so we can source things from the islands for the menu. Of course we can forage for things like reindeer moss and sorrel from the mountains across the road.

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Dan Mariner

You host guest chefs from all over the world – what do they each bring to the experience?

They bring their very particular style of cooking, their reaction to the natural larder around them. Its so fun to see them get excited when they understand what is around them. It’s almost certain the menus will change immediately despite the planning that is needed. It’s nice to see them relax as although they have to cook their dinners they get to enjoy themselves here too.

Holmen LofotenPhoto Credit: Dan Mariner

What kind of traveller would you recommend to book the Kitchen on the Edge of the World?

People who can ‘go with the flow’ and accept Holmen Lofoten for what it is. What is considered luxury these days can be so wrong. You can really stop here, engage with the chefs and the Rasmussen family, walk with and talk to our guides and craft contributors, enjoy the craft workshops and demos on offer. The ‘luxury’ of Holmen Lofoten, is the wild experience and generosity of shared information more than anything. This if for those who love the outdoors, who want to maybe fish or forage at the right time of year and to do something they might not be used to, to sit at a long table and share food and meet others. Something you rarely experience elsewhere. This is a place to possibly take you out of your comfort zone, where you can ask questions and join in. It's rare to get to hang out with such chefs over days rather that just catch a glimpse of them at a dinner.

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Dan Mariner

In Norway most of your produce is fresh and locally sourced. What’s your favourite thing to find out foraging?

In England, sorrel is generally something you must ask for from a green grocer. The sorrel here from June, grows abundantly all over the mountains. Short and tender, as sour as lemons and you can just pick as you walk, pick as much as you like. I love the green Juniper berries for adding to homemade mayonnaise. The Victory Onion comes from the local producer near Holmen Lofoten, it is somewhere between a wild garlic and leek, it has tall, dark, green leaves and a perfume to it that is divine. I have never tasted it anywhere else before.

Holmen Lofoten Norway

Other than your kitchen, where do you find the best food in Norway?

The Little Pickle in Oslo, I have not been yet, but all clients and chefs we send there (after some online research of course) love it. I can also recommend Maaemo in Oslo which is very good. Norway is good for eating more simply as well.

Holmen Lofoten Norway

Brand of luggage and why?

YETI – it is tough stuff – they make excellent cabin and carry-on luggage. They sent me a waterproof bag and so as a test I put my laptop in it and threw it in the sea. It came out dry as a bone. Brilliant kit is YETI as life is too short for bad kit. A popular brand for fisherman, explorers and outdoors folk - it is epic. With well thought out interiors their bags are also amazing for fitting in far more stuff into than you think you can.

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Ed Schofield

What luxury do you never travel without?

My headphones as I listen to a lot of music. I love everything from Steely Dan to Grace Jones to house music, so an eclectic range. A love that was born from a musical family and a love of dancing.

Holmen Lofoten Norway Photo Credit: Dan Mariner

Three must haves in your carry on?

Drawing equipment, spectacles (which I have a good talent for leaving everywhere) and the book that I never read!

Early to the airport or skin of your teeth?

I am super punctual with my timing. Likely early and subsequently walking the block to kill time before ringing the bell. My dad would often insist we visit a chapel with frescoes, museum or some such on the way to the airport and with not much time to spare before the flight. My mother would despair and get very stressed. We always made the flight. However as a result of this and I always get there early and by doing this, I know from past experience that even if I have a flat tyre, I will make my flight.

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Dan Mariner

What’s on your travel reading list now?

The Consolation of the Forest – Sylvain Tesson. An amazing tale of nature and being alone.

Apart from Holmen, what is your favourite hotel in the world?

Most of my travels involve staying with my friends so I would have to say my friends’ houses.

If you do stay in a hotel, what is the first thing you do?

Go for a swim – when staying in a hotel then I choose one with a pool. I dump my stuff and immediately head for a plunge.

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Dan Mariner 

Top city escape and any insider tips?

Mexico City – it is so vibrant. Please visit the History museum for an understanding of the Aztecs. Your eyes will pop out. A crazy city of wonderment - there is so much to do. As a painter in a previous life I love Frida Kahlo’s house. Contramar is my favourite fish restaurant. I ate there pretty much ever day over a week.

Where do you long to go next?

Argentina – it is top of my list. I am a mad keen fisherman when I am not working, and I love eating things cooked over wood as you have gathered. I would absolutely love to go Francis Mallman’s restaurants. (Mallman is a Chef famous for his fire cooking). Another place I hope to get to is Transylvania and the Danube Delta. You can still find bears and wolves in their forests. Food from its immediate surroundings, the kind of food I like. I like places where you may still find witches!

Holmen Lofoten NorwayPhoto Credit: Steffan Fossbakk

Three best purchases made abroad?

My Sami Birch coffee cup with its little bone ornamentation in the handle. The best honey I’ve ever had bought on a roadside from a tiny Greek widow with arthritic hands. Her walnuts were fabulous too. She looked like a walnut infact. I am obsessed with blankets, I love fabrics and will always buy blankets or materials home from my travels.

What do you think is the best quality in a travel companion?

An ability to be silent together, when needs be. Someone happy to go off and do their own thing when you do and then meet up again later.

Funniest travelling experience or most memorable journey you’ve ever had?

Having fished for Mahseer on the Mahi-Dehing river, five of us went by train to Nagaland that borders Burma to the east. Attending the Hornbill Festival, a celebration of Naga tribes, we enjoyed drumming, dancing, extraordinary stories and hot pork curries. It ended with a group of the elderly tribal members singing in full traditional dress and holding their spears. All I will say is that Naga history is fascinating.

Holmen Lofoten Photo Credit: Dan Mariner

What would you like to see in the future for travel?

Thoughtfulness – nowadays, ‘luxury’ can mean simply a spoilt and thoughtless world. I would hope that we think about our responsibilities today, in a world where we are gradually losing so much of our nature. Our travel experiences should be about kindness and sharing. Depressingly, I recently visited a large hotel, where I was invited to a dinner. On seeing the vast kitchens I asked about how their recycling was handled, they told me it wasn’t. I found that very alarming. Before you book, do a little research.

Finally - your ultimate travel mantra?

My father was a diplomat and the British Ambassador for Laos and then Japan from 1972-1975. My Dad said a couple of things that have always stayed with me: ‘Talk to a goat farmer the same way you would a king and life will offer more rewards, your travels more revelations.” … ‘If there is a little road, walk down it.’

 Photo Credit: Christian BanfieldHolmen Lofoten Norway


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Sarah Mason

Every time I explore a new destination, whether it’s on an adventure holiday in Peru or a luxury beach escape in the Indian Ocean, I return home full of excitement to share the amazing sights I have seen. Through my own experiences I have developed a love of helping others experience the great wonders of the world; truly getting under the skin of the extraordinary destinations that are at your fingertips. Getting the details right, from which hotel is perfectly located for exploring away from the crowds, to which local guide is most knowledgeable on history or culture or art, is of paramount importance to me. I am constantly seeking out new and exciting experiences and exploring off the beaten track to ensure my clients are receiving the best and most honest first-hand advice.

Take a look at my travel diaries for food for thought on your next trip...

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