In Iceland culinary classes are becoming increasingly popular among tourists who want to try their hand at local cooking. Auður Ögn Árnadóttir, owner of Salt Eldhús, says it’s understandable, since the best way to get to know any country is through your taste buds.
“Traditional Icelandic food has been our focus point ever since we first opened four years ago. We use traditional elements in Icelandic cuisine, by bringing domestic ingredients into the kitchen, where we experiment with them and cook in a modern way,” explains Auður Ögn Árnadóttir, owner of Salt Eldhús (Icelandic for kitchen), which offers cooking classes and experiences for tourists and locals alike, under the supervision of skilled instructors.
Auður Ögn says that the classes are becoming increasingly popular among tourists.“They love to watch the chef master the ingredients and then join him in creating something exotic and tasty. And after working under his leadership they’re just dying to sit down and have a taste, with a glass of wine,” she says and adds that one of the more popular courses is called “Local in Focal” where ingredients and cooking style are decidedly Icelandic with a new Nordic twist.
The cooking classes however aren’t only about food, they‘re also about bonding and cooperation. “We work in groups of three to four people and the group cooperation becomes an instant ice breaker,” says Auður Ögn and underlines that the maximum number of participants is twelve people. “We limit our class size in order to make the environment more intimate and inviting. The experience is ideal for tourists who want to meet new people during their travel and work with someone they haven‘t met before.”
“We limit our class size in order to make the environment more intimate and inviting. The experience is ideal for tourists who want to meet new people during their travel and work with someone they haven‘t met before.”
According to Auður Ögn the tourists are usually very curious to know about Iceland and Icelandic culture and so, the discussion in the kitchen often becomes very lively. “In the end, when the chef sits down to dine with the guests they use the opportunity to ask him anything they desire to know. And restaurant recommendations aren’t the only thing they ask for. Questions can be about everything from monthly bill for heating, water and electricity to feminism in Iceland,” she laughingly says and points out that Salt Eldhús has been getting great feed back from tourists.
“Salt Eldhús has had good word-of-mouth publicity, so there hasn’t been much need for marketing. We’ve basically become a hit without any marketing to speak of,” she continues, adding that she loves the fact that more and more tourists want to take cooking lessons, learn about Icelandic food and have a taste. “Some of them have already taken a cooking class on their travels elsewhere and want to do the same in Iceland.”
Auður Ögn herself is an eager attendee of cooking classes and tries to squeeze them into her schedule every time she travels to other countries. After accidentally discovering that these kind of classes actually exist several years ago, she started wondering why nobody was offering them in Iceland. And so, she decided to found Salt Eldhús four years ago.
Now Salt Eldhús offers 40 different cooking classes. Most of which are taught in Icelandic, while some, like the popular “Local in Focal”, are taught in English. And this spring Auður Ögn will be adding a different kind of cooking experience for tourists, simply called “Demo & Dine”.
“The participants won‘t have to cook anything; they just sit in front of a chef who chats with them and cooks at the same time. Because some people don‘t want to cook,” she points out. “They just want to sit down and watch the process and discuss food and culture.”
The cooking classes are taught daily. “Local in Focal” starts every day at 11AM and is therefore based on a lunch menu. The recipes, wine and use of apron are included in the price. Salt Eldhús also offers cooking and dining experience for private groups of up to 40 people. The group members participate in baking traditional Icelandic pancakes with rhubarb jam and whipped cream in the afternoon. During evening courses they make dinner.