Solla Eiríksdóttir is one celebrity chef you may not have come across, but she is a household name in Iceland because of her TV shows and four restaurants focused on raw food and vegan dishes.
If such an approach sounds a little purist, Solla, 55, is more interested in flavor than philosophy, and she laughs a lot during an interview at Gló restaurant in Reykjavik. Sitting alongside is daughter Hildur, 36, the collaborator on her first English-language cookbook, "Raw," which will be published by Phaidon on May 4.
"It's a way of preparing food, not a way of life," she says. "Everywhere in the world, people are told to eat more fruit and vegetables. What we're doing is transforming fruit and vegetables into real dishes instead of just making salad all the time. This is just food. We love the freshest raw materials so your taste buds are screaming for more."
Solla is an interesting story. She was studying handicrafts in Copenhagen when Hildur was born. Her doctor told her to stop breast-feeding so he could prescribe drugs for her allergies. She said no, and on the way home stopped at a health-food store for the first time.
She met a nutritionist who put her on a vegan diet that cleared up her allergies in six months. Solla returned to Reykjavik, studying at the Myndlista- og handíðaskóli Íslands, a craft school, and working part-time as a server at Á næstu grösum, Iceland's first vegetarian restaurant, where she helped in the kitchen and started to cook.
She went on to open her first restaurant with a friend in March 1994, selling it a decade later and going to study at the Living Light Culinary Institute, in Fort Bragg, California. She became a regular on Icelandic television, even making four programs with the country's first lady, Dorrit Moussaieff, who has also cooked with Martha Stewart.
Solla currently owns four restaurants in Iceland and is now looking at expanding her Gló street-food concept internationally. She mentions London, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo as possible cities, along with California and Germany. She also has her own organic food brand and has published five cookbooks in Iceland.
Article by Richard vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg