I will tell you about my Islands

Poul Andrias Ziska, chef at KOKS in the Faroe Islands, on Tuesday 10th will be on the stage of Identità Milano 2015

In January 2014 Poul Andrias Ziska became the chef

In January 2014 Poul Andrias Ziska became the chef of the most important restaurant in the Faroe Islands, KOKS in Torshavn, the capital of the archipelago and Ziska’s hometown. He will be one of the speakers during the Identità Estreme day, on Tuesday 10th February. On top of him, there will be Roberta Pezzella, Pasquale Torrente, Daniel Burns, Paolo Lopriore, Roberto Flore, Sergio Capaldo and Marco Stabile, Manuele Senis

Let’s start from the bottom. After a nice chat with Poul Andrias Ziska, young and brilliant chef at KOKS, in the Faroe Islands, where he was born and raised, I happened to ask him if he had aspired to leave, at some point in his life and career. If he didn’t feel that those islands, so beautiful and fascinating but also so far away from everything, with a climate sometimes so complicated and unwelcoming, were limiting him.

Even though we were on the phone, the smile in his answer seemed very clear. I’m not the first to ask him this, for sure, and he probably still asks himself this question. Yet his answer, at least for now, remains clear, decisive and passionate: «I work in a unique, marvellous place that makes me happy. I love these Islands and working with these products, these raw materials, this culture. This is what I think I want and have to do, knowing that I still have many things to learn.»

You were born and raised in the capital, Torshavn, where you now work. How did you decide to become a chef?

«I had just finished school when this new restaurant opened in Torshavn. At the time the gastronomic scene in the Islands was almost non-existent and I found this idea very interesting: it was the first restaurant to have some gastronomic ambition and I asked to work there as an intern. Chef Leif Sørensen took me right away and I became passionate about this work just as quickly. Sørensen then closed this place to open another one, KOKS, of which, taking his place, I became the chef one-year ago.»

The complete kitchen staff of KOKS 

The complete kitchen staff of KOKS 

People describe Leif Sørensen as a sort of pioneer in the Faroe’s gastronomy: how would you depict him?

«For sure, he was the first to bring this approach to the Islands’ cuisine. And to demonstrate what could be accomplished, using local ingredients. Before he opened his first restaurant, there were very few restaurants in Torshavn. Today, instead, there are many interesting ones.»

Besides working with him, what other professional experience do you have?

«I worked for a while in Copenhagen, at Geranium, and I visited the other restaurants as much as possible, to see what kind of food they made. I’ve also been to Spain, at Mugarritz, for a few months, before returning home.»

How close do you feel to the movement connected with the New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto?

«I don’t know, it is hard to say. I think I’m only doing what I feel is more natural. Here in the Faroe Islands we are far away from everything, so we only follow our ideas, without lining up with anyone else. All this said, we are in fact Nordic and focused on raw materials from our land, so the proximity to the New Nordic Cuisine is clear. My style is simple, honest, I try to enhance the raw materials available to me more than any other thing. So there’s fish, most of all, little meat, some vegetables. A big satisfaction comes from learning that thanks to our work farmers have a growing interest in cultivating new products, despite the difficult climate.»

What kind of guest visits KOKS? Are your clients more local or international?

«It depends on the season. At this time tourism is almost non-existent, so our clients are all local. During the summer, instead, I’d say 70% of the guests are tourists. In any case, I always try to think that there are international guests in the dining room, because some flavours from our cuisine, in particular those deriving from the fermentation of meat and fish, can be a bit difficult for an unaccustomed palate.»

Fermentation is certainly an essential element of your cuisine, and for sure you will speak about it during your lecture. However, how would you explain Ræst to someone who truly knows nothing about it?

«In fact it is something very simple. Let’s take for example lamb, which is virtually the only meat available on the Islands. It is slaughtered in September and then left hanging in a building that allows for a perfect circulation of air, of wind. Indeed, wind is the only ingredient in this fermentation, this is why this technique is unique. It’s the Islands’ climate that allows for the meat to ferment instead of going bad, we do not add salt, or nothing else. I will say the rest in Milan: it will be important for me to explain our work at KOKS, but also to speak about the culture and culinary history of my country.»

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Niccolò Vecchia


Niccolò Vecchia

Journalist, based in Milan. At 8 years old, he received a Springsteen record as a gift, and nothing was the same since. Music and food are his passions. Author and broadcaster at Radio Popolare since 1997, since 2014 he became part of the staff of Identità Golose 
Instagram: @NiccoloVecchia

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