Tekst: Eirik Elvevold
Norway’s third-biggest city, Stavanger is famous for being an engine in the Norwegian economy, but has also developed into one of the country’s most interesting and innovative food scenes. Last year, the restaurant RE-NAA was the first Norwegian restaurant outside Oslo to receive a Michelin star, representing the gastronomic qualities brewing on the southwest coast.
This July, for the 19th time, Norway’s biggest food festival, Gladmat (meaning ‘Happy Food’), will once again fill the city with hungry food enthusiasts.
“Gladmat is expecting around 250,000 people, including locals, other Norwegians and international food tourists, to come and celebrate food in Stavanger, which has developed into a vibrant gastronomical hotspot over the past decades. The county of Rogaland is producing
so much delicious food, based on quality ingredients from land, sea, fjords, forests and mountains, and there’s no better place to taste it,” says festival manager Mona Vervik.
In her opinion, the food festival’s successis not about striking luck, but aboutlong-term commitment and dedication.
“The growth and success is the result of continuous efforts and investments, both locally and regionally. The energy sector is of course central to the city, but there’s also a lot of political engagement in developing Gladmat and the food sector in general. Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway, but during Gladmat it’s definitely the food capital as well,” Vervik argues.
Taste things for the very first time
More than 100 exhibitors will be showing off their most tasty, trendy foods. The epicentre of Gladmat is downtown Stavanger, circumventing the central bay of Vågen, which largely consists of charming 18th and 19th century wooden houses, but the festival takes places throughout the city.
“There’s so much going on, from concerts to special theme dinners in our many restaurants. We all have a common goal, which is to help people nurture their pre-existing love and passion for food. I’m happy if visitors come to Gladmat and taste something new for the very first
time,” says Vervik.
The chances of doing just that are high. For instance, you can indulge in fresh ocean treats at Blå Fristelser (Blue Temptations) or dive deep
into the world of craft beer at the mini festival Malt og Humle (Malt and Hops).
“Malt og Humle is all about Norwegian breweries and their handicraft, traditions and trends. Blå Fristelser, on the other hand, is dedicated to the ocean and the thriving blue food economy in Rogaland and the rest of Norway,” Vervik explains.
Uniting the city with magical meals
Another beloved concept is Smak på verden (Taste the World), which aims to break down national boundaries by mixing
up local ingredients with global influences, cementing the fact that Stavanger has become a truly international city.
“I still remember trying out an Asian-style herring tempura made from local fish and a king crab taco with seaweed. In a city with more than 179 nationalities, this open mindset is key to uniting people. 60 per cent of the locals take part, and there’s no better way to get together than
over a good meal. Food is something we all have in common,” asserts Vervik.
The 2017 programme is still being finalised, but one of last year’s highlights was a one-of-a-kind meal inside the majestic Stavanger Cathedral.
“We gathered 100 people from 12 different faiths around one table for a meal of peace and reconciliation. It symbolised how food can create new understanding,” says Vervik.
One important part of the programme, however, is firmly decided. The day before the festival kicks off in July, some of the best brains in the food industry will gather to push the envelope even further at the Gladmat event Kokepunktet (The Boiling Point).
“It’s where knowledge is shared and new magic is made. Kokepunktet was created specifically with the professionals in mind. They benefit massively from getting together face to face as well, so we bring in people from around the world that are boiling with inspiration and put them in one room,” Vervik explains.
“The idea was, of course, born over a meal at Gladmat.”