The story of one woman’s success in building a fame-worthy culinary destination.
The World Food Travel Summit 2013, Gothenburg. Day 2 Talks. 24/9/2013
by Grace Fitzgerald
After her first child, Fia of Östersund felt she wanted to give this earth back to her daughter, her son, and many generations forward. That’s her driving force. And she realised that to make change, you have to step out of your comfort zone. She has three children, three companies, and one husband. And that’s how she prioritises life. The audience laughs. But she is deadly serious …
“Everything you want to change starts wtihin yourself and your own awareness”. And “if there are no ways? Then create ways!”. The audience shift uncomfortably in their seats …
As a self-trained chef with a Masters in Leadership, she summarises what core values of regional development are all about; the pure, the good, the ethical, and the local. She explained her passion to local politicians and the need to raise the local people to higher awareness. They said OK, but did not, however, want to give funding. But one man heard Fia, believed in her, and hired her for one day a week for a year to write an application for an UNESCO award for their region.
They got it. Then the politicians were very happy when the Östersund region was appointed creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, July 2010, and thereafter, Culinary Capital of Sweden 2012. This has done a lot for their regional economy. And the local people who once thought they were backwards are now proud of their region, their produce, and themselves.
Fia’s story continues, with many impressive and heart warming feats, including one where she could not understand why local restaurants were not serving more local food, and moreover, were not willing to. So she did the obvious thing. Yes. She opened her own restaurant and did just that. Serving local food from the region, supporting local farmers, fishermen, producers and artisans and raising awareness of their regions’ natural abundance.
Final words from Fia?
“Be bloody brave, step out of your comfort zone, otherwise you cannot manage to make change. Collaborate, celebrate, raise awareness, work around obstacles. We must take care of what we have. We need to be like the Sami. And think five generations ahead”.
West Sweden is famed for its wide variety of top-quality, natural, organic produce. The forests of inland Dalsland provide an impressive range of game, berries, mushrooms and fresh fish, while the countryside bordering the Göta Canal is teeming with farm shops selling locally produced fine cheeses, high-quality dairy products, beer and schnapps. Fertile farmland makes the region ideal for growing crops and raising livestock on sustainable and traditional organic lines. Unique culinary highlights include wild garlic in the spring in Kinnekulle, exclusive roe from Lake Vänern in the autumn and fresh seafood all year round. In the cold, clean and mineral-rich water of Sweden’s West coast, shellfish grow more slowly, developing a fuller flavour, which makes these North Sea shellfish some of the best in the world. Visitors can treat themselves to lobster, mussels, oysters, crayfish and prawns, and learn how to catch and cook them on a unique seafood safari.
The region’s capital city, Gothenburg’s coastal location means easy access to fish and shellfish that stand out on quality and flavour. Add an authentic coffee shop culture that prides itself on its cakes and pastries, and Gothenburg is a food lover’s paradise. The city’s chefs work with local produce and seasonal food, preferably organic. Their modern approach to cuisine rests on Swedish traditions combined with new flavours and ideas drawn from all over the world. Today six restaurants in Gothenburg – 28+, Bhoga, Koka, Sjömagasinet, SK Mat & Människor and Thörnströms Kök – have been awarded a Michelin star. But if you’re looking for fabulous food, there’s far more to Gothenburg than that. Gothenburg was named Sweden’s Food Capital in 2012, with the jury citing the vast array of food the city has to offer, its abundance of local produce and high-quality restaurants, not to mention the fact that the food served in schools and hospitals is nutritious as well as sustainably sourced.
There’s no beating about the bush with Swedish Fia Gulliksson of Östersund—a woman on a mission. She is all about three things; people, passion and produce. She tells us how she brought Östersund, her regional area of Sweden, to international acclaim through sheer will and determination.