Greenland chef Inunnguaq Hegelund prepares brussels sprouts Monday on the line at Vinland restaurant in Portland. Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Greenland chef Inunnguaq Hegelund prepares Brussels sprouts Monday on the line at Vinland restaurant in Portland. Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

During Monday afternoon prep at Vinland, a restaurant on Congress Street in Portland, Inunnguaq Hegelund thinly sliced a handful of Maine apples. He planned to use them in an Atlantic sole dish inspired by his native Greenland, one that features raw fish.

Next, he peeled Brussels sprouts to go with a lamb chop that he planned to smoke with wild artemisia gathered on a foraging trip in Cape Elizabeth that morning.

Hegelund, 29, is a star chef in Greenland, and he’s here for the Arctic Council conference. But rather than spend his time in meetings and workshops, he’ll be prepping food and cooking on the line at Vinland with chef/owner David Levi. Hegelund said he’s looking forward to using ingredients he’s never cooked with before – wild mushrooms and hake, for example – and learning new techniques used by American chefs.

This is Hegelund’s first time in the United States, and while he has already gotten his first taste of Maine lobster, he wants to spend as much time in Levi’s kitchen as he can.

“It’s work and sleep,” he said. “I can vacation another time.”

For his part, Levi said he prepared for Hegelund’s visit by “geeking out, reading a ton about Greenland.” He said the two clicked over their shared passion Sunday, “as soon as we started playing with food.”

Inunnguaq Hegelund, left, a celebrity chef in Greenland, and David Levi, owner of Vinland restaurant, forage for wild beach peas Monday at the Cape Elizabeth shore. Hegelund is prepping food and cooking at Vinland during the Arctic Council meetings. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Inunnguaq Hegelund, left, a celebrity chef in Greenland, and David Levi, owner of Vinland restaurant, forage for wild beach peas Monday at the Cape Elizabeth shore. Hegelund is prepping food and cooking at Vinland during the Arctic Council meetings.

Levi’s restaurant serves only Maine foods, an idea that excites Hegelund, who said Greenland is only now embracing the concept of locally grown food. That’s because Greenland is a hot spot for climate change, and in recent years the warming temperatures – while devastating to the ice sheets there – have made it possible for the country to grow more vegetables. Chefs are hoping that serving more local foods will bring more attention to Greenlandic cuisine, Hegelund said, and make the country less dependent on imported foods.

“Agriculture is quite new,” he said. “It’s developing now in Greenland because as we all know, it’s getting hotter. The last 15 years (the temperature went) up 2-3 degrees Celsius, and that means that we can do some more agriculture now.”

A handful of sheep sorrel gathered on Monday's foraging trip in Portland.

A handful of sheep sorrel gathered on Monday’s foraging trip.

For the past 10 years Hegelund worked in Ilulissat, the third-largest city in Greenland, including a stint at the Hotel Arctic, the world’s most northerly four-star hotel. Last year he quit to freelance in southern Greenland and host pop-up restaurants there and in Denmark.

Foraging expeditions in Ilulissat resulted in just five or six herbs to use on his menus, Hegelund said. There is some sheep farming in southern Greenland, and just one seaweed forager and one cattle farm (home to 220 cows) in the whole country, which has a smaller population than the city of Portland.

Common proteins include fish (halibut, redfish, wolf fish), reindeer, musk ox, lamb, seals, and finback and narwhal whales. The skin of the narwhal, eaten raw, is a traditional source of vitamin C, Hegelund said. Greenland shellfish grow so slowly, and in such cold water, they have a much more intense flavor than shellfish from other parts of the world, he said.

Today an experimental, government-funded farm in southern Greenland is growing tomatoes, cucumbers and root vegetables in hoop houses, and varieties of vegetables are being tested to see which will grow best in Greenland soils.

Residents of southern Greenland are gardening now, Hegelund said, and some are even trying their hand at growing flowers and making honey, like they do in Iceland.

It took two days for Hegelund to travel to Portland. He arrived Saturday night, then spent Sunday with Levi, brainstorming Greenland-inspired fusion dishes they can serve all this week in the restaurant.

Vinland owner David Levi, left, joins Conor Quinn and Inu Heglund to pick crab apples during a foraging trip Monday morning in Portland.

Vinland owner David Levi, left, joins Conor Quinn and Inu Heglund to pick crab apples during a foraging trip Monday morning in Portland.

On a foraging trip Monday morning in the woods and on the beach, the chefs gathered crab apples, wood sorrel and sheep sorrel, cranberries, beach pea shoots, sea rocket and artemisia.

“Everything was different,” Hegelund said. “Everything. It was quite new for me, but exciting.”

Hegelund and Levi came up with seven Greenland-inspired dishes they’ll be serving at Vinland all week. For one, they pounded slices of hake and scallops very thin and then dehydrated them – a take on a Greenland dish called “panertut” that’s made with dried fish and seal or whale fat. The Vinland version will be served with a wild black trumpet mushroom emulsion made with duck eggs, ghee and condensed yogurt whey, and a little sea salt and lamb fat.

Another fusion dish at Vinland this week is a take on Suaasat, a traditional Greenlandic stew made with rice, potato and either seal or whale. The Vinland version will be made with beef heart, kale, rice, a blue potato aioli, onions and horseradish.

When he focuses on local foods like this, Hegelund said, “everything gets romantic in my head, and I see all the possibilities.”

 


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