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Cooking Gourmet Food at the South Pole Station

Michèle Gentille Takes Us to the End of the World


I enjoy living here in sunny Northern California, where we're spoiled by the fresh produce. I couldn't really imagine living anywhere else, especially a place as cold as the South Pole, where there's no naturally grown produce of any kind. And yet, that little fact doesn't stop the chefs down at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Recently chef Michèle Gentille wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal, in which she recounted her Summer as a sous-chef at the South Pole station. She mentioned that they turned mostly frozen and canned products into delicious, nourishing food. Local produce was out of the question as the nearest farm was 3,000 miles away.

In October — when their Summer starts — fresh vegetables arrive from New Zealand on a weather-permitting weekly basis. They also have a greenhouse that produces enough for salad two or three times a week. Using these ingredients, along with other frozen goods, all 10 chefs aimed to cook a menu from Laurent Tourondel's New American Bistro Cooking.

To read an excerpt from her adventure, read more.

Every recipe required some substitutions. For the salad of marinated mushrooms with tomatoes
and cilantro, we had no fresh mushrooms, so Dan Von Bank, who handles materials for the galley, used a mixture of dried porcinis and shiitakes and canned buttons as well as dried herbs and preground coriander.

Mr. Tourondel expressed his approval. "Dried mushrooms are very good," he said, although he noted that ground coriander is very different from fresh cilantro — "but if you have to, make do!" he added. Mr. Von Bank had to cook the mixture much longer than indicated in the recipe, partly because the mushrooms were dried, but also because at this altitude acids such as wine and tomatoes don't mellow easily. But the dish proved a success, and our diners relished it.

The whole ordeal is fascinating, I can only imagine trying to cook those dishes in these climates. And yet, someday I hope to visit the South Pole station and try it for myself!

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