Editor’s Note: The past year has been an historically challenging one for restaurants everywhere, in rural and non-rural places alike. As diners begin returning to the table, the Daily Yonder is spotlighting chefs and restaurateurs who are lifting up rural food traditions and creating vital community spaces across rural America. If you know of a person or place worth featuring, email us or let us know using the form at the bottom of this article.
Being a chef at an adventure lodge in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness presents its own unique challenges.
Chef Kirsten Dixon knows this first-hand. She recalls hosting one of her cooking mentors, Madeleine Kamman, years ago. For a special treat, she flew in an assortment of French cheeses and artfully arranged them in the root cellar. She imagined they would stroll to the cellar, appreciate the gorgeous arrangement, and indulge together.
Sadly, Kamman was not able to enjoy the spread, as one of Dixon’s neighbors beat her to it. During the night, a bear literally broke down the cellar door and consumed all of the cheese.
Kirsten and her daughter Mandy Dixon are the main chefs at Within the Wild, a food and adventure family business in the South Central region of the state. The two professionally trained chefs enjoy balancing the fine dining they have experienced around the world with the rustic sensibilities of their off-grid lodges. In over 40 years of cooking in the wild, they have developed recipes, rituals, experiences, and techniques that celebrate the exquisitely fresh ingredients, diverse cultural influences, and realities of remote life in the Last Frontier.
Within the Wild
The Dixon’s journey into the wild began in 1982. Kirsten and her husband Carl were working in the medical field in Anchorage when they decided to make a radical change. “I was working in the ICU with people at the end of their lives,” she said. “I wanted to be in the bright middle of life.”