Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason of Dill - Biography

Reykjavík, Iceland

August 2014

When Iceland was on the brink, then in the hole, and now slowly recovering from the 2008 economic collapse, Gunnar Karl Gíslason had the audacity to keep cooking.

He found his way to food, first by working as a dishwasher and then moving onto the kitchen at Fiðlarinn, a restaurant in his hometown of Akureyri. Gíslason later attended culinary school in Reykjavík and expanded on his training in the classical French kitchen of Hótel Holt.

In 2000, he moved to Denmark for a post at Christie’s with Chef Jens Peter Kolbech. His next move took him to Saison and Chef Erwin Lautherbach, whose philosophy and passion became a huge influence. Denmark’s only two-star Michelin restaurant at the time, Kommandanten, followed, as did a post at Ensemble, which also earned two Michelin stars.

Moving back to Iceland would become pivotal for Gíslason. Starting as head chef for Chef Siggi Hall in 2003, Gíslason moved on to work at VOX in 2005—a year after Claus Meyer, Rene Redzepi, and other chefs had extolled the virtues of local cuisine in their declaration, “The New Nordic Kitchen.” Gíslason left VOX briefly to open casual bistro, b5, with a revolutionary focus on Nordic ingredients. Returning to VOX in 2007, Gíslason reoriented the menu toward native ingredients. Despite Iceland’s major economic crunch, and despite the departure of his investors, Gíslason opened his own restaurant, Dill, in 2009. There he focuses on Icelandic ingredients, producers, wild plants, and tradition. He brings that enduring philosophy to the fore in his book North: The New Northern Cuisine of Iceland, published in September 2014.