Blogger Love: Sunny Gundara

When hunger kicks in, Mr Wolf goes on a hunt for arctic grub, and chances on a surprise find in New York City. Sunny Gundara, a wine and food professional hailing from a small town in Norway, has set up home in the heart of the city. Sunny shares her story.

I was born in Sykkylven, a small town outside of Aalesund on the northwestern coast of Norway. When I was eighteen, I moved to Rome to study Italian for a year. Inspired by childhood memories of travels to USA, I then decided to move for college. I studied business at the University of San Francisco, and moved to New York upon graduation. I only intended to stay a year, but landed a great job as a marketing executive in the music industry, working for various record labels with world-famous artists, managing their international marketing and PR.  In 2004, I went to culinary school and studied wine.  During school, I worked at a Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit, in Manhattan, where I met my husband, a chef and a year later, we founded our own company, Fork and Glass. My ties to Norway have strengthened in the last two years, as I have grown more sentimental about my roots so I started blogging about Norway and Norwegian food.

I am very proud of Norway. I love to share my culture with others, and I enjoy the feedback I receive from my blog – particularly from readers who are locating old traditional recipes and interested in the history as well. That is the purpose of Arctic Grub – to provide more than just the recipe and put it within context of Norwegian culture.  In the process, I am constantly learning. I enjoy researching, reading, learning about new topics and meeting new people from around the world. 

On living in New York City
It has been, and still is, a fantastic experience living in New York. New Yorkers, and Americans in general, are very open and welcoming and curious about other cultures. They find my accent "cute" and most people are in awe of Norway’s beauty and fascinated by its culture. There are people from all over the world here, including other Norwegians! This helps me maintain my culture while still blending in and adopting parts of the American culture that I like - I feel at home even if New York is extremely different from Norway.

I lived in Manhattan for a while, and went to the Norwegian Seamen's Church if I felt home-sick. There, I could read Norwegian papers, eat Norwegian waffles, drink coffee for free, and meet other Norwegians living in the city.  There are also events during the holidays and it is always a comforting place to be away from home.

Now, I live in Hudson Valley, which looks and feels a lot like Norway actually. The Hudson River bends around the hills and resembles a fjord. There are lots of hiking and camping possibilities, and the nature is gorgeous. New York still lacks a Norwegian restaurant, but there are many Swedish and Danish ones.

The Norwegian dish I miss most is "potetball' - potato dumplings cooked in meat broth and served with sausages, kohlrabi and melted butter. It is a dish typical of my region and also known as "komle".  Unfortunately I won't be eating it again, as I turned vegan last year for ethical and health reasons, but I make lots of plant-based versions of my favourite Norwegian foods as I think it is one of the tastiest cuisines in the world!

On Fork and Glass
Fork and Glass initially started as a catering company focusing on farm-to-table foods, serving both private and corporate groups.  Mark, my husband, was the "Fork" and I was the "Glass", in that I am a Certified Wine Educator who holds a Diploma in Wines & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). We wanted to offer a complete experience as a caterer, focusing equally on the food and the wine. Both Mark and I have a background in Scandinavian cooking, and our food eventually took that direction.



We started conducting cooking classes and offered our foods at local farmers’ markets. We also got involved with farm-to-school programs in our local community, teaching children how to eat and cook healthily with vegetables from the school's garden, which was really rewarding and fun.  After a while, catering became extremely time-consuming in relation to monetary returns, so Mark returned to the restaurant world, and I developed my blog, Arctic Grub, where I write about food from Norway, and also started consulting about wine and spirits. I love writing and wanted to reach an audience curious about Scandinavian food. Today, Fork and Glass is no longer active as a company but we still offer consults, classes and education whenever possible. 

On the future
Currently, I am a full time wine-buyer at a large retail store. I had taken up this job last year to gain exposure to a wider variety of wines from around the world in preparation for further studies on wine. As a freelance consultant for years, the steady income has been very welcomed!  I update my blogFacebook and Twitter either before or after work, but most of my recipe testing is done on my days off. Once or twice a fortnight, I also consult and teach about wine and food and I am currently studying to become a Certified Health Coach, with an aim to open a new business that combine my love for Norway, food, fitness, and health all in one!

Words: Sharman Tanny