Foodie Gone Wild

On September 23, 2016, Nevada Berg BS’06 left the serenity of her farmhouse in a remote mountain region of Norway to board a plane to New York City. She would spend the next two days baking bread, butchering pigs, testing recipes, and mingling with other lifestyle bloggers from around the world. After all, Berg was selected from more than 50,000 nominations to be one of 78 finalists in 13 categories for the 2016 Saveur blog awards, one of the most prestigious recognitions in the world of food blogging.

“I was so happy to have just been selected as a finalist,” recalls Berg, whose blog was less than a year old at the time. She says she went into the awards ceremony hoping, but not expecting, to win her category— Editors’ Choice Award for Best New Voice. The judges obviously liked what they saw, and Berg was indeed dubbed the category winner. “I was elated, just happy to be in the moment,” she says.

PINNEKJØTT WITH FLATBREAD, RUTABAGA, CRISPY POTATOES & LEMON BROWNED BUTTER

When it came time to announce the biggest award of the evening—Blog of the Year—Berg was excited to find out which of the other bloggers she had met would be taking home the coveted title. “I’m pretty sure there was a look of utmost shock on my face when they announced my blog, North Wild Kitchen, as the blog of the year,” she says, still with a tone of surprise. Berg adds that the thought never even crossed her mind. “I was most certainly the underdog going against some big-name blogs. It was thrilling and humbling at the same time.”

Saveur, a magazine for food and travel enthusiasts, describes Berg’s photos, stories, and diligence in re-creating Norwegian family recipes as “nothing short of transporting.” In fact, Berg is so passionate about Norwegian cuisine, culture, and traditions—and happens to be a light-eyed blonde—one might assume that she’s from Norway. And while she lovingly calls her adopted home “my Norway,” she was born and raised in Utah.

In fact, that’s where her culinary journey began—watching her own mother comb through cookbooks while she “cooked effortlessly” in their kitchen. Even before Berg became interested in cooking, she developed a love for recipe books—a habit that followed her to the University of Utah. “When I wanted to relax my mind, I would go to the Marriott Library, grab a few cookbooks, and just flip through the pages and examine the photographs,” says Berg, a self-trained photographer who takes all of her own blog photos.

BLØTKAKE MED TYTTEBÆR (LAYER CAKE WITH LINGONBERRIES)

It’s no surprise that one of Berg’s college jobs included working at a restaurant in Salt Lake City called The Paris, which she credits for widening her tastes and experience with food. But it wasn’t until she moved abroad that she “began to start cooking for others and experimenting.” As an international studies major at the U, Berg had the opportunity to move to England to study at Plymouth University as part of a one-year study abroad exchange program.

And, as college fairy tales often go... she met a cute guy during orientation week. His name was Espen, and he was from Norway. “It was a wonderful whirlwind of a romance,” she affectionately recalls. The couple married a year later. After finishing their degrees, the two of them spent the next decade living and working around the world from England to Mozambique to Italy. Following the birth of their son in 2012, the couple decided it was time to settle. “After moving around so much, we were looking for a home and a community to get rooted into,” says Berg, whose case of wanderlust was finally fading. “Thinking about all of our options, we decided on Norway.”

In what some might call a bold move, she and Espen bought a mountain farm whose origin dates back to 1651— without ever seeing it. And they have no regrets. Reflecting on her upbringing in Utah, Berg says she “only ever really felt at home in the mountains.” She describes her first impressions of her new hilltop home in her blog: “My love affair with this place started the moment we arrived. Beauty graces its raw exterior. The splendor of the landscape is overshadowing, its imperfections adding to its charm. And who would have guessed that deep in the northern wild lies one of nature’s culinary banquets.”

FÅRIKÅL (NORWEGIAN LAMB & CABBAGE STEW)

Berg discovered an abundance of wild produce and wild meats in the valley. “I love that we can live by the seasons,” she says. They forage in the spring, garden in the summer, hunt and fish, and cure and preserve for the winter. “It’s important to me that I understand the seasons and approach my cooking in a way that reflects what and when the land produces.”

Berg sees food as a common thread in every culture. Her travels have taught her to appreciate different cooking methods and the importance of understanding where our food comes from, as well as the history and stories behind recipes. This is what excites her most about North Wild Kitchen. “It’s more than a blog; it’s a cultural journey. It’s my journey through Norway, with a focus on the food, the people, the traditions, and the landscapes.” Berg’s next step on this journey is a cookbook, slated to come out in fall 2018.

And while she is certainly receiving prestigious accolades from the foodie community, she has her own measure for success. She says, “Success is when readers tell me they were moved after reading a story and inspired to get in the kitchen, use local ingredients, and reconnect with their heritage.”

Much Ado About Something

Ask Emily Sloan-Pace BA’01 to name a favorite Shakespeare quote, and she’ll probably recite the entire scene or poem by heart. Ask her about technological advances, and she’ll jump into innovations from the 16th century. The Renaissance is second nature to her—the history, culture, and most of all, the great literary works.

Much AdoBut alas, Emily lives in the 21st century, and she doesn’t live just anywhere. Her home is in the epicenter of global technological advancements—Silicon Valley. And that’s not the only irony in this story. Emily, the Shakespeare expert (her Twitter handle is @ShakespeareProf), gets up every day and goes to work at a booming private software solutions company, Zoho Corporation. So it makes sense that she would open a recent speech to her Zoho colleagues with this question: “How many of you now do something completely different from what you ever thought you would be doing with your life?”

For Emily, it was a phone call from India that changed her trajectory. Up until that moment nearly two years ago, she had a different plan. Inspired by University of Utah professors such as Dean May, David Kranes, Brooke Hopkins, and Mark Matheson MA’85, Emily made up her mind 15 years ago to spend her life studying and teaching literature. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in history from the U (with a minor in classical civilization), she went on to obtain a master’s in humanities from Stanford and a doctorate in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

“I wanted to spend my time talking about Shakespeare with college students,” she recalls. “Meter, metaphor, alliteration—all the things your high school English teachers drill into you—thrilled me.” After 10 years in graduate school, thinking and writing about Shakespeare, she began the job search, and that’s when reality kicked in that “Shakespeare is not a growth industry,” as she puts it.

Even with her impressive collection of degrees, tenured academic jobs were very hard to come by. So Emily volunteered, coached Shakespearean actors, wrote freelance articles, helped inmates at San Quentin put on Shakespeare plays, and spent a lot of time applying for academic jobs. She eventually landed some adjunct faculty positions teaching Shakespeare, writing, and a plethora of other related topics. “Mostly, I taught people how to better organize their thoughts, write them in a compelling form, and present them to groups,” she says. “I taught the art of rhetoric.”

What Emily may not have realized at the time is how valuable those very skills are in the corporate world—especially in the tech industry. While she was job searching, another search was going on. The CEO of Zoho, Sridhar Vembu, was seeking ways to improve his employees’ communication skills and expose them to the great insights humanities has to offer. The company’s president, Raj Sabhlok, a UCSC grad, reached out to one of Emily’s former mentors to get a recommendation for a candidate with the right skill set to help achieve Vembu’s vision. The result was the life-changing call Emily received from India.

She admits that at the time, she had no idea what SaaS meant (it stands for “software as a service,” which means software is licensed as a subscription rather than bought outright), but her life as an adjunct faculty member wasn’t exactly stable or financially advantageous, so she pursued the opportunity. Serendipitously, that path led her to the very title she always wanted—Professor in Residence. Only her campus isn’t a university, it’s a corporation. “My job is to think about the culture of our company,” she explains. “To think about the voice of Zoho. We have a lot of smart people here with a lot of big opinions. And part of my role is to help communicate those.”

As far as the transition from her scholarly world to the tech scene goes, Emily says she was terrified (and used Google a lot). “What was someone with a PhD in Shakespeare doing at a cloud SaaS company?” she asked herself. “I was more used to being lost in the clouds, not thinking about how to manage clouds.”

But Emily charged forward, and within her first few months was already developing continuing education curriculum. She says she often draws from theories and ideas she read for the first time in the honors program at the U. Last summer, as part of a two-week writing and rhetoric seminar she taught in India, she assigned her students to read the same book Mark Matheson assigned her to read 15 years ago, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. “The book was eye-opening for me when I was 20,” she says. “It was thrilling to see the same was true for the readers in India, especially the women in the class.”

So, this 16th-century dreamer is now embracing the 21st century. “I’ve gotten over most of my trepidation,” she says. “At first I worried that they hired the wrong person for this job. Now, I’ve realized what should have been my bigger worry is that they hired the right person.”