Cooking Al Fresco

07 May 2018

Adventure filmmaker and chef duo create outdoor culinary entertainment

Winter 2017/2018

Written By: Tibby Plasse | Images: Jeff Buydos

After graduating from Montana State University with a degree in film, Arden Oksanen spent a year kayaking with friends from Park City, Utah. They planned a first creek descent in Montana’s Cray Mountains, and with the support of Teton Gravity Research, Oksanen set to work documenting the trip.

Soon after, he was headed to Nepal to film more kayaking adventures, and a friend loaned him the money to buy a film camera. He cut a teaser of his Crazy Mountain and Nepal adventures and brought it to the Outdoor Retailer show in 2000 to find funding for future projects and the full-length
film, "Nurpu."

Since then, he’s filmed for an impressive list of adventure clients, including the National Geographic Channel, NBC, and Red Bull, and he’s filmed a variety of travel projects including a three-part series about “Canyaking Reunion Island” and “Castel: India & Kashmir,” focusing on travel and adventure.

While Oksanen spent a lot of time in the field shooting, his film-making veered in a new direction when his wife, Ellie, was diagnosed with Celiac disease. They changed their diets and Oksanen was inspired to produce a different type of program based on healthy foods.

“I realized the simple act of changing our diets inspired all the difference,” Oksanen says. “I also thought I could do a better job than most cooking shows—we could be foraging and cooking on the banks of the Snake."

That vision of using the Tetons and local scenery as a backdrop rather than a studio kitchen is what sealed the deal for local private chef Eric Wilson to join the team. Wilson is admittedly a fishing fanatic, and he coined the phrase “free-style cookery.”

“Food is the one decision we make every day that can make a huge difference,” Oksanen says. “We need to get people to slow down and start cooking. Transitioning to food from adventure was about doing something with real impact.”

While Wilson and Oksanen spent two years shooting cooking show pilots and re-branding for different television outlets, Oksanen continued working for his adventure clients.

One day he was shooting from a helicopter near Twin Falls, Idaho, when the aircraft crashed. Suffering substantial injuries, he had a nearly two-year recovery ahead of him. During that time, Oksanen enrolled in the Jackson Hole Start-Up Institute to focus on a food-based television series.

The product of his venture, called Foodterra, emerged last summer. It is a media firm focused on food. The company launched its web series, “Just Picked,” and it was soon snapped up by ag-chic magazine Modern Farmer.

For “Just Picked,” Wilson picks up 50 pounds of food from a community supported agriculture program at a local farm each week during the summer and develops his recipes based on the haul. He cooks outdoors while Oksanen films. Over a dozen web episodes are available for viewing online.

Whether they’re filming on a farm or on the banks of the Snake River, Wilson and Oksanen love sharing their passion for nourishing, healthy, and delicious food cooked in the great outdoors.

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