Wasilla truck driver revs things up in the kitchen

After appearing in 'Ice Road Truckers,' man gives cooking classes

Posted: Monday, February 08, 2010

WASILLA - Given the obsession with television cooking shows, it's only natural an episode of "Ice Road Truckers" would spawn a series of culinary classes focused on gourmet wild game.

Robert Deberry / Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman
Robert Deberry / Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

When the History Channel show came to Alaska last spring to profile the frozen route between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, they found Carlile Transportation driving instructor Phil Kromm and his roadside propane grill.

Kromm spent his childhood on the family farm and started working as a driver and loader for a trucking company. He moved to Alaska in 1996 because "there is more snow and better hunting and fishing." Kromm now spends most of his time working in the office of the trucking company in Fairbanks. But, when the show's crew came calling, Kromm was tapped to train the mostly Canadian drivers on their new route.

"They all had cameras attached to them," said Kromm, who was in 11 of the 13 episodes. "I was what they called a secondary character."

On one of the episodes, viewers were treated to Kromm cooking caribou at the top of Atigun Pass. Watching that episode happened to be an old friend from Anchorage.

Debra Black works as a cooking instructor at Allen & Petersen Cooking and Appliance Center. After she saw the episode, she called Kromm over for dinner and asked him if he would be interested in teaching wild-game classes with her.

"You can't buy wild game, so he donates all of it for the class," Black said. "He has three freezers and a couple of snow banks full of game."

Kromm makes it clear to the students of the class that he has no formal training in the culinary arts. He started helping his parents in the kitchen as a child and started cooking for himself as a teenager.

"I didn't like to eat junk. I just learned how to cook well so I could eat well," Kromm said.

Part of eating well, for Kromm, means knowing exactly what it is you are eating. He said he has convinced many on the television crew about the benefits of wild game and its high Omega-3 fatty acid content. He butchers and processes his own meat, makes his own smoked and fresh stuffed sausage and cures his own jerky over an open fire.

For someone so meticulous, it is only natural that he takes his cooking on the road. His mobile kitchen consists of a small gas grill, tongs, knives, forks, plates and spices. He has to pack his own water, which he normally gets from a town called Coldfoot because "they have the best well water."

Moose steaks, caribou burgers and barbecue vegetables are all fair game for roadside fare, and he said other truckers are known to follow his rig around.

"I enjoy cooking for others. I bring more than I can eat. Whoever happens to be in radio range, I call and let them know it's dinner time," Kromm said.

When he is not driving, Kromm typically makes a monthly trip to the Carlile office in Anchorage. It is on these trips he hooks up with Black for the wild- game classes at Allen & Petersen.

The classes run one night at the Wasilla store then the next night in Anchorage. Black and Kromm have covered everything from sausage making to fancy fish preparation.

"People tell me all the time they have freezers full of game and fish, but they don't know what to do with it. We want to show them some options they might not have thought of before," Black said. "You can only have chili so many times."

On the menu for Thursday night's class in Wasilla were two entrees and a dessert. First was a moose roulade with a wild cranberry (picked from Kromm's sister's yard, of course) demi-glace. Then came moose Thai green curry stir-fry. The meal was complete with a wild cranberry apple tarte tatin.

The wild-game classes are typically once a month, but the duo is taking February off. The schedules for March, April, May and June will be posted to www.aphome.com.

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