Co-author of The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook — Coastal Cuisine from the Wilds of Alaska, chef Kirsten Dixon has been cooking in the backcountry of Alaska for more than 30 years. She owns Within the Wild Adventure Company along with her husband Carl and two daughters, Mandy and Carly. Together they operate Winterlake Lodge, Tutka Bay Lodge, the Cooking School at Tutka Bay, a home goods boutique and a café, all located in Southcentral Alaska.
Kirsten first came to Alaska in 1979 to work as an intensive care nurse for the Alaska Native Medical Center. At the hospital, she met audiologist and licensed pilot, Carl Dixon. A year after they met, Carl took Kirsten flying and it was then that they spotted a "for sale" sign on a remote cabin from the air, leading them to make the Alaska wilderness their home. Kirsten realized her interest in the culinary arts the more she worked as a lodge host. Guests visiting from France praised Kirsten’s abilities and encouraged her development as a chef. She later attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, and earned a master’s degree in gastronomy from Adelaide University in Australia.
In 1993, Carl was out flying again when he circled around a picturesque lake nestled within the peaks of the Alaska Mountain Range, northwest of Anchorage. He and Kirsten bought land in the area, and opened Winterlake Lodge. A high-end, remote fly-in only lodge with five cabins, Winterlake Lodge offers hiking, kayaking, fishing and wildlife viewing in the summer, as well as dog mushing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and more in the winter. Guests may also take an informal cooking class with Kirsten, a yoga class or receive a complimentary massage.
In 2009, the Dixons purchased Tutka Bay Lodge, a summer-only wilderness retreat that sits at the head of a rugged seven-mile fjord at the southern end of Kachemak Bay. Located nine ocean miles from Homer, guests arrive by boat or plane and stay in one of six private guest cabins. Adventure activities include sport fishing, kayaking, hiking and wildlife viewing. Guests may also book a complimentary massage and yoga classes or partake in wine tastings and cooking classes. The Dixons have transformed the lodge into an upscale seaside resort.
After years of giving informal cooking classes to lodge guests, Kirsten opened the Cooking School at Tutka Bay in 2010. She and her culinary team lead classes based on several global cuisine themes that incorporate local ingredients from the sea and the garden. American chef and cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh visited from Japan in summer 2011 and taught a special class series on Japanese cuisine. Dixon invited Andoh to be a guest teacher after basing some of her classes on Andoh’s cookbooks, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen and Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions. Following her entrepreneurial spirit, Kirsten led the family in opening a home goods boutique in Homer in 2011. RusticWild reflects the Within the Wild Adventure Company lifestyle and its seaside home. Items for sale include organic bath products, gardening seed collections, Japanese glass floats, linens from France, and of course, gourmet foods, such as kale chips.
Most recently in January 2012, she bought a small café that sits in front of RusticWild with her daughter. Run by her daughter chef Mandy Dixon, La Baleine Café, serves hearty breakfast and lunch dishes as well as bakery items during the summer season.
As the Within the Wild Adventure Company has expanded, Kirsten and her family have retained strong control over the brand, promoting an upscale, yet comfortable lifestyle that focuses around gourmet cuisine and true Alaska adventure. The Within the Wild Adventure Company is well respected within the Alaska travel industry for its success within the luxury travel market.
Kirsten continues to travel around the world to learn about cuisine from Morocco to Japan and has been invited to guest chef aboard both Silversea Cruises and Holland America Line cruise ships. She has been a featured chef at the James Beard House in New York, and has cooked with renowned chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Charlie Trotter and Jacques Pepin, among others.
Kirsten completed a Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at Goddard College, Vermont and has since written for and been featured in many national and international publications. She has written three cookbooks, including the recently released The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook and The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook for which she won the Best Female Chef USA award at the Gourmand International Cookbook Awards in 2004. A second edition of The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook with new recipes was released on October 15, 2012.