It’s passion for locally sourced ingredients that keeps Laura Cole inspired in the kitchen.

“We know the story behind each of these ingredients which is important because I think people feel really disconnected to their food,” Cole said.

As the new executive chef for Muse at the Anchorage Museum, she plans to showcase an Alaska-forward menu. A special dinner for the North x North Festival includes reindeer meatballs, king salmon and ponchiki (Russian doughnut holes) made with Alaska barley flour.

“This is the first of this year’s kings and I’m so excited about it,” Cole laughed as she sliced the salmon into fillets.

Being in Anchorage has been a big change. Most of Cole’s culinary experience in the Last Frontier has been spent at her remote restaurant, 229 Parks, near Denali. It’s a small scene with a quaint customer base.

“It seems so big until I got here. We max out at 100 people a night and last week alone we catered for 1,200 people here,” Cole said.

Cole has been widely recognized for her talent. She appeared on season 15 of the reality TV competition series Top Chef and has also been nominated four times for James Beard awards, considered the Oscars of the culinary world.

When the contract came open at Muse, Cole said she jumped at the chance to bring her cuisine to the big city.

“I always saw the Muse as an incredible opportunity to form a synergy and conversation of what art is and food is,” she said.

Cole says she's excited to be a part of Anchorage's culinary scene.

“That energy vibrates back to me and makes me feel really excited and proud to be a part of all of this and then part of the whole food scene here in Anchorage. It’s extraordinary and I finally feel like I have a seat at the table,” she said.

She'll split her time between her two restaurants once Muse is up and running after its grand reopening Friday, May 3.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Cole has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation award three times. She's been nominated four times.

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