Some years ago we Finns got litterally ” Food for thought” , when Italian primeminister Silvio Berlusconi stated that the Finnish kitchen was among the worst in the world. We may all have our opinion about him, but this opinion was not politically correct and just way too much. We went ballistic and we really disliked Silvio that day. Now several years later, we can look back and conclude – that he possibly did us a big favour. His statement fueled a strong domestic discussion and evaluation on how good the Finnish culinary skills really are, and can they be so bad as he thought?
Those who knew better, were calm as we in Finland have supergood chefs with ambition to reach the top. However what remains to be seen is, if the ministries, responsible for tourism, agcriculture and foreign service have courage to support the private development further. Those responsible for branding work, must include and invest in making the culinary skills a part of the vast branding work done recently. A report was published, but is not yet put in action. There is a risk that the great work of chefs will only be seen as material for speeches but less action will be taken.
We hope for the best – but in the meantime we need to credit those passionate, Nordic individuals and chefs how have paved the way, also for Finland: Siggi Hall, Hakon Mar Örvarsson, Melker Andersen, Rene Redzepi, Mathias Dahlgren, Eyvind Hellström, Jonas Lundgren, Michael Björklund, Hans Välimäki, Jarmo Vähäsavo, Pekka Terävä just to name few. The list is much longer. In Finland only, we have more than 40 names on a hot list, and if we want to do any justice – the Nordic list must include 250 current and future top chefs.
I was priveleged to take part in organizing a Food and Fun event at Helsinki Airport some weeks ago. A sister event of the famous annual Icelandic Food and Fun, that has in ten years become an institution. This event where world class chefs meet, has put Reykjavik on the World Culinary map. This was once again a wake-up call for me to understand how important food and culinary attractions is for travel and tourism.
PS: Heads up for young Matti Jämsen, a Finnish 2011 Bocuse dOr candidate and check out: www.foodnfun.fi