The small town of Mänttä-Vilppula hosted the fifth edition of Food & Art Festival, a multisensory event organized by Food Camp Finland. Every year chefs from around the world travel to this intimate corner in the Finnish countryside to prepare great dishes and, most importantly, enjoy each others company.
This year’s main event was a nine-course Chef’s Menu that was mainly prepared by the S.Pellegrino Young Chef finalists. A day before the event the chefs spent a day fishing and foraging mushrooms, thoroughly enjoying what Finland’s nature has to offer. Most of the young chefs had never been to Finland, and the quiet countryside was shockingly different for some of the chefs.
“There is nobody here,” says Yasuhiro Fujio, the winner of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018. “As I came to Finland I have been feeling the closeness of nature and the people, the products and the cooks. Especially living in a city as big as Osaka, it’s difficult to have a connection with the producers because they live far away, but in Finland, you really feel the connection.”
Greece’s S.Pellegrino Young Chef finalist Constadina Voulgari agrees, “I’m delighted and honoured to be here. Finland is such a beautiful and peaceful place. I’m feeling euphoric.” says Kontesoouloun, who has spent time researching Greek monasteries for old recipes.
The dinner itself took place in Serlachius Museum Gösta and included a tour through the different thematic exhibitions. In the hours leading up to the dinner, the S.Pellegrino Young Chef finalists worked intensely on their dishes at a nearby cooking school.
“It’s a completely different environment that I’m used to, and that gives me a lot of inspiration. There are difficulties as well, but that’s good because it makes me think more. People from different countries have a very different style of working.” Fujio continues.
Pekka Terävä, chef and founder of Food & Art Festival, acted as a mentor to the young chefs during the event. “This year has been a bit different. Last year we had 12 Michelin stars here. These youngsters are very open-minded. Sure, they are slightly tense and timid at first, but as the event progresses they will probably get more relaxed and things will run smoothly.”
Networking, sharing ideas and having fun
For the young chefs, the event is not all about work. “An event like this is perhaps not as tough as a normal day at work, so it’s a bit of a vacation which is nice,” says Anton Husa, the S.Pellegrino Young Chef finalist from Sweden. “Spending time with likeminded people, chefs who truly love food and cooking, is a fantastic experience,” adds Ruslan Evstigneev, Russia’s S.Pellegrino Young Chef finalist.
With the added support of Finnish chefs Kalle Tanner (Finland’s Chef of the Year 2018), Ismo Sipeläinen (Finland’s Bocuse d’Or representative ), Mikael Mihailov and Arto Lappalainen, the evening was as eventful as it gets. Entertaining dance performance and artistic audience participation number made sure that there wasn’t a dull moment. It was hard to determine which dish won the hearts of the hungry crowd listening to the quiet discussions around the dinner tables.
Yasuhiro Fujio’s summery somen noodles with prawn and broad bean tempura was definitely one of the dishes that stood out together with the raspberry sorbet with yoghurt and beetroot mousse made by the Peruvian chef and FineDiningLovers People’s Choice Award winner Elizabeth Puquio Landeo. She was impressed by Finland and the experience of working with chefs from around the world. “Mänttä is incredible. The lakes and forests are amazing. Also, there is NO traffic!” Landeo laughs.
It wouldn’t be an authentic experience for the chefs without a proper Finnish sauna. After dinner, the chefs and staff headed to their residence near a lake where they were able to relax, enjoy a cold beer and a steaming hot sauna, and not just any sauna. A sauna that floats on the lake. “The sauna was incredible. I have never been to a sauna in the night, in the middle of the forest, watching the lake. It was unbelievable!” says Landeo.
All images: © Otto Helkama, Food & Art Festival