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Good causes, eclectic cuisine flavour Restaurant Day

Cooking hobbyists served up Finnish and international cuisine in home and outdoor pop-up restaurants across the country as Finland celebrated its fifth Restaurant Day.

Lihapiirakka.
Nelisenkymmentä vierasta kävi syömässä lihapiirakoita Reykjavikissa lauantaina. Image: Satu Rämö

It was all about location for students of Helsinki’s Sibelius Music Academy on Restaurant Day. They set up the appropriately named “Humming Soup Kitchen” in front of the Helsinki Music Centre. Student Saana Parviainen bustled about in the kitchen to the strains of music in the background.

“The Music Centre is meant to be the people’s living room, so we wanted to combine this idea with restaurant day. We are serving people French onion soup in the middle of the city and a soup made of chick peas and leeks. And of course different musical performances – all day long,” she said.

Good food for a good cause

For his part, Akseli Herlevi set up his soup stand near Helsinki’s picturesque Töölö Bay.

“We have Japanese bread, filled with salad, wasabi paste, yuzu fruit, soy sauce and tataki steaks. It’s all garnished with coriander and Japanese shiso herbs. And to wash it all down, there’s good old lemonade!” Herlevi said of his cross-cultural menu.

Customers were invited to pay whatever they felt the meal was worth. The proceeds would go to a charity to be announced on the Food for Good Facebook page.

“Many entrepreneurs want to make money from this event, but I think it ruins the entire idea of restaurant day. That’s why I wanted to try and make money, but to donate it to charity. So far it seems like these profits will go to mental health care for children and young adults,” he explained.

International flavours

There was a multicultural aroma and sound to the Metsälä refugee reception centre. Director Johanna Holappa said Restaurant Day was the ideal opportunity to activate the centre’s residents and to allow outsiders a peek into – and taste of – its operations.

“Our menu includes Nigerian egusi melon soup, Russian pelmeni or meat-filled dough dunmplings and potato pies from the Caucasus,” she explained.

The turnout at the reception centre was so much better than expected, that residents had to put a sign on the odor. Nigerian Bita, one of the chefs-for-a-day, expressed satisfaction with the response to Nigerian fare.

“This is the first time I’m cooking for Finns, but I’m not surprised that there are so many of them here today. My mother taught me how to cook when I was seven years old. I love cooking!” she said, capturing the spirit of the day.

This time round, Restaurant Day saw more than 700 pop-up restaurants throw open their doors in 19 countries, including some 70 cities and towns in Finland.

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