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Restaurant Day celebrates Finland’s growing culinary diversity

A group of hard-boiled food enthusiasts cooked up the ninth Restaurant Day, which took place Saturday. The originally Finnish idea has been to feed a grassroots movement celebrating food, fellowship and community.

Focaccia-leipiä tarjolla Sylva ry:n ja Suomen italialaisten yhteisravintolassa Helsingissä.
Scrumptious Italian treats on offer in Korkeavuori, Helsinki on Restaurant Day in August 2012. Image: Mari Pöyhtäri

The latest festival of culinary delights involved more than 1,500 so-called pop-up restaurants in Finland and beyond.

The greatest number of pop-up restaurants was found in Helsinki, where more than 450 day chefs served customers on Saturday. Further afield in St. Petersburg, Russia, about 130 impromptu cafés are popping up on sidewalks and in homes, while in Budapest, Hungary 30 one-day diners will open their doors or windows in celebration of the food fiesta.

The occasion offers anyone the opportunity to set up a restaurant, coffee shop or bar, for just one day, without having to apply for official permits – as long as alcohol is not on the drinks list.

Restaurant Day enthusiasts sell food that they have prepared themselves in locations as creative as the fare they serve up – in parks, on street corners, in courtyards, or in their kitchens. The foodfest takes place roughly every three months.

This spring, the organisers were recognized for their commitment to combining cuisine and culture by Denmark, who declared the event the year’s best food event. It was the first time the event received such an honour outside of Finland.

The first Restaurant Day took place back in May 2011, when around 40 pop-up restaurateurs participated. By the time the second occasion rolled around, its popularity had already spread overseas and today the event has been observed in more than 40 countries.

More information about the grassroots culinary festival is available from the event’s Facebook page.  Or you can browse the organisers' interactive map to find a restaurant near you.

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