Finnjävel: Redefining Traditional Finnish Food
In April, a new pop up restaurant called Finnjävel was opened next to the Market Square in Helsinki, Finland. The restaurant is a two-year project of two Michelin star awarded Finnish chefs and TV stars; Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen, who have been on a mission to elevate traditional Finnish food to its deserved position, by transforming many familiar or forgotten Finnish dishes into fine dining.
Finnish provinces, with their clean natural produce, food traditions and preparation methods, are an undoubted treasure chest, which restaurants haven’t managed to serve up as interesting stories – for one reason or another. Far too often, Finnish food has been left on the palate as plain new potatoes coupled with a salmon fillet, therefore remaining unknown to foreigners.
Food, however, is an insightful way to explore Finnish history and culture. The spark to start Finnjävel actually came from the chefs’ desire to get more in touch with the roots of their own food. A cornerstone of Finnish food culture has been Finland’s location between Sweden and Russia, forming a melting pot of eastern and western worlds of flavours. Even the pop up restaurant’s name, Finnjävel, has been lovingly adapted from the Swedes, who have used it for decades as a derogatory nickname for Finns. For the chefs, the name strongly represents Finnish sisu (endurance) and integrity.
How did these traits, in particular, make it to Finnjävel’s menu?
“We picked the dishes for our menu after careful consideration, while browsing through old cookbooks. The available ingredients pointed us in a direction. The dramaturgy of the menu goes through old traditional foods as well as dishes which are familiar to us from school lunches”, says Henri Alén.
The menu features familiar Finnish ingredients and dishes with a modern twist. For example, the common karjalanpiirakka (Carelian pastry) is not served in one piece as normally, but crumbled on a plate, with a flavour honouring the original version. And tilliliha (dill meat), which is hardly longed after by any Finns after their days in school cafeterias, has been one of the restaurant’s most liked dishes.
During its two-year project, Finnjävel’s kitchen is constantly developing new dishes, and is always testing them during NyJävel nights on Mondays. Customers are allowed to participate in developmental work and to give direct feedback to the creators.
UNIQUE INTERIOR DESIGN CROWNS THE RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE – ATELJÉ SOTAMAA
Finnjävel is situated in a prestigious location, on the seashore, in a protected stone building constructed in 1830. To align the restaurant’s interior with the integrity of its dishes, the owners wanted to use Finnish design.
The unique and inventive decor of the restaurant has been created by Ateljé Sotamaa’s awarded designers, Kivi and Tuuli Sotamaa. The aim has been to create an entire restaurant experience, for all the senses. A fun detail is that many decor products designed for Finnjävel, such as the tableware, can also be purchased.
Finnjävel is a pop up restaurant and will change its concept in two years – or cease to exist.
How did you get to this solution?
“Technology is developing, ideas are developing and the world is changing faster than ever before. So, why get stuck with a business idea for a lifetime? Two years is a long time, even for bands to be on tour. We’re using the same mentality for Finnjävel. Two years at full throttle, and then we either change or disappear”, Alén explains.