The culinary culture in Finland and the secret behind a Savonian “Frankfurter Green Sauce”

(PHOTO: Finntastic) Teemu Kaijanen presented Hessian-Finnish food during the Hessian-Finnish cooking event at the International Green Week 2019.
(PHOTO: Finntastic) Teemu Kaijanen presented Hessian-Finnish food during the Hessian-Finnish cooking event at the International Green Week 2019.

(promotion)* There have been several culinary events during the International Green Week 2019 (IGW 2019) in cooperation with the Finnish chef Teemu Kaijanen from Mikkeli and the Hessian chef Reiner Neidhart form Karben. I have visited one of the entertaining Hessian-Finnish cooking shows at the IGW 2019. There I met Teemu Kaijanen from Mikkeli, the Finnish cook and owner of the restaurant “Vaiha”, who told me in an inspiring interview more about the food culture in Finland, the latest Finnish food trends and the Hessian-Finnish cooking cooperation, which started during the IGW 2019 in Berlin. 

Finntastic:
Moikka Teemu ja kiitos, että voit kertoa meille suomalaisesta ruokakulttuurista! (Thanks, that you will tell us more about the Finnish food culture!).

First of all, we like to know more about yourself. From which part of Finland are you from and where do you have your restaurant?

Teemu Kaijanen:
Hi Inken, hauskaa tavata. I am originally from Lappeenranta, Eastern Finland. Food and cooking has always been my desire. Already as a little kid, I knew that I will become a cook. Later on, I had the great opportunity to learn from a very significant Finnish local food expert. In Mikkeli I have been living for the past ten years. I have been owning the restaurant “Vaiha” at the railway station of Mikkeli for three years now.

Our principle is to make pure, simple food with full tastes of nature. Right now, I am enlarging the business in Mikkeli and I will open two new restaurants. The opening of both new restaurants will take place in February 2020. In Mikkeli we have really good opportunities to make tasty food since all we need is cultivated and grown here.

Finntastic:
What do like about cooking in general? And has it ever been your dream to become a famous cook since you were a child?

Teemu Kaijanen:
Cooking for me is the way of life. I really enjoy cooking and for me cooking has always been fun and made with heart. I don’t think I am very famous, but I am living my dream by cooking with the top ingredients of the world.

Finntastic:
How popular is it at the moment between young people to become a cook? Would you say, that the popularity of this job has raised over the last years?

Teemu Kaijanen:
I think, earlier “in my time” it was really popular to study culinary. Then the TV was filled with famous chefs and cooking shows. Nowadays, it’s not so popular anymore, but one of the reasons, I am working with young people and students is, that I want to make the field better known and want to tell young people, that a cooking career can be very interesting, thought also demanding. But I also see, that studying business would be very important today besides studying cooking.

Teemu Kaijanen at his restaurant Vaiha in Mikkeli
(PHOTO:  Päivi Karhunen) For Teemu Kaijanen cooking has always been a passion. At his restaurant “Vaiha” in Mikkeli he serves together with his team original Finnish food and products of the Mikkeli region.

Finntastic:
How would you describe the Finnish cuisine in general? What does Finns like to eat and drink? Which products are famous for the Finnish food culture?

Teemu Kaijanen:
The Finnish cuisine has a long tradition. The influences come from the east, west and south. But the Finnish food is always very simple, containing the natural tastes. Potatoes and long baked meat dishes are very common.

Moreover, original things are common for Finnish cuisine, like blueberries and blueberry juice, for example. Nowadays, there are of course also a lot of international influences coming in. However, it’s always a hit to make grandmother’s recipes.

Finntastic:
What about food trends in Finland at the moment? I heard that there exists for example a trend to produce products from insects like grasshoppers. Are there other food trends in Finland right now?

Teemu Kaijanen:
I think the grasshoppers came and went. It can be, that in the future we have to eat insects. But right now, the agriculture in Finland is still very environmentally friendly. I trust the Finnish traditional way of producing food. It has been and it still is very responsible, for example the Finnish food production always must have a good recycle.

We have to use everything that is produced. That’s environmentally clever. I don’t like things, that are the “top trends”, because they never last so long as the traditional and honest food production and cooking.

Finntastic:
Which food does Finns traditionally prepare for special holidays during the year, for example for Christmas?

Teemu Kaijanen:
For Christmas, Finns like to make a lot of casseroles in the oven from carrots, turnips, potatoes and beetroot and also a lot of fish dishes are made, like salty fish, herring, Baltic herring and so on. Potatoes are always present. Rosolli, a traditional Finnish salat, is made of different roots and cucumbers. And it’s very traditional to serve this Christmas ham, which is called “joulukinkku”. There exist some rules or maybe a saying, that there must be prepared so much food for the Christmas table, that you couldn’t see the table under the dishes! *smiles* Of course, you can see also in Finland some new trends every year, but they will always pass.

(VIDEO: Finntastic) The Hessian-Finnish cooking cooperation started at the International Green Week 2019 in Berlin. 

Finntastic:
You already had a cooking cooperation with the state Hesse and the Hessian chef Reiner Neidhart. Tell us more about this Hessian-Finnish cooking collaboration! How did you get the inspiration for this? 

Teemu Kaijanen:
For me it was really an “accident”. The crazy lady Päivi Karhunen from Miksei Mikkeli, the development company of Mikkeli , has contacted the people in the Agricultural Department of the Hessian Ministry of the Environment and made plans for a cooperation. Then she asked me to come with, and we went to meet Reiner in Berlin. That’s where it started. We had the first cooking shows together during the International Green Week 2019.

Now we are here. We invited Reiner to Mikkeli last summer and had a lovely cooking show on the market square. The food tradition between Hesse and Finland has interesting similarities, making fusion is very fruitful. We will cook together again at the International Green Week in January 2020. After that, we already have further plans.

Finntastic:
That sounds very interesting. I have visited your Hessian-Finnish cooking event at the Hessian exhibition stand at the International Green Week 2019. Tell us more about it! Which food did you cook together with Reiner Neidhart?

Teemu Kaijanen:
We both gathered a basket from our local foods. We had muikut, which means vendance, from South Savo, turkey, liquorice and cheese bread. I found the “Handkäs” very odd, but lately I have got used to it. The cheese bread is actually “Finnish Handkäse”. *smiles*

Making the “Frankfurter Green Sauce” was very inspiring and that’s something where we go on again in 2020. We chose the things on the basis of what’s for both genuine and local. And I learned to really like the good apple wine from Hesse, which Reiner has offered me.

(VIDEO: Finntastic) Teemu Kaijanen was introduced by hr1 radio presenter Kai Völker and Joachim Diesner, member from the Agricultural Department of the Hessian Ministry of the Environment at the cooking event during the International Green Week 2019.

Finntastic:
Would you say, that the International Green Week and the fact that Finland was host country of the fair, has supported the fame of Finnish products beyond the borders of Finland e.g. in Germany and other European countries?

Teemu Kaijanen:
I would think it had a significance. We were fifteen local companies from South-Savo at the International Green Week 2019. The cooperation has continued ever since, we have had things going on with Germany and found some good friends there too. And I think the food has become better known through the fair in Germany and also elsewhere in Europe.

Finntastic:
What is your personal favourite product or meal from Finland and from Germany, especially from Hesse?

Teemu Kaijanen:
My favourite food is the freshwater fish in Finland. The fish is really fresh and tasty. In Hesse I love the “Frankfurter Green Sauce”, that’s why I want to make a Finnish version of it. Reiner has also made in his restaurant some absolutely delicious food, which tastes like home. In this context I have to mention the “Frankfurter Klöße”, which I tried there a couple of weeks ago. They are really delicious! 

Teemu Kaijanen visited Reiner Neidhart in Karben, Germany
(PHOTO: Päivi Karhunen) Teemu Kaijanen (on the left) visited his Hessian cooking colleague Reiner Neidhard at his home town in Karben, Germany.

Finntastic:
Can you see similarities between the Finnish and the Hessian cuisine? And are there some differences too?

Teemu Kaijanen:
I think potatoes are very important in both kitchens, so are the beets and vegetables. To find differences is a bit more difficult, but the difference is maybe the fact, that all that, what is grown in Finland, is grown in about three months in summer. During this time the sun is up the most of the time and the daylight lasts through the night. That makes maybe the taste of the vegetables a bit sweeter in Finland. But then again the time zone of fresh vegetable is shorter than in Germany and probably also than in Hesse.

Finntastic:
What Finnish food and food trends can we find at the International Green Week 2020? And can you give us some first information about the food you will cook together with Reiner Neidhart?

Teemu Kaijanen:
What we will cook together is being planned right now. I think at least there will be a “Frankfurter Green Sauce” in different forms. In the Finnish restaurant we offer a variety of locally produced food: meat, fish, vegetables, potatoes. All is responsible produced and fresh and comes from the Finnish countryside, from the woods and from the lakes. It’s food from the Finnish wilderness.

Hessian-Finnish cooking event at IGW 2019
(PHOTO: Finntastic) The Hessian-Finnish cooking event at the Hessian exhibition stand was not only fun for the audience and Teemu Kaijanen but also for all persons involved in the cooking show.

Finntastic:
What plans do you have concerning your cooperation in the upcoming year?

Teemu Kaijanen:
We are making a lot of plans to bring our cooperation one step further! We think we should do a lot more together, since it’s very rewarding. The chef Reiner Neidhart is coming to Mikkeli again in summer. There will be Hessian food presented to people in Mikkeli and Finland. Later on we are preparing Finnish food in Frankfurt. There we want to invite all the local people who are interested in the relations between Hesse and Finland.

Finntastic:
That sounds wonderful! I would love to come to your cooking event in Frankfurt. Thank you for the inspiring interview. But there is one final question left: What are your personal travelling and restaurant tips for Mikkeli and the Mikkeli region?

Teemu Kaijanen:
Considering how small the town of Mikkeli is, it is full of high quality restaurants. Of course, if you ask me, I would warmly invite you to my restaurant Vaiha,  to taste the fresh and pure tastes of the region. That does not mean however, that it would be the only good restaurant in Mikkeli, there are plenty. I also might suggest a night or two in a summer villa on a shore of one of the many lakes in the region. Just to feel what our region is about: water, woods and endless tranquillity – the Finnish wilderness.  

Finntastic:
That sounds great! Now I really love to visit Mikkeli and the Etelä-Savo region. So maybe we see us in Finland soon, but first I am looking forward to your cooking shows with Reiner Neidhart at the International Green Week 2020!

Teemu Kaijanen:
Would be nice to see you at the International Green Week 2020! Ja Tervetuloa myös Mikkeliin! (A heartly Welcome to Mikkeli!)


The Hessian-Finnish cooking cooperation at the International Green Week 2020

Hessian-Finnish Cooking event at the international Green Week 2019
(PHOTO: Finntastic) The Hessian-Finnish cooking cooperation will  be continued at the International Green Week 2020!

The Hessian-Finnish cooking collaboration between the state Hesse, the Finnish region Etelä-Savo and the Finnish economic development agency Miksei Mikkeli, the Hessian chef Reiner Neidhart, the Finnish chef Teemu Kaijanen from Mikkeli, the Finnish farmers and forest owners association MTK (Maa- ja Metsästaloustuottajain Keskiliitto) and the Messe Berlin started during the preparation of the International Green Week 2019, when Finland was host country of the famous food and agriculture exhibition, held every year in Berlin.

Already then there have been several Hessian-Finnish cooking shows at the Hessian exhibition stand and in the Finland hall, which were organized by Joachim Diesner (Agricultural Department of the Hessian Ministry of the Environment) and Päivi Karhunen (Miksei Mikkeli). 

Meanwhile, the Hessian chef Reiner Neidhart, who didn’t know much about Finland before the Hessian-Finnish cooking cooperation started, has been visiting Mikkeli in summer 2019 in order to cook together with chef Teemu Kaijanen at the market square in Mikkeli. Moreover, during his stay in Finland, Reiner Neidhart got in touch with the Finnish culture, mökki and sauna tradition and he also got to know more about the Finnish food culture and Finnish food trends. This Hessian-Finnish cooking cooperation inspired Teemu Kaijanen also to develop some Savonian versions of the Frankfurter Green Sauce. 

Reiner Neidhart visited Teemu Kaijanen in Finland
(PHOTO: Päivi Karhunen) Teemu Kaijanen introduced Reiner Neidhart into the Finnish cooking culture during his visit in Mikkeli.

The secret behind the Savonian versions of this traditional German food will be uncovered during the next Finnish-Hessian cooking events with Teemu Kaijanen from Mikkeli and Reiner Neidhart from Hesse during the International Green Week 2020 at the Hessian exhibition stand in hall 22a, (organized by Joachim Diesner, Agricultural Department of the Hessian Ministry of the Environment) as well as at the Finnish exhibition stand in hall 8.2. (organized by Päivi Karhunen, Miksei Mikkeli).

Moreover, there will be a Finnish cooking team at the Finnish fair restaurant „Lakeland Saimaa“, which will serve during the ten-day International Green Week 2020  delicious Finnish food at the exhibition restaurant. The menu consists of Finnish delicacies for instance of Finnish salmon soup with sea trout from the lakes of Puumala, Eastern Finland, spelt crepes, served with rose petal and strawberry jam and vanilla cream, Karelian pasties (karjalan piirakat) or traditional blueberry pie, served together with pine ice cream.

Tervetuloa Berliniin! (A hearty welcome to Berlin!)

More information about the International Green Week 2020 and the Hessian-Finnish cooking events you will find soon online at www.gruenewoche.de.


* This blog post is a cooperation with Päivi Karhunen (Miksei Mikkeli), Joachim Diesner (Agricultural Department of the Hessian Ministry of the Environment) and Teemu Kaijanen (Vaiha restaurant Mikkeli, Etelä-Savo, Finland)

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