Simplicity and creating “honest food” are the guidelines Finnish super-chef Pekka Terävä follows in the kitchen. He is inspired by nature and architecture, respects basic flavors and believes in pure ingredients; these ideas coupled with Terävä’s creativity turn simple things into delicious magic. Terävä will tickle the taste buds of New Yorkers during the Fresh! from Finland promotion week (October 26-31, 2009) at the Scandinavia House.
Terävä is the owner and main chef of the Helsinki restaurant, Olo, which was recently chosen by the Guardian newspaper as the best place to eat Nordic food. Since 1983, Terävä has spent his life in the kitchen. He believes in what he calls a modern Scandinavian kitchen, which means using the best available seasonal ingredients to create fresh dishes. Finland’s four clear seasons are his inspiration: “You don’t need to be a genius to be able to cook. You just need to open the window and feel what’s coming in.”
Terävä will bring the fresh flavors of the clean waters and abundant forests of Finland to New York during the promotion week as the Scandinavia House’s Smörgås Chef Restaurant will serve a special Fresh! from Finland menu and will offer a food demo and tasting event on October 28. The shop at the Scandinavia House will also feature a selection of Finnish food products, cookbooks and other dining related items.
Terävä’s cooking philosophy is centered on the seasons and the freshness of seasonal ingredients. Spring, summer, fall and winter all offer unique flavors and specialties. A good chef has to know the precise moment when each ingredient is available and at its best. According to Terävä, the key is natural surroundings – what you see, hear, smell and feel around you. The objective is food, which is in line with the season and the surroundings.
Springtime’s food is fragile and soft, a mirror of harmony and balance, peace and clarity. Typically only half the butter and cream in winter dishes is used, and fresh carrots, onions and leeks dance on your plate.
Summer pushes away the springtime’s harmony, since summer meals are all about brave combinations of strong flavors with less sauce. “Summer is a relaxed season and therefore, also the food should be easy-going and fast to prepare,” Terävä says with new potatoes, delicious strawberries and chanterelles on his mind. “Chanterelle is the most beautiful and the most variable mushroom of all.”
“Fall is an incredible season. Then the Finnish nature is full of everything: fish, game, mushrooms, berries…you name it,” Terävä says. There is a vast range of strong tastes from which to choose, and the art lies in balancing these with appropriate sauces and side dishes.
The abundant snow covering in winter leaves Finnish chefs with fewer ingredients. Tourists who visit Finland in winter often leave with a much narrower picture of Finnish cuisine. “Winters are our most international seasons, as then we eat the same food as people in France or in the Caribbean,” Terävä says. Winter food is usually warm and heavy with its stews and soups, prepared with a lot of cream and butter.
Simple? Yes indeed says Terävä. He encourages us all to be brave and creative, and to buy from small producers in order to get unique, clean ingredients to cook with. “The ingredients themselves are the kings, you don’t need to know too many tricks to get along with them,” Terävä says.
New York is not new territory for Terävä. In 2000 he got a taste of this buzzing culinary capital when he lead the chef team of the Finnish Culinary Week organized at the United Nations headquarters. He recalls that it was the most frenzied moment in his career. On the same day, he and his team served a buffet dinner for 600, a sit-down dinner for 180, an á la carte dinner for 50 and also treated 25 guests to dinner at the chefs table in the middle of the kitchen. He sure sounds like a chef that is not afraid of challenges.
His second crusade to the city is no smaller of a challenge. This month with the Fresh! from Finland week, he will once again be in the front lines branding Finnish food in the U.S. This time he will be facing critical New York foodies who have seen much and tasted even more! But Terävä remains confident that the clean flavors of the Finnish kitchen will charm New Yorkers. His menu at the tasting event will include a wide selection of Finnish imported ingredients: reindeer, salmon, fish roe and wild mushrooms, a selection he calls humorously “the basic Finnish set.”
Fresh! from Finland – culinary adventure, including food demo and tasting
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 7 p.m.
$25 ($20 ASF members)
58 Park Avenue @ 38th Street
Phone: (212) 879-9779
This event is unfortuately sold out.
You may experience Finnish flavors also at the Smörgåshef restaurant in Scandinavia House. The restaurant features a special 3-course menu designed by Pekka Terävä.