In Helsinki, Nora Pouillon, chef, educator, and organic food advocate, discovered kindred spirits in hosts Aki Arjola, chairman of UniOne Oy, the company behind Eat&Joy, a series of events showcasing Finnish food, and chef and restaurateur Jyrki Sukula, advocate for the organic food in the school lunch program. “They are working to rebuild the culinary culture of Finland,” says Pouillon. “Their broad strategy is to introduce organic local food and produce to the general public to foster connections and new access to the Finnish food legacy. People in Finland go to the supermarkets and buy things that come from Sweden, Denmark, Germany, wherever, and they forget their own culture. Through a farmers’ market, a store featuring local producers, and the school lunch program, Aki and Jyrki aim to bring Finnish food and culture back into the life of the Finnish people.”
Pouillon found that strategies employed in promoting local organic food in the States were applicable to the pair’s current undertakings. Poised to launch Maatilatori - Eat&Joy Farmers market Shop, she recommended they diversify their organic and artisanal food offerings so customers could make the store a one-stop shopping destination. “They needed vegetables, grains, dairy, milk and cheese, and different types of milk, like goat and cow, a bakery with bread and pastries, meats, sausages, venison and reindeer.
Opened in June 2009 and offering over 1000 products from 150 local producers, the Helsinki store has become a prototype that will soon be expanded throughout Finland. “Other communities are already asking them to come to their towns,” says Pouillon. “They brought in a great baker from Miami, a Finnish- American woman who has introduced sourdough bread to Helsinki and everyone loves it. I think they are very happy with the outcome.”
Hosting her Helsinki counterparts in May, Pouillon introduced them to Restaurant Nora’s local suppliers, including New Morning Farm in Amish Pennsylvania. A trip to the Eastern shore included visits to various farmers’ markets, and lunch at a private house where they swam in the river and dived for oysters enjoyed at lunch. A tour of the White House garden and house with White House chef Sam Kass led to an unexpected opportunity to meet and talk with President Obama.
Pouillon hosted a group of colleagues and the press for “A taste of Finland,” an event at the Embassy of Finland showcasing the organic kitchen at Restaurant Ilmatar, Klaus K Hotel, its chef Markus Maulavirta, and the many flavors and ingredients Pouillon discovered on her Helsinki trip. “The event was an incredible introduction to Finnish food. People couldn’t stop coming to me and telling me how much they liked the flavors, that they never had them before, that they had no idea Finland had such a cuisine. I’m ready to help audiences—Americans and Finns alike-discover more.”