It’s lunchtime rush hour on a Thursday, and the kitchen at Fisken på Disken in Kamppi is filled with the clattering and the occasional loud bang expected from a busy restaurant. The Head Chef Mikko Pakola, is sat in the middle of it all ready for an interview. Simultaneously, he’s giving out instructions to his team. Mikko is also the Chef and co-founder at Carrot Revolution, with experience from Michelin star restaurants under his belt. He was the brains and muscle behind the creation and delivery of the Space Menu at Fun Academy’s pop-up kindergarten parallel to SLUSH17. So we thought who better to discuss the importance of lifelong food learning than Mikko himself, and here’s what he had to say.
The journey to becoming a chef
Mikko first started thinking about his future profession at the young age of 15. His love for all things food-related quickly overtook his passion for video games and history. Thereafter, he joined the culinary school in his hometown Salo at the age of 16.
“I had really great teachers, Jari Lautkankare and Mika Vähämäki, who were more like friends to me even today”
Soon after graduation, he started working working in one of the first fine dining restaurants in Turku. It when then that Mikko knew for certain he was indeed cut out to be a chef. His specialty is in fish and seafood, and his culinary style is a fusion between modern Nordic and Japanese cuisine. Mikko’s cooking is inspired by the strong bond Finns share with Japan, particularly the fascination for Japanese anime. Moreover, he was also influenced by his mom who regularly cooked dishes experimenting with oriental ingredients at home. He feels lucky to have been raised in the Finnish countryside with access to the freshest fruits and vegetables grown in his own garden.
“I realized what else food can be. It can be an art, and it opened my eyes”
Inspiring lifelong food learning
Mikko’s role at Carrot Revolution began when Olli Freeze, CEO, challenged him to be the ‘Jamie Oliver of Finland’. They soon discovered their shared vision to promote food education and bring people closer through food. Soon after, Piritta Koivisto, the Head of strategy, also joined the team. Together, they founded Carrot Revolution initiating the revolution of ‘eating together and eating better’. Today Carrot Revolution conducts a culinary school for kids as well as publish cookbooks for children and families.
The space menu
Mikko created a Space Menu for us with some truly amazing dishes. There was Blue potatoes from the Andromeda Galaxy, Space Rocks made from chocolate and blueberries, Lunar Sand from crystalized white chocolate and much more. Mikko got his inspiration from astronauts’ tales about space travel and science fiction. However, he did confess to finding fictions a tad bit more interesting. When creating the menu he tried to use a lot of vegetables and fruits. Furthermore, he also took into account special dietary requirements as well as the colors. Before serving the food at the pop-up kindergarten Mikko spent some time explaining the menu to the kids. He strongly believes knowing where your food comes from and what you are eating is a key part of the culinary experience.
“I was a little afraid of the feedback from kids because they are always honest. It’s good to hear their opinions. Most of them said the food was super cool, and the best they had ever eaten”
Fueling a passion for food from the start
Mikko thinks it’s very important to teach kids about the different types of food. He hopes this will enable them to make well balanced choices during meal times. Moreover, Mikko believes the key to a healthy lifestyle is eating everything in moderation and remembering to get plenty of exercise regularly. Most importantly, he insists on the importance of being respectful and sustainable with food on our plates. Mikko believes knowing and remembering the original source of ingredients, whether it’s an animal or a plant is key to this process.
Initiatives to promote lifelong food learning
We also asked Mikko his take on Finnish government’s proposed initiatives of introducing ethnic food theme weeks in daycares and nutrition guidelines for preschoolers. Mikko is very enthusiastic about exploring the food and culinary practices from around the world. He remembers how the time he spent with a family in Spain enjoying the local cuisine was a true eye opener. It has helped him to understand the world better and embrace lifelong food learning. Furthermore, Mikko acknowledged the importance of setting nutrition guidelines. However, he believes eating everything in moderation is the key.
At Fun Academy, we focus on supporting the overall well-being of children through the Fun learning approach. Nutrition, healthy lifestyle and lifelong food learning are essential to this process. We feel incredibly lucky to work, create and explore together with ingenious experts such as Mikko. Before ending the interview we asked Mikko what his favourite meal was. He said it was his ‘mother’s cooking’ without batting an eye lid.