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 while simultaneously giving out instructions to his team. With experience from Michelin star restaurants under his belt, Mikko is also the Chef and co-founder at Carrot Revolution. 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.
Mikko first started pondering about his future profession at the young age of 15. Overriding the shared passion for video games and history, it was his love for all things food-related which prompted him to join 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”
It was working in one of the first fine dining restaurants in Turku, soon after graduation, which confirmed for Mikko that he was indeed cut out to be a chef. While his speciality is in fish and seafood, he explains his culinary style as a fusion between modern Nordic and Japanese cuisine. Mikko claims he was influenced by the strong bond Finns share with Japan, particularly the fascination for Japanese anime, and his mom who regularly cooked dishes experimenting with oriental ingredients at home. He also 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”
Mikko’s role at Carrot Revolution began when CEO and co-founder Olli Freeze challenged him to be the ‘Jamie Oliver of Finland’. Sharing a vision to promote food education and bring people closer through food, joined by Piritta Koivisto Head of strategy and co-founder, they initiated a 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 for us had some amazing dishes such as Blue potatoes from the Andromeda Galaxy, Space Rocks made from chocolate and blueberries and Lunar Sand from crystalized white chocolate. According to Mikko the inspiration came from astronauts’ tales about space travel and science fiction, while confessing he finds fiction a tad bit more interesting. When creating such a menu he tries to use a lot of vegetables and fruits, while taking 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”
Mikko thinks it’s very important to teach kids about the different types of food and enable them to make well balanced choices during meal times. He believes the key to a healthy lifestyle is eating everything in moderation and remembering to get plenty of exercise regularly. He insists on knowing and remembering the original source of ingredients, whether it’s an animal or a plant, prompting us to be respectful and sustainable with food on our plates.
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. Reflecting on the time he spent with a family in Spain enjoying the local cuisine, Mikko is very enthusiastic about the idea and claims learning about food and culinary practices around the world is a true eye opener. It has helped him to understand the world better. On the nutrition guidelines while acknowledging the importance of the initiative he holds his ground restating that eating everything in moderation is the key.
At Fun Academy we strive to promote our holistic fun learning approach in which nutrition and healthy lifestyle plays a crucial role. We feel incredibly lucky to work together with ingenious experts such as Mikko sharing our passions, and creating and exploring together. Before ending the interview we asked Mikko what his favourite meal was and he promptly replied it was his mother’s cooking.
To find out more about our fun learning approach and the brilliant partners who are collaborating with us visit https://funacademy.fi/