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Food & Art Festival is a Treat For Food, Wine and Art Lovers – We Interviewed Pekka Terävä, the Father of the Festival

Food & Art Festival is a Treat for Food, Wine and Art Lovers

by Kathleen Cusack | August 26, 2019 | Culture | Food | Sponsored content

Suomen Joutsen stands tall and beautiful on the banks of the Aura River in Turku, southwestern Finland. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Less than a stone’s throw from Turku Castle, an almost glaringly white ship basks on the banks of the Aura River. Built in France in the early 20th century, Suomen Joutsen was later acquired by the Finnish government as a naval training ship. For almost a decade, Suomen Joutsen voyaged across the seas but the outbreak of the Winter War saw the steel-hulled ship adopted as a supply vessel and later as a mine-clearance base. In the 1960s, Suomen Joutsen took on a new role once again, this time as a school, and it was here that celebrated chef, Pekka Terävä, began his culinary career some 30 years ago.

Pekka Terävä is known as the Chef of the Chefs by his colleagues. He is the father of Food & Art Festival, arranged for the first time in Turku, southwestern Finland. Picture: Julius Konttinen

A sincerely modest man, Terävä says that he came upon cooking almost by accident: “I had no idea when I was 16 . . . what is my future.” He had hoped, at one point, to play soccer at a professional level, but jokes that his coach kindly suggested that he pursue an alternate career. According to Terävä, his interest in cooking was sparked by the meals his mother created for him as a child and only intensified once he began his schooling on board Suomen Joutsen. “That time was amazing, you could feel it, that old history and all those stories at the same time,” Terävä says.  

“When you get those first potatoes in April, it’s something amazing and then the strawberries in June and July.” 

Pekka Terävä, chef and the father of Food & Art Festival

The intricate art of preparing dishes at the Food & Art Festival. Picture: Julius Konttinen

Following graduation, Terävä honed his skills at fine-dining restaurants in Finland and Sweden as well as onboard cruise ships in the Baltic Sea. It was in 1995, however, that Terävä truly shot to prominence in the culinary scene, winning Finnish chef of the year. Further success soon followed, both individually and as part of the Finnish national team; most notably, Terävä was a key figure in the gold-medal winning team at the 1998 World Cup in London. Terävä fondly recalls his first victory, but says: “When you get the success with the whole team, that’s something much more.” 

In 2006, Terävä co-founded Olo, a Helsinki-based restaurant which has since been awarded a Michelin star. More recently, Terävä has had a key role in the establishment of Emo, a Bib Gourmand-recognized gastro bar and Gösta, an eatery in the Serlachius Museums. All three restaurants have earned a reputation for showcasing the best of Nordic nature, and Terävä stresses that the key is simplicity and seasonality: “When you get those first potatoes in April, it’s something amazing and then the strawberries in June and July.” 

Chefs Pekka Terävä and Arto Lappalainen at work. Picture: Otto Helkama

It was, in part, a desire to share this passion for Nordic nature that inspired Terävä’s latest project: a Finnish “summer camp” for his international colleagues. It was also a way, as Terävä explains, to share more meaningful discussions and experiences beyond the restaurant kitchen. First held in 2014, the event has been a rousing success with renowned chefs like Michel Bras, Josean Alija and Yasuhiro Fujio traveling across the world to take part. As well as the sauna, Terävä says that participants have been captivated by the treasures that can be found in the Finnish forest.

A key part of their visit is the Food & Art Festival, a four-day celebration that Terävä and his colleagues organize to the delight of food, wine and art lovers throughout Finland. This year, Terävä is bringing the festival to Turku, the city in which his career began so many years ago. As well as the Chef’s Menu, a 9-course dinner prepared by the visiting international chefs, festival-goers can enjoy master-class sessions, cooking demonstrations and even a kitchen flea market. Terävä himself will be hosting a BBQ pop-up in the Ruissalo shipyard.

The 2019 festival will also have a distinctly Turku flavor with much-loved establishments like Pinella, Mami and Gustavo hosting a “restaurant crawl” as well as pop-up sessions. Culinary and tourism students studying at the Turku Vocational Institute and the Turku University of Applied Sciences will also have a role in the event. Terävä says that he valued the opportunity to learn alongside esteemed professionals as an apprentice, and he is determined to provide this same opportunity to others. “It is a legacy that we can give them.”

Certainly, Terävä’s legacy will be far-reaching. Named as Chef of the Chefs in 2014 by his colleagues, he received the Stockholm Culture Award in 2017 and the Ordre du Mérite Agricole in 2018 in recognition of his remarkable contribution to the culinary arts. In his typically understated manner, however, Terävä says that he is simply proud to be part of bringing people together over the dinner table: “When you serve them that food and they like it, they laugh and they have fun . . . that reminds you every day why you do long days.”

The Food & Art Festival will be held in Turku from 5th to 8th September. You can find more about the festival here: https://www.foodandart.fi/

This article was written with the support of Food Camp Finland.

About The Author

Kathleen Cusack

Kathleen Cusack is our history and culture reporter. She is an Australian expat, coming to grips with the Finnish language and its enthusiastic use of vowels. She is passionate about history, tea and the Sydney Swans.

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