Roughly a decade ago, I don’t mind confessing, I was learning how to eat sushi. In the late 1990s in Helsinki, foods that involved chopsticks were the newest of the new, and the establishments serving them included a handful of suspicious Chinese restaurants and a single decent Japanese one. In the same way, pizza had been new and exotic to my parents when it arrived in Finland in the 1960s, as had oranges to my grandparents in the 1930s.
Another aspect of the New Nordic Cuisine is its unique plating. Scandinavian design is also experiencing a period of revitalization and, especially in Finland, it is happening in parallel with the food revolution. At first glance, food and design might not seem to have much to do with each other, but when you speak to Ville Kokkonen, design director at the legendary Finnish furniture producer, Artek, a different picture emerges. Kokkonen has recently been involved in several events combining the two disciplines, including the creation with the German artist, Tobias Rehnberger of a “secret” restaurant in Frankfurt, which features a surprise menu, and Hel Yes!, a pop-up restaurant in London that showcases Finnish food and design. In the latter, some of Finland’s top names—Harri Koskinen, Linda Bergroth and Heikki Salonen—were commissioned to design the restaurant’s lighting and interiors, as well as the waiters’ clothes.
The new Nordic cuisine movement is a food and design phenomenon, but it also says something about us Finns, Swedes, and Danes as people. No longer are we looking outside of our borders to find new experiences; we have finally started to appreciate the things we have at home and, what’s more, believe that they can be something worth telling others about as well. Who knows—maybe the Japanese will soon start learning how to eat beech leaves, lingonberries, and Swedish squid.