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05 Feb 2010, Posted by Nora Pouillon in Cleantech & Environment, Future Forward, 0 Comments

Future Forward – Nora Pouillon


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.”

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About the writer

Three decades after opening Restaurant Nora, the nation's first certified organic restaurant-- now a Washington institution--Nora Pouillon continues to advocate a holistic organic lifestyle, the basis for her cuisine and her commitment to living and eating sustainably. As an educator on the benefits of healthy food and sustainable living, Pouillon helped establish FRESHFARM Markets, producer-only open air markets in the Washington, DC area and beyond. Nora, a film directed by Joan Murray premiering at the DC Environmental Film Festival, documents Pouillon's reputation as one of the most influential pioneers and leaders in the organic and local-food movements. "What really is exciting for me now is how organic food and local food have become nearly mainstream," says Pouillon, named one the city's 12 power chefs by The Washington Post. "After struggling and being called a crazy person and a hippie, and now seeing that the most of the population understands what I was trying to do and is doing it is just wonderful." While Pouillon's late sister was married to a Finn, Pouillon never had the opportunity to visit her there and see Finland. Excited to discover a completely new culture and cuisine, she hopes to connect the chefs and farmers she meets in Helsinki with their Washington counterparts, and to share her knowledge with farmers about starting farmers' markets. "Not many people know Finnish culture, and I'm one of them. Bringing my experience back to Washington and exposing Washingtonians to what I learn will enrich us all."

Host

Aki Arjola Producer, Eat&Joy Aki Arjola
Jyrki Sukula Chef and restaurateur Jyrki Sukula

Eat&Joy is an annual two-week event organised in Helsinki at the end of September by Uni One Oy. It also runs up to four times a year in other cities in Europe. Launched in 2004, Eat&Joy seeks to draw attention to three specific areas: the high quality of Finnish food ingredients from the country's small producers, the New Nordic Kitchen, and to Finland's cutting edge creative efforts in art, design, music and fashion. Eat&Joy's latest endeavour is to highlight Finnish Ingredients and New Nordic Kitchen in different cities around the world. This year, Eat&Joy was organised in Berlin and Paris.

Eat&Joy will introduce the local food, food producers and Helsinki restaurants to Nora Pouillon during her stay in Helsinki. The aim is to enable Ms Pouillon to meet many interesting people involved in food and establish lasting contacts. Her stay will be hosted by chef Jyrki Sukula and producer Aki Arjola, who is the chairman of UniOne Oy, the company behind Eat&Joy. Jyrki Sukula is a renown chef and restaurateur with close to 30 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality field.