10 Questions: Jaakko Sorsa
- What is your culinary superpower?
Smoking! It’s my favourite cooking method. Actually, we don’t use smoke for preserving, but more like a seasoning, giving different ingredients a final touch!
We do hot-smoking and have developed our own technique of very light cold-smoking. We smoke salmon, shrimps, mussels, beef, pork, chicken, duck, reindeer, roe deer, celeriac, tomatoes, beetroot, parsnip, carrots, sour cream, butter and so on.
- Why did you decide to become a chef?
I was always interested in food and how, by using exactly the same ingredients, some cooks can create extraordinary flavours and also just really good food.
It’s all about small techniques and great care, timing and attention to details, even with the simplest dishes.
- You have a long career working as a chef all around the globe. What has been your most exciting experience?
Living in the rainforest in Fiji with a local family. For Christmas ’97, we slaughtered a cow and enjoyed different dishes. We prepared for it for days. Then, we enjoyed kava – a mildly calming beverage made of dried, pounded yangona roots. When sitting there in a hut, it came to mind that ‘it’s not that long ago (100 years), when the ancestors of these buddies were practising cannibalism – nothing would stop them from having me as a roast, if they got a sudden craving…’ Just kidding, of course, but it did come to my mind.
- What are the biggest challenges in running a Nordic restaurant in Hong Kong?
You would think ingredients, but actually we can get a pretty good variety of Nordic foodstuffs here. The biggest challenge is staffing; it’s a global issue that there are less youngsters who dream about being a chef. The expenses of running a restaurant are getting higher all the time and there are 17 000 restaurants here to compete with.
- As a boss, what is your style of management like?
I’m like a professor, sports coach and policeman.
Professor: I like to standardise all cooking-related procedures to teach and control the standard and consistency. I’m also extremely calm.
Coach: As it’s a busy world in the kitchen with lots of changing situations requiring instant solutions, everyone needs support and a pat on a shoulder and bit of team spirit.
Policeman: Guarding that my set standards and behaviour rules are followed!
- What trends are emerging in Finnish cuisine?
There are more and more high-end Finnish raw materials and ingredients available now for the new cuisine to develop further. Probably with less influence from the other Nordic countries. Perhaps some chefs will reinvent our national dishes a bit.
- You have written a recipe book, Scapas Dining, that was nominated at Le Cordon Bleu’s World Food Media Awards. What’s your favourite Finnish delicacy – both to make and eat?
The process of catching your own fish, cleaning it, preparing multiple ways and enjoying with your loved ones.
For example, catch 10 perch and two white fish (siika) from a lake, prepare perch soup and fish pie (kalakukko). Meanwhile, fillet the other siika and cure it in a ‘gravat’ style, then slightly cure the whole siika and hot-smoke it. Enjoy over the coming days.
- As you have made numerous TV appearances in Hong Kong, what is the funniest moment in your TV career so far?
In Hong Kong, we shoot a lot of short cooking demos at the restaurant, cooking together with the show’s host: They are all very nice situations, but no drama. I cannot recall anything worth mentioning.
- What is the thing you miss the most about Finland whilst living abroad?
Walking in the forest, sauna by the lake, kayaking in the sea. Seeing my family and friends more often.
- If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Beef and pork meatballs in gravy with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. Easily. Twice a day. Forever!