June 15, 2017

10 Questions: Topi Kairenius

Topi Kairenius

is a Finnish chef who’s not afraid of insects on plates.

  1. What’s your morning routine?

Each morning is basically different and the daily schedule varies a lot. But whether I need to get up at 6 am or 9 am, I need my morning hour for a shower and black coffee.

  1. How did you get into cooking?

By practical reasons. I’m a designer by education and previous professions, but I needed to feed my kids. Because of their early grain and milk allergies, I took it as a challenge to make meals with alternatives for grains, dairies and meat.

  1. How did you feel the first time you ate an insect?

I felt curious. The first bugs I’ve eaten were Mexican snack-style crickets in early 2012. The experience was interesting, and the following summer I wanted to try local grasshoppers in Espoo at our summer cottage as a pizza topping. That’s how the whole insect cooking started.

  1. Why are insects good for cooking?

Some wild insects have really unique and intense aroma one can’t find from any other ingredients. Also some bugs – like common ants – offer a real delicate sensation caused by the sharp and lemony aroma of the ant acid. And when dried and grinded, insect powder is a really versatile ingredient possible to use in vegetarian meatballs, sausages and baking of any kind.

  1. How do you think Westerners can be convinced to include insects in their diets?

Bringing out familiar products, like “meatballs”, nuggets, chocolate bars, muesli and that sort of things. This is how insect food will hit in grocery stores, by hiding the bugs.

  1. Are there any food items you’d never eat and if so, which ones and why?

I’m a total omnivore, and will eat the waste from a friend’s plate as well. However, I refrain from eating unsustainable food as much as possible. And well, spiders are a bit creepy. I know people are eating them in Southeast Asia, but eight legs are just too much. I’ll stick to the six-legged creatures.

  1. Why is your brewery called Fat Lizard?

Haha, there’s really no specific story behind it. We had a list of funny adjectives and animals, and Fat Lizard sounded fun and looked good.

  1. You have also recreated album cover shots using Legos. Which one is your favourite album cover of all time?

I wish I had time to recreate – or “legolize” the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. It’s a really crazy and detailed piece of art.

  1. Who inspires you and why?

I’m inspired daily by the people around me. I have the privilege to work with visionary people in the fields of food, beverage and technology who aim to make the world a functional and pleasant place and beyond. My hero since my youth is Prince, who influenced the whole globe in his field with his own talents and visions.

  1. What’s your favourite Finnish delicacy – both to make and eat?

Berries straight from the wild. And ants!

 

Photo: Tuomas Aro

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