Helsinki Card
Helsinki Card

Restaurateurs Jarkko Myllymäki & Ilja Björs

26.6.2018 Text: Helsinki This Week Photos: Pekka Kastari
My Helsinki: Ilja Björs ja Jarkko Myllymäki

Jarkko Myllymäki & Ilja Björs are restaurateurs of many destinations. Their first restaurant Juuri was established in 2004. Nowadays their company consists of restaurants, bar, cafés and catering & event unit.

Jarkko & Ilja, you founded your first restaurant, Juuri, in 2004. Why did you want to establish a restaurant?

We wanted to realise our long-term dream of owning a restaurant. We want to be a part of and included in making Finnish food culture, and especially food culture in Helsinki.

How did you two start working together?

We’ve know each other since we were in primary school, so our cooperation and friendship has become polished over the years.


1. Sapas at our restaurant Juuri
2. The cocktails, especially the Bloody Mary, at our Latva
3. Beer from the local breweries in Helsinki and, of course, our very own Ohrana
4. The Helsingin Jäätelötehdas ice creams sold at the kiosk in the Kaivopuisto harbour
5. Helsinki organises numerous concerts and cultural events with excellent food on offer. This year, we would recommend, for example, Taste of Helsinki on 14.-17.6. and the Huvila Festival Tent at the Helsinki Festival on 17.8.-3.9.

How do you divide the work in the restaurant’s operations?

Ilja is the CEO and is responsible for the operative management of the company. Jarkko is the Chairman of the Board and is involved with the back office operations and sometimes in the daily restaurant work, especially in different events.

What do your restaurant operations include currently?

Restaurant Juuri, restaurant Latva, four Pihka lunch restaurants and the Maritori lunch restaurant (collaboration with Marimekko). We also have Juuri Café&Bar Design Museum, catering and event unit Juuri Tapahtumat, a wine import unit and Brewery Ohrana Krouvi&Panimo. And of course, the Kasarmi21 entity (Pihka Kasarmi, Juuri Café&Bar Kasarmi, meeting and conference centre Kasarmin Salit and a bakery).

Does Juuri get a lot of international customers?

Yes. All year round, but especially during the summer season. Our international customers seem to be especially delighted by our innovative implementation, unique ingredients and, most importantly, the flavour.

Your ideology is: Taste. Origin. Passion. What do these words mean to you?

Taste: That’s at the centre of all our food. Without good taste, there is nothing else.
Origin: We’ve always been conscious of the origins of our ingredients. We only use fresh ingredients that we know the origins of. We expect all our cooperation partners to carefully monitor the quality and origin of their products. We prefer organic and local producers. This year we won the 2018 Finnish Lähiruokateko award for our pursuits with local food. We were recognised for our long cooperation with the only commercial organic farmer in Helsinki. The fields are right next to Maritori.
Passion: Without the passion of our employees we would have nothing. As founders, we have an even bigger responsibility and honour to act “as we preach” in everything. Without passion there is no creativity.

This summer, the catering and event unit Juuri Tapahtumat is conjuring up food for the Strömma canal cruises. How does the Helsinki archipelago fit into your ideology?

Very well. The sea, especially the Baltic Sea, is very important for us as a company and as residents of Helsinki. Without the sea there would be no Helsinki!


Helsinki stories