Chef and TV personality Sikke Sumari
Sikke Sumari is a Finnish tv personality, food writer, blogger and restaurateur. Sikke has had a multifaceted food-related career, and her latest venture was to graduate as a chef from the Perho culinary school last year.
Sikke, you have been on various Finnish television programmes for decades. You started as a tv presenter, but gradually your television appearances began to revolve around food. Why food?
Already in my childhood, we had tasty and nutritious meals at home, with regular mealtimes and the entire family sitting down at the table for meals. I believe that your palate develops curiosity if it is introduced to tasty flavours starting from an early age.
However, food was not part of my plans when I was young, and I started studying at the University of Art and Design and graduated as an interior designer. Professionally, food entered the picture when I was over forty, when my husband and I set up an Italian grocery shop in the Old Market Hall after the recession in the beginning of the 1990s. From there, we were persuaded to establish a restaurant next to the Klaus Kurki hotel that was located on Bulevardi at that time, and we started the – maybe we can call it legendary – Tony’s Deli (the current Tony’s Deli on Bulevardi is not owned by us). Then we started the cooking programmes on tv.
Which tv projects did you love the most or consider the most memorable?
I’d have to say Kokkisota (Ready Steady Cook), which I hosted and which allowed me to get to know the best cooks in the country – and they still are the best! Kokkisota aired for 5 years, so there was time to learn a thing a two about cooking in the process. It is also great that Kokkisota is now being revived, to the delight of all home chefs!
Could you share with us some examples of your many other projects outside television?
In addition to my own food blogs, I write cookbooks, with the most recent one published last spring. All in all, I’ve written 10 books. In the summer, I run a bed & breakfast business on Muhu island in Saaremaa, at NamiNamaste.
What kind of a place is NamiNamaste?
NamiNamaste is an old farm on Muhu. I bought it in 2001 and have gradually renovated it into a bed & breakfast where I organise cooking courses in the summer. We grow our own herbs, vegetables and flowers there in our garden and prepare good country-style food from ingredients that we and our neighbours produce.
Last year you graduated as a chef. Where did you get the idea to go to school as an adult?
Now that I’m nearing the retirement age, I decided I should get some more information on cooking techniques and study to become a real chef, and I graduated as a chef from Perho culinary school at the end of last year. I think you are never too old to learn new things!
What do you think is going on in the Finnish food culture at the moment?
On one hand, I think that there are now people who are extremely nutrition-conscious and aware of the importance of nutrition to our well-being. They follow the latest food trends and what is happening around the world, and they adopt the best parts. People are interested in new ingredients and cooking methods.
On the other hand, the sales of ready meals are constantly increasing, and the quality of such meals is also improving. It’s okay to make your life easier by cutting some corners in the kitchen but still have the entire family sit at the same table for meals. There are more and more restaurants and competition, and the customers will benefit from this. Informed customers will not accept anything below their standards. An increasing number of people are interested in vegetarian food.
What is your favourite food?
I absolutely love seasons, and seasonal food is always the best. Food seasons provide a lovely rhythm to the year. There is always something to look forward to. And then there are the holidays as the icing on the cake.
Good, country-style food prepared carefully and with love is closest to my heart, even though I would like to taste each and every novelty that top chefs develop. The food industry is no different from other fields, in that we also want to develop and try new things, rather than getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes not.