Welcome to an exclusive interview with Chef Mika Pajuniemi, the culinary mastermind behind Rakas Restaurant & Bar, located in the enchanting city of Rovaniemi, Finland. With his culinary expertise and passion for Finnish cuisine, Chef Pajuniemi has made a name for himself in the culinary world. In this interview, we delve into Chef Pajuniemi's culinary journey, his inspiration, and the role of Rakas Restaurant & Bar in bringing unique flavors to Rovaniemi. Join us as we uncover the secrets behind this renowned chef's culinary creations and his dedication to delivering an exceptional dining experience in the heart of Finland.
1. Rakas Restaurant and Bar is situated in Lapland, one of the most magical places on earth could you tell us a bit more about how the concept for Rakas came about?
What or who is the most important thing in the world? Where is your heart? Where do you put all your cares and passion? The right answer is Rakas, which is the Finnish word for beloved. That is our concept.
2. Where did your love for food originate from?
When I was a kid, I loved to cook and bake with my mother, but then I forgot about cooking for few years. Somehow when I entered into military service, I chose a maintenance platoon. We had a wild food course. We hunted, fished, picked up roots and berries and cooked everything on an open fire. So, we actually were way ahead of trends before all this became trendy. A couple of NATO-peacekeeping trips taught me that food, especially tasty food, is the mightiest force in the world. You can see smiling faces everywhere when you donate food to kindergartens or have a great BBQ-night with a few hundred peacekeepers. Finland is the 6th times running world's happiest country, so I salute all my colleagues.
3. How long have you been at Rakas and what was your journey leading up to Head Chef?
I have been working at Rakas for over two years and it has been a wonderful experience. I have been working in Lapland since 1999 and I have always been passionate to show the best of Lappish cuisine and ingredients. In the early 2000's I already had my own kitchen and that was the starting point of my journey to share the pleasure of original flavours that you can only find in Lapland.
4. What do you believe makes Rakas a go-to destination for diners?
I think by adding dining at Rakas to your activities list and vacation itinerary you will experience Lappish culture in the best possible way, and of course have a lovely night with great service, a magical atmosphere and an award-winning locally sourced menu. Rakas - local food with love. It tells it all, you can experience Lappish culture in a beautiful atmosphere combined with heartfelt service and indulge yourself with the taste of Lapland.
5. What goes into creating a successful menu?
Always having the guest in mind and what they want to experience in Lapland. Restaurant Rakas draws inspiration from Arctic design and lifestyle and Lapland nature. My passion is to deliver all these incredible flavours from the wild nature directly to our guest’s plate. Always aiming for the wow-factor.
6. How big a role does the seasons have on your menu?
Rakas has a seasonally changing menu. Life here in the Arctic Circle can be tough and extreme, but Mother Nature rewards us with multiple seasons of fishing, hunting and the bounty of nature, that we are proud to present to our guests.
7. Who do you look up to in the industry?
I have met and worked together with several great chefs, but I think Noma opened the doors to the whole world to present Scandinavian kitchen as it is and has been.
8. During your journey, what have you found to be the most important recipe for success?
Work hard to achieve your goals and always be hungry for more, but not forgetting to take care of your loved ones. And of course, interaction with your colleagues and the farmers producing the ingredients used in the kitchen. It is important to just sit down, eat and share thoughts together with them.
9. What does the future hold for Rakas?
We are always looking for new ways and tastes to fully emerge the Lapland experience and create some fascinating culinary surprises. We welcome all our guests with opens arms to experience them first hand.