Interview: Alma Kallio, 360°Young Chef nominee
What’s your story? When did you start out as a chef?
My interest in food started already as a child when I was helping my father in our own little garden. That’s when I started growing curious about the process of getting food from the ground and bringing it to the table. My mom was an excellent cook, so she got me interested in cooking. I was the artistic child in our family and I loved going to art class and learning about painting, colors, and constructing. I was expressing myself through art and felt like that needed to be channeled to my career as I grew up. When it was time to choose a career path, I had a lightbulb moment and realized I could use all of that in the kitchen and express myself through dishes. Food is such a big part of bringing people together and there’s nothing more satisfying than to see people smiling and talking about the dishes I’ve created. I graduated in 2017 from Perho, the culinary school in Helsinki, and I have worked in various fine dining restaurants in Helsinki ever since. I also spent a few months working in France learning about the “farm to table” concept in Les Orangerie, as well as a couple of months in Denmark in Farm of Ideas. In Denmark, I was focusing on learning about sustainable farming and how to bring those organic ingredients to fine dining restaurants. Both experiences gave me an even bigger appreciation of cooking and it shaped me greatly as to what it means to be a chef. My recent fine dining experience was at the restaurant Ora where I got to work with the creative head chef Sasu Laukkonen, whom I consider as a mentor. All the experiences came together when I got to Ora and used the knowledge I had previously learned.
This career path has given me so much more than I could have ever expected. I have been extremely honored to be part of different projects, such as the successful pop-up dining experience Love Harvest, where we created a nature-healing inspired dinner event. I also collaborated with Fiskars, modeling for their new products that are coming out early in 2021.
What’s your role at The Glass today?
I am 25 years old and I have made a career as a chef. I’ve recently started in a new Nordic bistro restaurant, The Glass in Helsinki, as a Chef de partie in the cold section of the kitchen. My main responsibilities are making and planning desserts and some of the starters as well.
Tell us about your focus/mission as a chef
Our industry is developing and changing constantly and there are always opportunities to learn more, which I find so exciting and interesting. For me, it’s really important to bring good vibes into the kitchen and concern for others’ wellness so those hectic days could feel a bit lighter. On a deeper level, one of my missions is to create a more accepting environment for all of us in the kitchen. I believe that’s the key to keeping talented young chefs in our industry. Cooking and eating are a fundamental part of our lives, therefore one of my goals is to inspire and guide young chefs at the beginning of their careers to help them understand and respect the ingredients.
Being sustainable is an important part of who I am and what I do and for the past couple of years, I’ve been very interested in foraging and using wild herbs. Nature provides beautiful and diverse flavors that inspire me in creating different dishes and flavor combinations. It can benefit the business financially, while our planet is thankful. I don’t know where the future will take me but I’m very excited because I have a feeling that the industry is starting to value the same things that I do, more and more every day.
Tell us, when it comes to sustainable considerations, how you want to work as a chef.
Sustainability is close to my heart and I was honored to be part of a Sustainable Gastronomy seminar panel with well-known chefs, such as Matthew Orlando and Carlos Henriques, discussing how to incorporate new ideas about sustainability into the modern restaurant world. I have been asked to be a part of an incredible team of professionals to create a new Agro-Culinary course for the culinary school Perho. The course focuses on developing the students to become multi-talented in sustainability by combining agriculture with the professional skills and knowledge of the culinary world.