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16 February, 2019

Why Helsinki’s at the forefront of an incredible new food revolution

The EU’s northernmost capital is home to a new food philosophy with its roots far to the south. Why did the new Anatolian kitchen movement — dedicated to fusing thousands of locally sourced ingredients — make an entrance here? Let’s meet the man who’s made it happen to find out.

Helsinki’s well-known for many things. Being home to a new genre of Anatolian cooking is not one of them.

However, thanks to Mehmet Gürs, the Finnish-Turkish executive chef at Restaurant Andrea in the Finnish capital, that’s now changing.

But what exactly is Anatolian cooking and why should food-lovers worldwide get excited about trying it?

A kitchen of many different cultures

– The reason I prefer to talk about Anatolian rather than Turkish food is the fact that national borders are so temporary and artificial. Turkey has only been around as a nation for a century, but the natural borders of the region, like the mountains, will be there forever, says Gürs, the pioneer behind the new Anatolian kitchen.

In the new Anatolian kitchen, barriers – whether ethnic, religious, or national – are ignored.

Products from every corner of Anatolia, which includes parts of Greece, Armenia, Syria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran and Iraq –  come together to create a cuisine that thrives on diversity and varied cultural layers.

Andrea's calamari is seasoned with olive oil, Antep chili flakes from Turkey and fresh coriander.

- Eastern Turkey borders with the Middle East, while in the West we get close to the Greek islands. The food cultures of these areas are about as different from each other as the French and Chinese cuisines, Gürs elaborates.

Gürs’s new fusion of tastes takes those traditional Turkish ingredients we all know and love ­— yogurt, lamb, olive oil and fresh vegetables ­— as the base.

Then he adds yummy ingredients from the wider region of Anatolia. Spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, as well as local fish and cheeses abound.

Pide is a traditional Turkish flatbread. Andrea's most popular pide comes with a Nordic twist: salmon and dill.

A new perspective is on the menu

So, what’s inspired Gürs to combine all these fantastic flavours?

– I kept coming back to the question of how we could respect and showcase the work of our ancestors, but not be crushed by their traditions, says Gürs.

The philosophy behind the new Anatolian kitchen dares you to look at products, habits and techniques from a new perspective — in fact, Gürs believes that every tradition should be up for discussion.

In Helsinki, he’s blending the fire and passion of the Anatolian kitchen with the calm honesty of Nordic cuisine, using locally-sourced Finnish products, too.

Mehmet Gürs. Photo: Design Hotels.

When it comes to ingredients, think small

And this doesn’t just benefit Helsinki diners and foodies. "No Farmer, No Food, No Future" are words to live by when it comes to Anatolian cuisine.

The survival of farmers and producers who work honestly and ethically to respect the environment — especially small farmers — is essential to the survival of the kitchen. That’s not just good for our palate, it’s good for the planet as well.

According to Gürs, when we lose touch with traditional production methods and ingredients, we lose touch with our identity.

This is why sourcing fresh, local products from ethical producers on a seasonal basis is vital to the new Anatolian kitchen and why, so far, he’s collected an incredible 5000 ingredients from villages all over the region.

While this alone is an impressive achievement, just imagine what happens when Gürs works his magic to combine his selection. Happily, it’s easy turn your imagination into reality at Restaurant Andrea

Visit Restaurant Andrea's website

Enjoy Anatolian flavours at Restaurant Andrea

Restaurant Andrea is located in Helsinki city centre and is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, and during the weekends for dinner. Book a table at Andrea and enjoy the fusion of Nordic and Anatolian kitchens.

Book a table

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