Chef Eero Vottonen was recently announced the Worldchefs Global Chef Challenge 2016 winner. The former Finnish Chef of the Year has worked in some of the best restaurant’s in Finland, such as Olo in Helsinki. He is currently preparing for the upcoming Bocuse d’Or Finale in Lyon, France in January 2017 where he will represent Finland. Here, Chef Eero Vottonen talks about his Finnish Heritage, the Global Chefs Challenge win and Bocuse d’Or Finale.
How has your Finnish heritage/culture influenced your culinary style? (produce, terrain, traditions etc.)
We have a fairly new food culture in Finland since we are still quite a new nation (2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of Finland), but we have a long history of traditional methods of preparing food. We smoke, salt and cure as well as cook on open fires. We also have some of the best produce in the world, such as mushrooms, berries and game. My style of cooking reflects all of these things.
You have been actively competing throughout 2016. Did this help prepare you for your Global Chefs Challenge Win?
Of course! When you’re constantly competing it’s always helpful. Competing in the food realm is very intense and precise, and like anything – practice makes perfect!
What dish did you create for the Global Chefs Challenge?
I used the same ingredients as I had in the Northern Europe qualification, but tried to focus more on the flavor, technique and overall refinement of the dishes. We tried to make the best of all produce given to us, while still maintaining our style.
You are a candidate for the Bocuse d’Or Finals in Lyon, France in January 2017. How are you preparing for the competition?
The preparation for the Bocuse d’Or finale is a full time job and we spend six days a week in the kitchen trying to perfect all the details. It is the biggest challenge a Chef can face while competing because we really want to win!
You were a coach for the Finnish team last year and now you’ll be attending as a candidate. What are some of challenges and differences to both roles?
I think the biggest challenge as a coach is the fact that you have to support the candidate always, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their thought process. It is a unique change to see the competition from a very close view and it also helps to understand what is possible and what is not. As the candidate now, I think the biggest problem is listening to the coach even when he has a good point – I’m really headstrong.
We saw from your Instagram feed that you play hockey. Are there any other hobbies you enjoy during your free time?
We have two small children at home, so I really don’t have trouble spending my free time!
What is an experience you’ve had that has inspired your cooking?
I think the biggest thing that has influenced my cooking is all the Chefs that I have had the pleasure of working with. You always learn something from others and that is what makes this profession great!