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Hello, Suomi! Working in Finland: Australian chef Jarrad Dowd loves mämmi

Jarrad Dowd worked in Australia in his father’s business selling furniture. He met his partner who grew up in Australia, but whose mother is Finnish. After a while, they decided to see the world travelling first to Finland in 2006 and stayed put. Jarrad couldn’t work in sales because he didn’t speak Finnish. He was always interested in cooking, and since he couldn’t find affordable restaurants making the food that he liked, he started to make it himself. He wanted to learn more and did a six-month course to become an institutional cook. He got a job straight after finishing the course making salads and washing dishes for about a year. When one of the cooks left, Jarrad was moved up in the ladder. Over the years he worked at a few other restaurants before starting at Green Factory restaurant as a head chef.

The biggest challenge?

Seasonality. Some ingredients and products are available only at certain times of the year in Finland. It was challenging at first to deal with the fact that during the wintertime I can’t get good fresh asparagus and the price of tomatoes is expensive in winter and cheap in summer. I also wonder why you can get local products like mämmi only during Easter, and laskiaispulla during a short period of time. Laskiaispulla is just a sweet bun with cream, but they aren’t sold all year around, why?

The best thing at work?

The management at Factory have given me a great opportunity, I’m just learning as I go, but they are supportive and encouraging. It is also great that my partner works in the same kitchen with me. We enjoy working together.

Your favourite Australian ingredient?

The fresh seafood. All the different fish and prawns you can get and buy fresh. Bugs, which are like prawns, but they are halfway between a prawn and a crab. I also miss having kangaroo every now and then.

I bring to the work community…

Very bad jokes. I try to bring some humor and keep everyone’s spirits high. I also bring a different viewpoint on foods and flavours.

The best feedback you’ve received?

I’ve made sauces for people to have with their food, and one man came up to ask if he can buy some to take home. My chili sauce is my signature and we always have it at the buffet. One time an Irishwoman came to say, “that was the best desert I’ve ever had in Finland”.

The strangest Finnish food or ingredient?

Salmiakki in everything. Not just eating it on its own but when it’s in ice cream or pizza. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of mämmi because it tastes like solid stout beer.

Mämmi is a traditional Finnish Easter dessert made from rye, often served with cream and/or sugar. CREDIT Istock

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Jarrad Dowd

  • Occupation Head Chef
  • Workplace Green Factory Vallila, Helsinki
  • Born in Australia

  • Tilaa Lehti

    Inspiraatiota ja hyötyä ruuan ja juoman ammattilaisille.

    Tilaa Aromi