Local food is a way of life
Jenny and Jussi Kurkela, the owners of Ostoferia, make everything from scratch in the restaurant kitchen. If there is something they don’t know how to do, they will learn. The atmosphere in the recently opened Winebar Kurkela in Pikisaari’s Vanha Villatehdas is warm and inviting. The Kurkelas came across the space by accident, and they could not resist the location in Pikisaari, surrounded by culture and the beautiful maritime landscape.
“We’re aware of the richness of local ingredients. We’re literally surrounded by water and wild nature, and Lapland is right there on our doorstep. We prepare everything from scratch, even spices and soy sauce.
The Kurkelas admit that such a devoted approach to their art of cooking is a challenge in terms of supply and margins, but worth the trouble. They strongly feel that being able to serve food, knowing that that every morsel on each plate comes from a known location nearby, is worth the extra work.
“The volumes are so small that we really have to be careful how we use the ingredients. We’re already planning menus until the end of this year and thinking what we can do with the ingredients we have or that are still waiting to be grown.
Global take on Oulu cuisine
The Ostoferia menu does not feature local home cooking as such, but the same flavours and ingredients are served with a modern twist. Many of the customers come to the restaurant to enjoy the carefully crafted menu made with high-quality ingredients.
“Some have said it’s like eating their grandmother’s food. Though we’re not serving modernised versions of traditional home cooking, we do use locally produced, pure ingredients. Our dishes reflect our vision of good cooking.
Ostoferia also supports local breweries. Some of the wines are European “old world” wines, but we also serve Finnish berry wines.
“We make our non-alcoholic beverages ourselves here at the restaurant and combine them with the menu. There has to be a lot of choice, just like with food.”
Avid foragers, the Kurkelas pick their own mushrooms. There is no food wasted because all the ingredients sourced are also used.
“We come up with new ideas every year and think of new ways of using up ingredients. We just figured out a great way of using mushrooms in a stock.”
The Kurkelas have attracted plenty of attention among customers and colleagues with their approach. It is probably the only restaurant in Finland with such absolute dedication to locally produced food. The couple points out that a restaurant that favours locally produced food is not the same as a restaurant that serves nothing but locally produced food. In this restaurant, the development and innovation work behind the scenes never stops. Expanding the business is a challenge precisely because of the uncertainty of supply and sourcing. In fact, the couple are calling for new local producers in the area. For locally produced food to become the norm, there should be many times more producers than there currently are.
“Some don’t even think of mentioning a product they grow in tiny amounts. It might then come up accidentally in some other conversation that they have exactly what we want and have been hunting high and low for a long time. It’s important that the quality of the ingredients remains consistent. For example, we refuse to use farmed fish, and happily we have a supplier who can provide us with the type of fish we want.
Earlier, the couple spent a lot of time finding and foraging for ingredients, but having now found trusted partners, they can concentrate on the art of cuisine itself. Jussi Kurkela says that they are not the only ones interested in a similar restaurant philosophy and he hopes that it will be easier in the future for other similar restaurants to open.
“A proper network of local food restaurants and producers would make everyone’s lives easier.”
Proud of local offering
The Kurkelas feel that the local customers appreciate their efforts. The menu is deliberately adventurous and they are determined to continue in the same style in the future. The couple are visibly proud of their work and ingredients. They are excited about the Oulu2026 project and hope that it will bring a lot more tourists to Oulu.
“We should all be proud of what Oulu has to offer.
The Arctic Food Lab is part of the Oulu 2026 Capital of Culture programme. The Artic Food Lab is a brand promoting local products and ingredients. The trademark can be applied for products and ingredients from Oulu and the Oulu2026 region.One of the goals for the Artic Food Lab label is to help international visitors and guests to recognise and learn about locally produced food and the local food culture.
Tutustu: Arctic Food Lab – Oulu2026