Sasu Laukkonen: Why I closed Chef & Sommelier

Sasu Laukkonen, the Finish chef who gained a worldwide reputation between the foodlovers for his clean and no waste cooking, brought his restaurant Chef & Sommelier to life 7 years ago. This summer he closed it to start a new adventure in  the same location but with a new name, new concept and new stories.

Sasu tells the story of his restaurant: “Chef & Sommelier opened its doors on the 15th of August 2010. I wanted to bring to Helsinki a dining experience that was focused on offering dishes made of ingredients that  are clean: as pure and as natural as possible. I wanted to serve really good organic or wild food in a relaxed way making out of it a fun experience.”

Sasu. Photo: courtesy of Sasu Laukkonen

Why did you name it Chef & sommelier?

“It sounded like the most natural way to describe who we were and what we did. One chef, one sommelier and the team.”

How did it turn out comparing to your initial plan?

“Well, we actually thought we were about to open an easy going neighborhood restaurant, but the awards and the lists kind of changed the way Chef & Sommelier was looked at. For us we always concentrated on the most vital things, the cooking and the serving.”

What was best and what was worse about it?

“The best thing was that Chef & Sommelier became much more than I ever expected! The worse? Hmm…  I guess we became a bit too experimental for some guests or maybe they expected more fireworks. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain but let’s just say that doing what we did, made us a bit special as a restaurant.”

Photo: courtesy of Sasu Laukkonen

From the beginning of Chef & Sommelier till the end – so within those 7 years – how did your cooking evolve and how did your vision of hospitality in general change?

“I guess my guests are the best people to answer the cooking part, but I think we got a lot of compliments for maximizing the taste of the ingredients we worked with. Our cooking improved a lot. Also hospitality – we started off very friendly and humble, and we ended up the same way but just with much much more confidence. Really – for me it was like if people were coming to my house for dinner.”

What did you learn through these years?

“Oh so much.  First of all to trust my own vision and taste instead of trying to look at what others are doing. Also to believe in what I was doing. But I also learnt a lot regarding the possible improvements now when I am having a chance to start a new chapter practically from scratch.”

Cabbage. Photo: courtesy of Sasu Laukkonen

Why did you decide to close it and what is your plan now?

“Most of all I think that there’s a time and place for everything, so almost 7 years of Chef & Sommelier was enough. An amazing run, really. A restaurant in Helsinki full every night for that long, that’s quite rare. So humble and happy I am. But now – same space, new restaurant, new name, new vibe and better focus on modern local cuisine.”

Looking back: Which dish from Chef & Sommelier is for you the most representative?

“Definitely our dish with carrots and Finnish cheese!
The fact that a humble carrot – grilled, fermented and raw in two varieties  – can be so versatile. Sunflower seeds, tagetes-marigold and butter to accompany.  Amazing.”
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Carrot. Photo: courtesy of Sasu Laukkonen
Do you have any special anecdote from the time of Chef & Sommelier to share?
“Haha! We always feared that when we returned from our summer break, we wouldn’t have bookings. Really.  But at the end we were fully booked almost 7 years straight.”
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To be continued with Sasu talking about his new restaurant.
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Interior of Chef & Sommelier. Photo: courtesy of Sasu Laukkonen

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