A Finnish Food Fest Where Anyone Can Be A Chef

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The brainchild of three young, slightly rebellious Finns, Restaurant Day is a massive culinary celebration that had never been tried before. What founders Timo Santala, Kirsti Tuominen, Antti Tuomola and Jyrki Vanamo started as a gleeful ploy to see what crazy ideas folks could cook up has grown into an international phenomenon. On May 18, pop-up restaurants will be found all over Europe and specifically in Helsinki and other Finnish cities — in people’s homes, apartments, courtyards, parks and office buildings. You name it, there’s a decent chance someone will be baking or steaming something from it. (All you have to do to establish your “restaurant” is register on the group’s Facebook page.) The first one was held in May of 2011, and it showcased 50 participants. The one-day event has since spread like hotcakes, now covering 42 countries with 3,600 eateries, and 12,000 restaurateurs catering to an estimated 180,000 customers.

Embracing the creativity of the DIY event, the pop-ups run the gamut of cuisine options. The Dog on the Tuckerbox offers liver, chicken and raw treats to dogs and Anzac biscuits (or cookies, for those of us stateside) for their owners. Sweethearts Gone Salty has pulled pork, apple and Brie burgers among other quirky bites for lunch. Gentle Man Restaurant serves Korean dishes. Other makeshift eateries will have cupcakes, pancakes, soups, noodles, samosas and even finger food for babies from six to 18 months old. Having trouble locating any of the wide-ranging spots? Just look up — a basket could be lowered from an upstairs window exchanging your payment for the chosen cuisine. Or who knows? Mexican, Colombian, Thai or Indian might be riding past you on the back of a bike.

If you can’t make it out for Saturday’s Restaurant Day, two others — August 18 and November 16 — have already been announced. But if you’re hungry for more information on this coming edition, go to event’s site to check out restaurant listings and see maps of your tasty targets.

Photos courtesy of Restaurant Day Timo Santala, Tuomas Sarparanta, Roy Bäckström, Anssi Kumpula

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