How would you like a green salad made from vegetables grown in the restaurant, roach croquettes, crickets fed on salad leftovers or air-grown potatoes? Restaurant Ultima, opening in Helsinki in May, will offer an unprecedented view of the future of sustainable food. Top chefs Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen are attempting to break new ground by testing how to apply the principles of the circular economy to the restaurant trade. Sitra is supporting this unique restaurant trial.
“Ultima is a vision of what food production and consumption could be like in the future, following the spirit of the circular economy,” says Sitra’s circular economy specialist Merja Rehn. “Food will be sustainably produced where it is eaten. This is how many problems relating to climate change will be solved.”
Ultima will function as a stage for experimentation on a sustainable food system for restaurants, in which the environmental effects of food production, distribution and consumption are as small as possible. The goal of the experiment is to create a restaurant concept based on the circular economy that can be extended to other Finnish and international restaurants.
For example, the restaurant will try to take advantage of side streams, such as leftovers from the plants growing in the restaurant. At the same time, unnecessary logistics, packaging materials and consumption of water and energy will be minimised, and food leftovers kept to a minimum. The plan is also to test new ways of growing ingredients around the clock in a closed space indoors.
“In Finland, we have excellent conditions for such an experiment thanks to the top-notch expertise in food and environmental technology. Our nation of engineers shines in this area,” Alén says. He also believes that Finns have an unusually open-minded and exploratory attitude towards food.
Some of the participants in the experiment feature in Sitra’s list of The most interesting companies in circular economy: Entocube offers insect production systems; Helsieni cultivates mushrooms using coffee grounds; Robbes Lilla Trädgård produce smart greenhouses; and TouchPoint turn textile and plastic waste into work clothes.
Sustainable food is grown in front of the customers’ eyes
At Ultima, not only does the future arrive on your plate, but you can already experience it when stepping through the door. Customers can literally see their next meal growing around them.
Salads, herbs and other green plants grow in a vertical growth system built inside the restaurant, in which plants can take their nutrients directly from water instead of soil. The restaurant will also grow mushrooms in glass balls and aeroponic potatoes, that is, potatoes grown in the air in specifically built columns.
“We want to create a memorable, dreamlike environment, which entices you to experiment and luxuriate in a new way,” says Kivi Sotamaa from Ateljé Sotamaa, the firm taking care of the restaurant’s design.
According to Alén and Tuominen, their restaurant Finnjävel, focusing on Finnish food tradition, has given them a good base for setting up a new, more sustainable restaurant.
“Finnjävel was steadfastly Finnish, but modern food absorbs influences from everywhere. We are still a strongly Finnish restaurant, as 90 per cent of our ingredients come from Finland and all ingredients can be traced. What is certain about the dishes is that satisfaction will not be compromised,” Tuominen promises.
Finnjävel was a project that the restaurateurs designed to last for just two years. Finnjävel closed its doors on 7 April, to make room for Ultima, which will open in the same premises in Eteläranta on 15 May.