This April I visited the gluten-free café in Hartola (Finland) called «La Kar de Mumma». The café belongs to the company «Vuohelan Herkku», which is one of the most beloved gluten-free brands in Finland now. The owner of the company Pirkko Hamalainen was diagnosed with celiac disease. She decided to focus on the best raw materials, delicious recipes and the traditional baker’s craft. In production of «Vuohelan Herkku» factory are used only gluten-free grains (buckwheat and rice) and certified gluten-free oats. All products (bread, filling and sweet pastries, deep-frozen products and flours) of the company contain no wheat starch, and bakery produces no products with gluten in them. I had the luck to interview the manager of the café «La Kar de Mumma» Jenni Nuitanen.
– Jenni, what is the translation of the name of the café «La Kar de Mumma»?
– I haven’t been in the company from the very begging. But I’ve heart that the owners have had a discussion about what it should have been. This is not the restaurant in the middle of the town, this is kind of stop and go place by the road (the café is situated near the automatic filling station), but they wanted it to be top-class and they were playing a lot with the names. The owners know everything about buns and rolls, so they have chosen the name of spice «kardemumma», which is in translation cardamom and is used very often in sweet pastry. And the beginning of the name «La» makes it fancy and look like French name.
– I’ve seen that you have not only gluten-free food in the café. Could you, please, explain me, how do you separate gluten-free and non-gluten-free dishes?
– We have here a «normal» bakery, which doesn’t produce gluten-free products. It is located in the same building, but is separated from our kitchen. And we have «Vuohelan Herkku» factory, which is about 1 km far from here and it produces only gluten-free products. The kitchen of the café is 100% gluten-free, where we also make some cakes. So we don’t use any products, which may contain gluten in our kitchen. All non-gluten-free products are carefully packed and distributed right in the hall of our café. So it’s absolutely safe for our celiac clients. Anyway we recommend to watch marking food with «G» («gluteeniton» – gluten-free from Finish language), when they take it from the hall or ask the staff of the café (there is always somebody, who can speak fluent in English language) to help them chose the dish. And we also, of course, have diary-free and egg-free products for our clients, who are on the same diet as you, Yulia. Although, we have very few such dishes.
– I know that there are a lot of people in Finland, who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and you also have very good diagnostic base of these illness. But, as I have found out, your café is the sole, who serve mostly gluten-free dishes, in your country. What do you think is the reason that others hesitate to open such kind of restaurants, for instance, in capital – Helsinki?
– I know that there are some bakeries in Helsinki and other cities, which are gluten-free. There is also a company, which has a café with completely gluten-free range of products in Tampere. But these bakeries and cafes are rather small. Last summer we tried to make almost all gluten free food in our café, but people, who are not on the diet, didn’t eat gluten-free pastry at all, cause such products don’t taste good for them. So we have decided to make some kind of balance between «normal» and gluten-free food. We would like to make all food gluten free, but because of the business, we can’t afford to do that at the moment.
– There are more and more each day people in Russia, who start to follow gluten-free diet, although they don’t have the contra-indication to take gluten. Is gluten-free diet modern among Finns, who want to lose weight, for example?
– Yes, different diets like paleo are very popular in Finland too now. There are a lot of cafes that can offer different gluten and diary free dishes, but such places are not safe for people, who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance. As for us, we are very strict about what we use and where we use. For example, our bakers are not allowed to come in the kitchen in the aprons with the flour on it and so on.
– What are the opportunities to get professional culinary education of gluten-free cuisine in Finland?
– There are no opportunities at all to get culinary education of gluten-free baking, for instance, in Finland. Our staff from «Vuohelan Herkku» factory has got gluten-free education in Lahti, but it was organized special for our company. There are some specializations in culinary education, which include different diets, but they are not gluten-free.
– Is catering service (when you organize food delivery out of the café for hospitals, children’s celebration, etc.) popular in Finland? Do you offer this service? In case you don’t, do you have it in your project?
– We have the catering market, but I think it is not very big, because of the staff in Finland that costs a lot of money. When you have big parties like birthdays or weddings, you can buy food outside. We have just started the website, from which people can order food from here, pick it up and eat it at home. But mostly it is like still people do everything themselves. If you make a wedding catering for 30 persons, the cost of the food will be about 6 euros for person. But if you want to have chefs and waiters over there, the cost of the labor will be too much expensive.