The chef's ABC "I stay young at heart when I listen to the stories in the kitchen"

When Mikko Kautto started as a chef at Hotel Torni in Tampere two years ago, the ingredients for preparing a meal would sometimes disappear during cooking. Now he has been selected as the best chef within the S Group and is working as the boss of a team of more than 30 people. But what are the things that count in Kautto's work?

D is for Dedication 

Working in a restaurant is a hectic activity that nobody does for the money – they do it out of passion. When Solo Sokos Hotel Torni opened in Tampere two years ago, we took a conscious decision to recruit young people to work in the kitchen. For many, this has been their first job that corresponds to their training and a good practical school. It is great that we still have more or less the same team as in the beginning, even though people working in this business often switch jobs, and the changing life situations of young people could easily make them go away. It is a joy to work with people who are committed to their job.

C is for Cuisine I started my career in the Näsinneula restaurant when I was 18 years old. That was where I really learned to make food. Now, as a chef at a big hotel, I mostly lead the team instead of cooking myself. However, my passion for cooking is still alive, and that is why I regularly try to find time for working with pots and kettles myself during busy working weeks.

S is for Staff Torni houses a restaurant, two bars, a terrace and large conference facilities. There are plenty of customers, and on weekend mornings we can serve up to 900 breakfasts. A good team is an absolute necessity for working on such a scale. Fortunately, we have succeeded in recruiting the right people, and I am now leading a team of around 30 skilled and motivated young cooks. It is fun to work with a group of like-minded people – and when I listen to the stories of those juniors, I feel young at heart myself.

P is for Planning and Organising When Hotel Torni was opened, in the beginning things did not always go to plan. At one time, we were making food for a group of 300 people attending a meeting, in the open kitchen right under their eyes, when the cook came to me gesticulating with his hands and telling me that the ingredients intended for the meal had been used for some other people's lunch upstairs – and there I was, completely stuck with the situation, with nothing I could do about it! From this incident, I learned that good organisation is the most important thing. When I worked in smaller restaurants, I could prepare many things myself, but in a big restaurant like Torni, I have to be bold enough to delegate responsibility to young people and trust them.

F is for Fitness Working as a chef can sometimes be hard with very long workdays.  For this reason, I try to take it easy during my freetime. One of the best ways of getting away from stress is to do sports. The kitchen at Torni opens at 5 am and closes at one or two in the morning, and I feel mentally responsible for what is happening there for most of the hours between – night and day. I forget my duties when I enjoy doing sports – and the energy I get from doing it gives me strength for my busy work.

INFORMATION:

Who is he? Mikko Kautto, 34, chef at Solo Sokos Hotel Torni in Tampere.

What does he do? He is responsible for all the activities at Solo Sokos Hotel Torni, including breakfast service.   The three restaurants at the hotel are the à la carte restaurant Grill it!, the Moro Sky Bar with a great view, and Paja Bar with an open terrace. The hotel also has broad conference and meeting services on the offer.

What is he known for? In the spring of 2015, Mikko Kautto was awarded the S-Chef prize. This annual prize is given to the best chef of the S Group restaurant chain. The award criteria include the financial result of the restaurant, customer satisfaction and satisfaction among personnel, as well as the leadership and professional skills of the chef.

What food does he recommend? "The absolutely most popular order in Grill it! at the hotel is the Premium menu, which consists of traditional Finnish flavours: salmon from the islands, pepper steak and chocolate cake. All the meat and fish dishes at Grill it! are baked in a charcoal-heated oven – they sure are worth tasting!"