All the roads lead to Rome, as commonly known. So why is this Roman wearing an apron at a church in Helsinki? And how about the spanish guy next to him? Daniele Pelati (on the right) and Manuel Alvarez (that leaves him to the left) are planning their own catering business while cooking charity food and working at Helsinki’s restaurants.

One was drawn to Helsinki with a university scholarship, the other one by a woman. Anyhow, first it was Manuel who had the idea of doing something of his own, but needed somebody to do it with. He needed another cook, ended up with a sommelier. When it comes to Daniele, wine beats food. That’s his number one. Though he finds the traditional food and wine pairing a bit boring:
“The match made in heaven doesn’t have to be the most apparent one, it can be perfect in a weird way too.”
Like the classic dessert of his former working place, Ateljé Finne, liquorice crème brûlée and the Italian white dessert wine, Le Colombare Recioto di Soave.

Working at Finne is also how these two met each other several years ago and they both agree that during these years they’ve witnessed a huge development in Helsinki’s food culture.
“Little by little, people with new ideas are popping up and there’s loads of possibilities between a kebab and fine dining nowadays” says Manu.
Daniele, who’s been in Helsinki double the time, since 2001, says he’s been privileged to have been there for the beginning of the small, privately owned restaurant era. Places like Demo and Kuurna, with their chefs and owners who really have let their personality show: Brave trailblazers.

But I’d call these guys brave too. They’re doing a charity project they call Feed the others. Since last September they’ve been in charge of the weekly Tuesday lunch at Alppila church. Customers pay 2 € for the lunch and in addition to that the church pays a small amount to get the ingredient expenses covered.

Dani & Manu want to offer a handmade, good quality, tasty meal, plus a nice experience for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to eat at a restaurant. They also try to serve something the Tuesday regulars aren’t so used to. Beef Wellington the clientele however found too posh, but the salmon lasagne they served gave the two cooks their most valuable compliment: The neighbourhood woman started to cry, simply because she was so happy about the meal.

Tuesday lunch has grown the numbers lately and the parish’s vicar suggested Dani & Manu, they’d start doing a Saturday brunch too. Since the beginning of the year that has filled their schedules as well. But they’ve inspired others too: The sommelier of a recently Michelin awarded restaurant has been on many Saturdays at the brunch, showing the church volunteers and trainees the way how to cope with carrying plates and taking orders. And a rumour says that once the season starts, one Finnish wild herb chief might be featuring the brunch kitchen staff.

Now these southern europeans are starting their small catering business and perhaps someday they’ll have a restaurant of their own. Or a wine bar.


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