Chef Dion Vengatass of SA and Chef Kalle Tanner of Finland held a cook-off, making traditional dishes from the other’s country.
Chef Dion Vengatass of SA and Chef Kalle Tanner of Finland held a cook-off, making traditional dishes from the other’s country.

It’s yebo for SA as Finland falls in traditional cook-off

Time of article published Nov 27, 2020

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Val Boje

It’s close to 10 000km as the crow flies from Pretoria to Helsinki, Finland, but the two cities were brought together in a culinary cook-off between chefs representing each country.

South Africa was represented by private chef Dion Vengatass, while Kalle Tanner, the winner of the Finnish Chef of the year 2018, represented his country.

Tanner and his partner, sommelier Noora Sipilä, had been due to come to South Africa for the competition but the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions meant a virtual event instead.

The two chefs exchanged traditional recipes for the challenge. Chef Dion set Chef Kalle the challenge of curried tripe and trotters with marogo and pap “cooked with your grandmother’s love”.

The return challenge was an intricate and delicate smoked and pickled vegetarian dish.

A video of the competition was shown to guests at a small reception at the ambassador’s residence in Pretoria this week, with much amusement as the chefs went on the hunt for the unusual ingredients in one another’s traditional dishes.

While there are replacements for morogo, Chef Kalle explained the difficulty he had in finding offal for sale in Norway, while Chef Dion admitted to trouble finding celeriac in Pretoria for his Pot au Feu.

Sipilä went about finding wine to complement the dishes, opting for a Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz for the spicy tripe and a Boekenhoutskloof Semillon to match the earthy forest food.

Guests at the reception who were watching the video were amused by Chef Kalle’s attempt at pap. It came out “pap” instead of stiff. This turned out to be his downfall, losing him the competition to Chef Dion.

The event was part of the theme year of Finnish Food at the Embassy of Finland, and was judged by Carmen J Smidt, South Africa’s head of mission in Helsinki, and Finland’s newly-arrived ambassador in Pretoria, Anne Lammila.

Smidt applauded Chef Kalle’s meal. giving him good marks for the smell, taste and representation of South Africa but advising him that pap should be thick enough to eat by hand.

Chef Dion fared better with Lammila’s judging as she scored him full marks for his dish’s representation of Finland, leaving him with 21/25 to Chef Kalle’s 19/25 overall.

The event, held in collaboration with the South African Chefs Association, was part of the celebration of the theme year “Yebo Finland”, a celebration of Finnish Food at the Embassy of Finland.

Local chef Leanne Roberts served guests at the reception with mini-versions of the two chef’s dishes as well as other delicacies such as egg and caviar on rye, seared king scallop in parma ham, hot smoked salmon fillet with quinoa and lemon sabayon, finishing off with blueberry cheesecake and chocolate marquise with berry sorbet.

To view the video go to the Facebook page FinnishEmbassyPretoria or


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