"Walk the Walk"

March 8, 2022

Last time I wrote that the 18 months prior were the most interesting months of my life. Little did I know that the six months right after were about to have a great effect on my life.

Fight against the global pandemic has continued and it has had different forms in different countries. In Finland the restrictions set for the restaurant industry were removed only a week ago, on Monday 1st of March.

During the past months, I found myself often saying that we should all walk the walk more often than talk the talk.

During the past six months I can confirm we did walk the walk;

  1. We re-opened restaurant Inari on Friday 1st of October.
  2. I shared our team’s thoughts and values on the most important Live TV -interview show in Finland on Saturday 2nd of October.
  3. We held our first art exhibit abroad in Stockholm on Friday 9th of October.
  4. We opened an art exhibit by JP Metsävainio in Helsinki on Saturday 16th of October.
  5. We launched the Koti By Kim Mikkola comfort food concept in one of the largest grocery stores in Helsinki on Tuesday 7th of December.
  6. We opened our second KotKot location in Kallio, Helsinki on Monday 10th of January.
  7. We announced that we are going to take over the entire Helsinki Football stadium food and beverage services on Monday 31st of January.
  8. We dropped the price of kot.Burger from 5.00 to 4.75 on 1st of February, as promised on Live TV back in October.
  9. We organised a fundraising dinner to support UNICEF in their valuable work for Children in Ukraine on Sunday 6th of March.
  10. We managed to fight not one - not two - but three consequent water damages at restaurant Inari.

Walking the walk continues.

1st of October

After a long continued chain of restrictions in Helsinki, Finland for restaurants we were allowed to re-open our restaurant on the 1st of October.

During the restrictions we focused on renovating and upgrading the restaurant a lot. We renewed the toilets, re-did the entire wooden floor, painted all the walls and the ceiling, taped our windows to increase privacy in the dining room. In addition, we installed completely newly designed Italian design lights for each of the tables and our decoration consultant built a magnificent floral piece on the walls and ceiling.

After a long renovation project, our intimate dining room of seven tables was ready to welcome guests again.

We did not change the concept, but decided to upgrade the offering and unify the experience for all our guests.

From 1st of October onwards we started to serve one seasonal tasting menu of 15 courses, available from Wednesday to Saturday starting 1900 and 1930. In addition we decided to open lunch service on Fridays and Saturdays starting 1200. The menu is the same in all servings.

We managed to get great additions to our team for the re-opening, with the following additions, while Kim Mikkola continues to lead the extended team as the Executive Chef.

Kim Päivästö, former Head Chef at Michelin star restaurant Demo, Helsinki, joined us as the Head Chef at restaurant Inari.

Katja Heiskanen, former Restaurant Manager at Michelin star restaurant Olo, Helsinki, joined us as the Restaurant Manager and Head of Service at restaurant Inari.

Karoliina Jaakkola, former Pastry Chef at Michelin star restaurant Demo, joined us as the Pastry Chef at restaurant Inari.

Lucas Ophorst, who had been working for us already since 2020 and visited family in the Netherlands during the Covid19, returned as Sous Chef at restaurant Inari.

I want to thank every guest for the overwhelming positive feedback for the new dining room, interior and the most warm welcome of our new extended team.

Although the restaurant restrictions in Helsinki did not allow us to run the restaurant in full capacity and opening hours, we achieved a great last quarter of 2021.

2nd of October

Saturday was a regular weekend morning like any other, except it wasn't.

YLE Ykkösaamu, the most appreciated one hour live TV interview in Finland was about to air 10 AM. The show where guests are most typically the president of Finland, the prime minister or the commander of the army. Imagine 60 minutes in the States.

This morning, it was not any of them regulars, but instead yours truly had been invited to join. I was asked to share stories from my career and asked to give views on the restaurant industry challenges during the pandemic, low wages and increasing food price.

From the very beginning of KotKot, we have manifested on the three main principles;

  1. Best product
  2. Lowest price
  3. Fair pay for all

We believe everyone is entitled to fair pay and the chance for success. That is why we have chosen to pay the same base salary for all our employees regardless of their education or background. We believe that with great committed people come great results, which turns into great products.

With us everyone earns a minimum 15€/hour + extras, from day one. This is a salary level, which is over 50% higher than the highest hourly salary negotiated between the unions in Finland for someone with 10 years of experience in the industry.

Following this principle, we have created nearly 50 new jobs in this industry during the pandemic.

When the legendary host Seija Vaaherkumpu asked about the future of KotKot, I replied on live TV;

“If our guests will reward our employees’ hard work by buying enough kot.Burgers, we promise to lower our prices in return”.

Little did I know, that day would come sooner than I ever expected.

9th of October

Since the end of 2020, we have been running our contemporary art gallery in Helsinki. The original mission was to give our friends in the art world an opportunity to exhibit their work in a safe setup, during the Covid19 pandemic.

Almost a year after our first show in Helsinki, we got the opportunity to showcase our dear friend, Eugenio Merino, at a pop-up gallery space in Södermalm, Stockholm.

Eugenio is a Spanish artist, who deals with themes like politics, religion and society in his sculptures, paintings and installations. He lives in Madrid, Spain and is a regular artist in various galleries and museums globally.

16th of October

Our last exhibit in 2021 was an exclusive showcase of JP Metsävainio in Helsinki.

J-P is a Finnish visual artist and astrophotographer. Revealing the hidden beauty of our universe is his true passion. Indomitable curiosity and blissful awe for the infinite majesty of the universe propels him.

When art meets science, the results can be beautiful. It can become something more than either of them on their own can ever be. His works are not only aesthetically beautiful, they are true.

Each piece is made by just one man from a tiny town at the edge of the world, using equipment that is simple and cheap compared to the billion-dollar astronomical instruments that exist around the world and even in space.

7th of December

Koti By Kim Mikkola started during the deepest Covid19 times as a popup and expanded rapidly to food delivery platforms Wolt and Foodora. In the beginning of December the Koti By Kim Mikkola comfort food concept expanded to one of the largest grocery stores in Helsinki. For the first time, the delicious dishes became available for anyone to purchase while doing other grocery shopping.

We managed to continue with our already golden standard price point and offer the food for the impeccable price point of 5€/portion.

The positive feedback from our fans and new clients made it clear - there is a growing demand for delicious food, prepared by real chefs, produced locally in Helsinki - for a great price point.

10th of January

After the huge success and most warm welcome from our fans since summer 2020 we brought our product available through the food delivery platforms Wolt and Foodora in Helsinki.

We established ourselves last autumn in Töölö, Helsinki, when we opened our first KotKot restaurant at Mannerheimintie 47.

The demand surprised us all and we had to start looking for a second place soon after.

Year 1995 Helsinki organized an architecture competition to renew the old grill kiosks in the city. A.Men Architects won the competition with a design with two steel cubes overlapping each other.

Year 2006 the #1 Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat chose the legendary Harrin Nakki as the best grill kiosk in town. Not a surprise given the president herself had visited the place right after her election.

This January we had the rare opportunity to give a new life to this legendary spot in town and after 26 years of waiting Kallio district in Helsinki was given the opportunity to enjoy kot.Burger in Karhupuisto.

People found the spot fast and ever since we have had continuous queues from dusk till dawn, like Helsingin Sanomat described it in their recent article.

31st of January

I have been a huge sports fan since my early childhood. Regardless that basketball ended up being my sport of choice, football has always been very close to my heart.

When we received the invitation to discuss whether we would be interested to take over the Helsinki Football stadium and redesign its entire food and beverage experiences, my long term dream of being able to be closer to sports started to come true.

From the first visit it was clear that the project would be immense. Larger than any of us had ever experienced before. Surely we all had built restaurants or designed excellent success stories around experience business, but this was something completely different.

The stadium can host around 11.000 guests. This means that the entire infrastructure from the kitchen capacity to kiosks surrounding the stand all the way to toilets are designed to meet the insane volumes the guests require.

Imagine this; if 20% of the guests would all drink during a “hot” football match three beverages of their choice, it would require nearly 7.000 portions of beer or soda to be served. On another note, if the same amount of people would choose to eat an average portion of kot.Wings (10), it would require 22.000 chicken wings to get fried. On a warm sunny evening on a Saturday night, this would need to happen during the 20 min break.

Needless to say, the challenge is extremely interesting and requires a great deal of experts from different areas to get executed properly.

The concepts are still under work and will be revealed later this March. One thing is for sure already though, we will have a blast. Stay tuned!

1st of February

In October I had promised that if our fans reward our people with their growing appetite towards the kot.Burgers, we will drop the prices in return. We feel that everyday luxury, such as our delicious fried chicken sandwich, should be served at a price point that everyone can afford.

I had not expected this day to come so fast after my promise made on live TV, but once a promise is made, it needs to be kept.

Therefore the kot.Burger got a new lower price point, when we decreased it from 5,00€ to 4,75€. We are committed to continue this trend assuming the demand continues to increase - so far it looks like that day might come faster than expected. Again.

6th of March

On the 24th of February Ukraine’s sovereignty was attacked by a foreign force when Russia started a war against their neighboring country.

The day after we brought our team together to assess the situation. It had become clear that the war was real and that it will have an immediate effect on innocent civilians.

The very same day we managed to call through the first colleagues that came to mind who would be willing to join the forces and organize a charity dinner to help the ones in most desperate need of help.

With the insanely fast reply from our great sponsors, we managed to set a date. On the 6th of March we would organize a charity dinner where we would invite up to 40 people, who all would have the opportunity to donate for the great cause.

UNICEF has been active in the region already for 25 years and launched an initiative the very same week to raise money for the children of Ukraine. We chose as our target project UNICEF’s initiative and opened the charity ticket sales.

In less than a week we were able to gather nearly 50.000 euros as donations, that individuals and organizations donated through us directly to UNICEF: In return we had the opportunity to offer them a great evening together, a special dinner menu designed by 10 top chefs, made from the ingredients donated by over a dozen sponsors.

Chefs for Humanity was born and will continue to support the ones in need also in the future. All of our thoughts are with the children and their families who are suffering in the middle of the war in Ukraine as we speak.

7th of March

After the successful fundraising event for the children in Ukraine we woke up to a very unpleasant call.

Restaurant Inari had suffered water damage that was entirely outside of our control. The old building our restaurant is situated in had been going through multiple issues with piping during the past two months. We had already suffered from two water damages.

First, a radiator behind the restaurant wall, in a separate storage unit, had blown up. Unfortunately this had all happened in a remote spot in the cellar, where no-one had realized it. To our complete surprise in January, the water had leaked already so long that it came literally through the wall to our space.

Second, when the building had renovated its inner court, it had for some reason not closed the seam between the courtyard and the building wall properly. This led during February to a situation, where water started to drool directly to our restaurant through a cracked back wall.

If this was not already enough, the latest was on the 7th, when visiting the restaurant, a third leak had appeared now from another cracked wall. It became evident that all the water that had been leaking during the past couple of months had made the wall so wet, that it could not hold up to it anymore.

Writing this text, we got the confirmation that the drying operation together with renovation necessary in our very recently renovated restaurant will take the entire March. Assuming no further surprises and additional water damages, we are going to be able to open our doors to guests again on the 1st of April.

I sincerely hope April fools day is not on us this year.

The Year of The Tiger has started with a lot of action. The Tiger is known as the king of all beasts in China, where this zodiac sign symbolizes strength, exorcizing evils and braveness.

I feel we have been blessed with a lot of brave people in our fast growing team. With their fearless energy we are prepared to take what this year will bring us when moving forward. Again, we have only seen the beginning and there is so much more to come.

“To cook is to care about others. To cook is to think, more than to do”.

Thank you all for the continuous support - LET’S GO!

Kim Mikkola

Restaurant Inari

Koti By Kim Mikkola


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