By: Elmo Ropponen

Ismo Sipeläinen came in fourth at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon, France, winning the highest ever placement for Finland. Team Finland brought along a truckload of raw materials and kitchen supplies – and stylish chef’s clothes provided by Medanta.

Finnish top chef Ismo Sipeläinen and his assistant Johan Kurkela won the Special Prize for the best meat platter at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition, which is regarded as the world championships for chefs.

Team Finland placed fourth in the final, which is Finland’s all-time highest placement. The Nordic countries dominated the competition, with Denmark winning, Sweden coming in second and Norway placing third.

According to Sipeläinen, everything went according to plan in the nearly six-hour final.

“In fact, some things went even better than planned, and I’m not aware of any mistakes. Nothing was raw or overcooked.”

Even though Team Finland just missed the podium, Sipeläinen is very pleased with the result.

“It definitely was a top performance. Although third place would have felt nicer than fourth, I achieved my personal goals. The qualifying event in Turin in summer 2018 and the final in Lyon were Team Finland’s best performances, and that was my goal: Finland’s best-ever result.”

After more than a year of hard training, Johan Kurkela and Ismo Sipeläinen came in fourth in the world’s most demanding competition for chefs. Photo: Kim Öhman

Medanta’s clothes work in all situations

Ismo Sipeläinen’s journey to the Bocuse d’Or final was an intensive and demanding 18-month undertaking. Having previously worked at top restaurants, such as Olo and Finnjävel, Sipeläinen took this time to focus almost entirely on the competition.

Team Finland was coached by chef Tommi Tuominen, the owner of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Before the competition, Sipeläinen and Kurkela had completed nearly twenty training sessions of 5 hours and 35 minutes – which is the time allowed for the contestants at Bocuse d’Or.

According to Sipeläinen, if you are aiming for the top, you must train accordingly. His sessions took place in a training kitchen at the Perho Culinary College, where the duration of each procedure was measured precisely.

Stylish, functional, high-quality work clothes contributed to Team Finland’s success. Sipeläinen and Kurkela wore Medanta at each training session. When working and sweating in the kitchen for hours without breaks, the design and quality of work clothes are important.

“A chef’s jacket should be soft, light and well-fitting. Ill-fitting clothes interfere with work, which is something you cannot afford, particularly in a competition. And the jacket should stay in place under the apron when you bend down. Medanta’s clothes have good body even after several washes.”

Cheering Team Finland on to top performance

According to Sipeläinen, the event in Lyon was an amazing experience – even though he doesn’t remember much about the actual competition.

“The atmosphere was incredible, with flags and banderoles waving. There was a large group of people from Finland cheering us on. Our team has excellent partners. It’s great that Medanta and many others were present at the event. Cooking in front of 3,000 people makes you feel surprisingly small at times.”

Sipeläinen was so exhausted after Team Finland’s performance that all he can remember is a six-hour “blackout”.

“During the competition, I was in a world of my own, which is good in a way, as you must fully focus on each phase. I was able to shut out all the noise and hustle and bustle.”

Finland won the Special Prize for the best meat platter in Lyon. Ismo Sipeläinen wanted to pay homage to the Finnish national identity by including Lappish potatoes, celery and Finnish cut brandy and cream sauce on the plate, among other ingredients. Photo: Kim Öhman

According to Sipeläinen, travelling to France was in itself a demanding effort, in which partners played a significant role. A truckload of raw materials and kitchen supplies was transported from Helsinki to Lyon, where the equipment only included cold drawers, an oven, stoves and the meat.

“Everything else we brought from Finland. For example, our platter was designed by students at Aalto University. In the final, we wore Medanta’s black trousers and shoes, while the chef’s jackets, aprons and hats were provided by the competition organisation.”

Stylish chef’s clothes enhance the atmosphere

Outside the competition sessions at Bocuse d’Or, Sipeläinen and Kurkela wore Medanta from head to toe, including white chef’s jackets and aprons.

According to Sipeläinen, consistent and stylish clothes enhance the atmosphere, as well as looking sharp.

“In daily life, I don’t pay that much attention to my clothes. In the kitchen, however, cleanliness and stylishness are very important to me. Stylish and consistent clothes make things look and run much better than everyone wearing random pieces of clothing.”

Sipeläinen’s favourite outfit consists of a white, short-sleeved chef’s jacket, a white apron, black trousers and black shoes.

“I don’t like long sleeves. I roll up the sleeves anyway, so short sleeves save time. All of the Medanta clothes I have worn have been very comfortable, breathable and stylish. Their antibacterial properties are a great additional feature.”

Now that the Bocuse d’Or is over, Sipeläinen intends to take a little break and collect his thoughts.

“For more than a year, I focused on the competition so intensely that I pretty much neglected everything else. We will hold a coffee event to thank our Bocuse d’Or partners, but my calendar is empty after that. What next? Time will tell.”

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