Eeva Torvinen is the head chef at The Monday Room in Christchurch and is excited to be bringing the delicious flavours of Finnish cuisine to Kiwi’s pallets, allowing her background to influence the restaurant’s approach to cooking.
“Techniques such as curing, brining and pickling have influenced my dishes,” she said. “We don’t often use spices other than salt and believe that the techniques we use will bring more flavour into any ingredient.” Among Torvinen’s favourite techniques also sit curing, smoking and sous vide. The combination of old and new procedures is what gives her dishes the unique and wholesome flavours that earnt her the position of head chef at this well-established restaurant.
Torvinen’s long history with foraging and cooking is what inspired her to follow a culinary career. “From a very young age, I knew where food was coming from. We were picking berries and mushrooms from forests and fishing with father and grandfather,” she explained. Her Finnish heritage bears many similarities to traditional Maori cooking. “In midsummer, we would cook a rosvopaisti or ‘robber’s roast’, which is a roast cooked in a pit under the ground, with a fire made on top.” The similarities between the two countries’ techniques may well have contributed to the chef’s resounding success here in New Zealand.
The young chef first came to New Zealand as a backpacker but returned in search of greater experiences and culinary education. “I realised that I needed to see and learn more, so I booked a flight to the farthest place on earth,” said Torvinen. Stepping outside her comfort zone has given her a new respect for and understanding of her craft.
For Torvinen, her love for cooking always boiled down to taste, and she is using her new experiences to create dishes which challenge the existing moulds for the culinary world. “I am trying to focus more on the techniques and textures of food, thinking of ways to surprise a customer. I want to create a dish that makes people talk while they are dining,” explained the chef. It is Torvinen’s passion for the industry which has carried her through her career, and it was the Finnish chef and restaurant owner Kristian Karnell which first awoke this dedication within her. “He made me understand what the difference was between a chef who cooks for a job and one who does it for passion. It’s all about love and caring. That’s when a professional pride started growing within me. There was a point I remember deciding I wanted to be one of those good chefs that cared. So many times I have wondered where I would be if he didn’t cross my path.”
Collaboration and a joyous environment are crucial elements to any kitchen Torvinen works in. “We have a very creative and fun environment, and any chef can bring something new to our menu,” she said. “Together we can make anything work.”
Looking into the future, Torvinen wants to continue to uplift The Monday Room and make it into the best establishment she can. Past this, the young chef simply wants to improve her craft. “I want to cook, create, learn more and explore. Then maybe one day I will have a restaurant of my own.”