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ESPOO, Finland – For many Nokians, lunch is the most important meal of the day – and for some, it’s their second-favorite part of the workday. The two cafeterias at Nokia’s headquarters in Espoo, named “Lagoon” and “Village”, serve 3,200 lunches each day to hungry, international customers. They include 150kg of rice per week and a whopping 200kg of bananas. We sat down with the Executive Chef, Torsti Uotila, and waitress, Katrin Ivanova, both employees of Sodexo, to take a behind the scenes look into the Nokia House kitchens.

What’s important when choosing foods for Nokians?

Torsti: We have to look after the healthy aspects, as well as foods people will enjoy. Local people want traditional foods, but we have lots of global people who want familiar foods from their locale. There’s approximately 76 different nationalities at Nokia House!

Do Finnish people eat differently than the foreigners?

Torsti: Lunch is often a Finn’s main meal of the day so they eat more, but foreigners often eat their large meals in the evening and eat less at lunch, it’s more “grab and go” for them. Finns like to eat early, as early as 10:30am. Foreigners tend to eat later, so our kitchens need to be open for a long time.

What’s it like serving Nokians?

Katrin: I love it. Nokians are very polite and aren’t too demanding. I’m very interested my customers, I want to know how their day has been. If they look sad or angry, I like to help make them feel better. I’ve noticed a difference in Nokians during the company’s transformation, but everyone still has a very positive attitude.

Katrin keeps everyone smiling with her smiles

How does it feel to work at Nokia every day when you’re from a different company?

Torsti: We have a great relationship with the Workplace Resources team here. They make sure we are kept up to date with what’s happening in the company, and what that means for employees, and for us: we work really well together and we feel very closely connected to Nokia, even though we work for Sodexo.

The cafeteria has a suggestion box, what kind of feedback do you receive?

Torsti: Very positive, we read it daily. People often give food suggestions; like a Nokian suggested we serve Peking Duck, and today was the day we first served Peking Duck. I was very proud of that. We are constantly thinking about new foods to serve, our imaginations are the limits.

Create-your-own pasta on Mondays in ‘Lagoon’

What are the most popular foods?

Torsti: Steaks from the grill. Thai foods cooked by our Thai chef, they’re very good. Scandinavian home cooking is very popular of course. Healthy meals are becoming more popular; we’ll soon have “No Carb Days”.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever served?

Torsti: We have a Colombian chef who served a Colombian specialty: smoked giant ants served in a bowl. They look like just ants, 2cm long. Almost everyone bought it that day.

Many tasty, healthy options available. Like giant ants.

Your staff seems very international, is this important to you?

Torsti: Yes, we have customers from our around the world, so it’s important to have chefs from around the world to make authentic food.

Katrin: My colleagues come from Ethiopia, Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Australia, Thailand, Columbia…all over.

How important is buying local foods?

Torsti: It’s becoming more and more important, also organic foods, but organic foods are so limited at the moment in Finland, it’s difficult to get them, but we will be serving more of these in the future. Also, minimizing waste is important to us, so we make the food in smaller parts and when the lunch stops at 2pm there’s few leftovers.

With all those bananas, has anyone ever slipped on a banana peel?

Torsti: Heh, no. But we renewed our grill with a restaurant pager system, so customers can be notified when their steaks are ready. On the first day we stopped lunch at 1:30, and at 1:45 a man came and asked if his steak is ready yet, and we had already closed the grill.

A look into the ‘Village’ cafeteria later in the day when lunch is coming to an end.

Coffee in ‘Lagoon’ during the day. Finns drink more coffee than anyone in the world.

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