Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Restaurant
Solar energy is without doubt one of the cleanest, most sustainable and cheapest energies we have access to. No surprise that solar cooking a couple of years ago got hyped to be the perfect solution for any developing country: No more cutting of trees for firewood, no more smoke poisoning from fireplaces in tiny huts – cheap solar cookers for every household in every village make the World a better place it seemed.
Sadly, mankind isn’t always ready for all the great ideas imposed on it. The issue wasn’t so much that when cooking, one has to wear dark sunglasses, a fashion item that hasn’t really made it into the Indian and African village culture yet. No, the simple and foreseeable problem was that nobody wants to stay in the burning sun for hours to prepare the family dinner. For this very good reason cooking is traditionally done inside the house or after sunset, and in both cases a solar cooker turns out to be a pretty useless item.
But luckily „The Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Restaurant“ has brought new hope to the industry and our planet. At the Milan Triennale 2011, food visionary Antto Melasniemi from Helsinki and Marti Guixe, a designer from Catalunia, presented their highly acclaimed project: An experimental pop-up restaurant that uses 100% solar energy to prepare several course meals. The kitchen consists of a couple of solar cookers placed under the open skies. Pots and pans are positioned right in the middle of the large mirrored dishes where the temperature is highest. Boiling potatoes, frying eggs, doing a BBQ, baking a cake or making coffee: You can have it all, as long as there is sun.
After the initial 5 days in Milan the Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen team toured throughout Europe, following the sun and cooking at 10 different locations with Helsinki being the final stop. The technology works even under highly challenging conditions, for example in the snow with an outside temperature far below zero. Wherever they went, the public was invited to watch the cooking process and taste the food, sitting at picnic-style tables covered with classy white tablecloth. The project was fun, a great show and a big social happening – but also a taste discovery as Marti Guixe describes on his website: „…the technical parameters of the solar kitchen affect food processing when cooking. Heat is all over the food, and is not only below as in the traditional way of cooking. The time sequence is much more progressive, changing continuously. These two facts affect the taste and texture of prepared food in a surprising and positive way, creating a completely different tasting experience.“ In 2012, the tour went on as you can see on Facebook: Team and solar cookers travelled to Stockholm, did a couple of winter brunches in Lapland, and in late 2012 the project was even showcased in Tokyo.
The Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Restaurant was designed as an experimental way of re-thinking the relationship between food, cooks and diners, and last but not least the environment. The menu is to a certain extend set by the weather conditions. A big cloud or rain has the same effect like a power cut in anyone’s traditional kitchen: We are used to being in control of everything, and then suddenly realize we are part of our environment and depend on it. A simple thing like a cloud demands an unknown degree of flexibility from us. It gives slow food a new meaning. Or sometimes even requires a complete change of plan: No sun, no steak, darling: How about a nice big salad instead?