Your Own Street Restaurant For One Day
23 July, 2015
Eating in the street is all the rage. It is becoming more popular by the day and Restaurant Day, which emerged in Finland but is celebrated in various cities around the world, contributed to it in large measure. The event takes place every three months and is a magnificent expression of urban culture, as its origins lie in volunteering and citizens’ own initiative. Any person, or group of people, can open their own pop-up restaurant, an expression fast gaining currency – you choose a spot, set up your stall, impress, sell and dismantle it, all in a single day. It could be in a park, on a street corner, in a courtyard or even an apartment or office. What is the goal? To promote a culinary experience and, above all, to have a good time in community… and all for a modest price. One’s imagination is the limit!
Any individual or group of friends can come together for a few hours to prepare and offer one, two, three… five or up to ten different dishes. Sweet or savoury, whatever catches one’s fancy or, to be sure, whatever you can do best. The better the product you make, the more portions you sell and the more business you do. And, apart from the pleasure involved in the culinary experience, it goes without saying that nobody wants to lose money. You can even make money!
Restaurant Day is a veritable gastronomic experience for those who set up their own pop-up restaurant and also, apparently, for the thousands of potential customers who, in a matter of minutes, can savour dishes from the five continents. It is common to find youngsters selling Mexican dishes alongside another group making sushi, and a nearby family preparing a scrumptious paella, accompanied by various potato omelettes.
The driving force behind Restaurant Day is the Finn, Timo Santala, who decided to launch this initiative after a trip to Thailand, where street food is a common practice. It is also a way of cutting down on the bureaucratic red tape involved in opening a restaurant. The first Restaurant Day, or Ravintolapäivä, was held on 21 May 2011. Just 45 pop-up restaurants took part, distributed between thirteen towns in Finland. The second time around, the number registering for the event rose to 200. The last edition, held on 16 May 2015, saw the participation of nearly 2,500 restaurants in 34 countries. From Finland to Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Britain, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Belgium and the Netherlands. The fact is that people are taking a greater interest in the venture day by day, and becoming more open to preparing and tackling new cuisines and new flavours – restaurants serving foreign cuisines are always the most readily accepted everywhere!
In short, Restaurant Day is a great way for making people aware that they are the real citizens and owners of the towns they inhabit. The thinking behind this growing movement is that it is up to them to make the towns they live in a much better place. Despite attempts by administrations, particularly in Finland, to control the level of street-food hygiene and to levy taxes on the initiative, they were forced to back down due to the popularity of the event. Thus, the organisers have managed to maintain the civic spirit of the original proposal. It is therefore a great opportunity for anyone wishing to fulfil their dream of opening a restaurant, even if just for one day!
There is now even an app which enables you to find the nearest spot for a pop-up restaurant linked to theRavintolapäivä. The next stagings of this event are scheduled for 16 August and 21 November 2015, and Budapest will be one of the cities with greater participation of Europe.
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Text and images by Marc Carol and Jordi Casino (Barcelonahelsinki)
23 July, 2015