Maria was given a gift from above
“I would never work in a greenhouse!”
Maria Berg, who owns Linds Kök used to say this as a child. Her parents grew tomatoes in a greenhouse in their yard, like many others do and have always done in Närpes. But you should never say never.
As she grew up, Maria would bake almost every day. She really did not enjoy cooking at the time, but this aspect grew with time when she started experimenting as an adult. She began to study to become a chef but dropped out at the age of 18 and started to run her own canteen in an industrial plant in Närpes instead. This is where everything started and she was simply unstoppable.
Ran three businesses at the same time
Maria executed her ideas one at a time. At the age of 19 she founded a catering company alongside her canteen and found herself working with weddings most weekends.
“I remember the first wedding very well. There were 225 guests and it was very exciting!”
One year later she took over a popular restaurant in Närpes and found herself suddenly managing three different businesses at once.
A few years later, Maria wanted to try something different. She saw a job advert in Vasabladet for a chef in Sundsvall, Sweden, which was particularly tempting as there was a ferry operating the Vasa-Sundsvall line at the time. She went as an intern as was challenged to cook a curry sauté.
“I had no idea what that was - back then Finnish food culture was anything but international.”
She eventually succeeded with the sauté, closed her businesses at home and moved to Sweden together with her husband.
Learnt to cook from scratch
The Swedish cuisine differed more from the Finnish han Maria ever had imagined. It was easy enough to cook, but she had no idea what it was meant to contain to be Swedish.
“If I had known this before I left, I probably would not have dared to move.”
But the years passed and Maria learnt a lot. Many of the chefs who were working with Maria had previously travelled around Europe and brought their impressions to the restaurant kitchen. Today this is one of Maria’s great advantages, as she has learnt to cook from scratch, although she made some mistakes on the way.
“I messed up a few times in Sundsvall. In those days there was no internet where you could look for recipes. For example, I deep fried a banana without removing the peel”, Maria says and laughs.
After four and a half years in Sweden, Maria and her husband had two children, and wanted them to grow up in Finland.
“We packed our bags again and returned to Närpes. My parents had retired and we had the option of reviving their backyard greenhouse business.
From a granary to a greenhouse restaurant
While Maria and her husband became greenhouse farmers, Maria finished her chef education and decided to renovate a small granary in the yard that was 15 square metres large. This became her small catering kitchen where she cooked for hundreds of people at a time and worked hard for eleven years.
During this time, Maria grew her catering business and found herself in need of a larger kitchen.
“I thought that I could also build my own social venue, and it was natural to me that it should be located in a greenhouse, given that we live in Närpes and owned our own greenhouses.” Närpes is the largest producer of tomatoes and cucumbers in the country and these vegetables are cultivated in greenhouses.
The financing manager for the project struggled to believe in the concept, yet he had faith in Maria. Today the greenhouse restaurant has been in business since 2005 and her concept has been recognised in over a hundred reports.
“The lender said ‘that it would be a gift from above if you can bring people here’, which I did! He promised to eat his hat if it worked. I wonder if he has”, says Maria and laughs.