Stefan Richter Visited Finland For The Most Incredible Gin And Grapefruit Drink

Chefs love to travel — for inspiration, to experience the cuisines of other cultures or just to get away from the heat of their own kitchens. When they return, we hit them with some questions — where'd they stay, what'd they do and WHAT DID THEY EAT?

Though best known as a standout contestant on the fifth season of Top Chef, Stefan Richter has been a fixture of the Los Angeles restaurant community for much longer. He is currently the chef-owner of Stefan's at L.A. Farm in Santa Monica. But also, as we find out, he runs several restaurants in his native Finland — a place he visits every summer. Here's what went down this year.

Where are you just back from?

I came back from my homeland Finland, then went to Estonia, which is beautiful. I mean, just the women alone are so beautiful.

Business or pleasure?

I have three restaurants in Finland and am working on numbers four and five. I'm also working on some TV stuff. Of course, there was some pleasure too.


Spending time with my mom, cooking with her and seeing her happy and smiling because her son was there.


Realizing how much I miss Finland, my summer house and my mom. And of course, the mosquitos. But I have an American machine called Counterflow technology and it sucks in the mosquitos and I swear this thing works.

What airline(s) did you fly and how was it?

I only fly American Airlines. I realized when you stay with one airline then you are always exec platinum and you fly business or first class.

Where'd you stay and what's your mini-review of the place?

I stayed all over, but Helsinki and Tampere are just amazing. The weather was awesome. There are rock concerts everywhere with bands playing and everybody is happy. So if somebody offers you to go to Finland, go in June, July and August.

What was your best meal on the trip?

So, don't think I am crazy, but the meatballs on the train with mash and gravy and lingonberry sauce always gets me.

Did you bring anything back and if so, what?

I brought back lonkero. It is a Finnish gin and grapefruit drink made for the Olympics in 1952 to keep the athletes in focus. It is only sold in Finland. I also brought back a bunch of Finland t-shirts for my cooks.

Will you be cooking anything inspired by the trip to feature on your menu?

Yes, I am changing menus in two weeks and I am working on some smoked fish items and more basic simple items.

Where do you want to go next?

I would love to go try to survive on an island for a few month with no help. I miss the simple things in life and want to focus on what's important.

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