Luis Mariño has achieved many interesting things since he started cooking at the age 8. He has retained some good and bad cooking memories from Spain and Finland. One thing he has learned: giving up is not part of the development in cooking or learning to live and being an entrepreneur in Finland.
My first cooking memory is when I was around 8 years old and tried baking bread. I didn’t succeed, of course, the fuses blew at my home. Another thing is that I didn’t eat fish at all. I hated it - with all the disgusting bones and strong smell. Around the same age, in summer I burnt my hand with the door oven in my grandparent’s summer house in Galicia, in northern Spain. At that time ovens didn’t have protective glass. I remember a lot of pain and crying. I still have scars in my left hand.
But I have good memories too. Vivid memories of my grandmother’s clams with white wine sauce, that I easily ate with my hands, taking clams one by one, spooning and slurping the sauce. Or her ring-shaped pastry with anis. We also enjoyed steeling chocolate with hazel nuts from her closet. From my mother, who prepared us delicious and diverse meals daily, I learned to enjoy and love simple and natural ingredients. For example, she used to make us pure out of banana and fresh oranges. Nowadays that would be a smoothie, I guess. Another simple pleasure was to fry an egg and dip a piece of bread on the running egg yolk - priceless.
In summertime we often prepared a paella and in winter “Cocido”, a typical Madrid winter time stew. Every weekend the family gathered around a long table and food.
Learning the essentials of cooking and how to run a business
In high school, the thought of entering a cooking school passed through my mind. A friend, older than me was at the school already and his stories about food and working in the kitchen were pushing me to apply. But, cooking or becoming a chef wasn’t my goal at that time. I took other paths and several different jobs that didn’t lead me anywhere and did not fulfil my wishes.
Then, life happened and I moved to Finland. Love brought me here, as a souvenir. I started from zero. I learned Finnish and improved my English to integrate better. And then entering a cooking school was again one option. I applied and got accepted. I studied three years at Perho Culinary School, which was my first contact with real cooking; learning the essentials and training in restaurants. Cooking at home became a hobby and a form of relaxation on weekends, gathering with friends on Sundays, cooking paellas and barbecue in summer and even once a “Cocido” in wintertime. I learned to make Churros with hot chocolate as afternoon snack.
After graduation, I was already interested in creating my own business but was not yet sure how, what to do. I wanted to get more knowledge on how to run a business before starting. So, I continued my studies at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. Three and a half years during which I worked during the days and studied in the evenings. It was hard, but rewarding. At the end of the studies, my first daughter was about to be born. I had to graduate before my career as a father would start. In my thesis, I wrote about how to create a cafe. And yes before she was born, I graduated as Bachelor of Hospitality Management.
Café con leche mixed with Finnish restaurant bureaucracy
In the following years I focused on family life since I did not want to miss my kids growing up. But, while changing diapers, I was thinking and planning my first business. Thinking about the concept: a Spanish cafeteria, that Helsinki has not seen before. Serving “Cafe con Leche”, “Cortado”, “Pan con Tomate”, Manchego cheese, Chorizo or Ibérian ham. All the essentials of the Spanish cuisine with great customer service. Then it became serious and it was time to create a business plan, find the premises and face bureaucracy. Here is when you realize that you know nothing. And that even if you have studied, you have to work hard and learn it all in practice. One of the hardest things for me was the language barrier: restaurant bureaucracy and legislation in Finnish was difficult to understand. It was challenging to build a business from zero, to deal with architects, landlords, building permits, licenses, city bureaucracy, constructors, designers, plumbers and electricians.
This is no time to lose, friends! Get on with it. Renovation started, the final stage to create Cafelito. At this point, help from friends and family was super important, especially when starting your first ever business. I was lucky to get help from so many close people in designing the premises, in creating the logo, in renovation work, in building the furniture etc... and one friend even sewed the aprons! I saved a lot of money and everything that has been created for Cafelito now feels even more special. As one way of saying thanks, I was able to invite them to the inauguration party in September 2016 and of course, have been offering them some great Spanish breakfast ever since.
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