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Jesper Björkell

For the love of sushi

The work we do for Finnish sushi, the high quality and traceability of the ingredients we use and the well-being of our employees are close to my heart. Everything we do always starts from the customer. I work hard every day with my team to live up to these principles.

Jesper Björkell
Sushi Guru
Hanko Sushi Mentor

From opening ceremony to everyday work

Jesper Björkell was one of the first employees to be recruited by Hanko Sushi, which was founded in 2009. The founders of Hanko Sushi gave him the freedom to try new things and to become an even better cook.

“It was great to have the opportunity to do my own thing. Opening a new restaurant is always stressful, and the opening day is always a challenge. The founders of Hanko Sushi had faith in their concept, and their can-do attitude quickly rubbed off on me.”

However, bringing together a new team of people and running a new company wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. After a few testing situations, Björkell wanted to instil the correct attitude towards work into all Hanko Sushi employees.

“Once everyone had adopted the attitude that we must always do our best, things started to change for the better.”

Inspiration from Japan

Having worked with sushi for the past 10 years, Jesper has developed a sense of patience as well as appreciation for details and accuracy. Björkell has sought inspiration for making sushi the Nordic way from around the world and especially Japan. In the spring of 2014, Jesper enrolled at the Tokyo Sushi Academy as the first ever Finn to learn new skills.

“I wanted to bust some myths and to see just how good a sushi chef I can be. In Japan, if you are really good, you will work in the back of the kitchen washing rice for three years. If you are okay, you will spend five years washing rice. My time in Japan confirmed my view that we are on the right path. My goal is to not make Japanese sushi, but Nordic sushi. It was in Tokyo that I gave up the idea that we are trying to be Japanese.”

Today, Jesper works as head chef and mentor of the entire Hanko Sushi chain overseeing the quality of the food and developing concepts for new menus and dishes.

Only the best ingredients

To Jesper Björkell, the best thing about Finnish sushi is the use of pure and fresh ingredients. He says that the flavour profile of sushi in Japan is different with a stronger vinegar flavour in the rice, which for Finns is often too sour. However, Finland is getting closer to Japanese food culture in other aspects, as consumers are becoming increasingly interested in high-quality ingredients rather than ready meals.

“Sushi is here to stay, but it takes a lot of effort to make it at home. You need to know how to wash, cook, season and handle the rice the right way.

Making sushi has taught me patience, appreciation for details and accuracy. The secret behind good sushi lies in fresh ingredients, and what makes sushi so cool is that you can’t make something taste fresh if it’s not fresh. When you’re only working with a few ingredients, they must be top-notch quality. The rice we use is the best you can get, and our ginger is pickled according to a recipe I developed.”

Our work is never done

The limit of what we can do lies beyond the borders of Finland. We are the biggest sushi restaurant chain in Finland, where we have changed the public’s view of what Finnish sushi is. We want to attract new customers to explore the world of sushi. On the other hand, our loyal customers are what keeps us going, and we want to listen to their wishes so that we can continue to serve the best sushi in Finland. 

Jesper Björkell