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The Inspirational Women of SW1: Helena Puolakka

Finnish-born executive head chef at Aster
helena puolakka

What inspired you to become a chef?

My grandmother. A cliché I know, but I spent all my summers with her in the archipelago fishing and foraging, and food was a highlight of the day.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Determination is key. Believing in what you create and the people you work with are the most important things. 

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

The fact that every service is unique so you never really know what is around the corner.

What’s been your proudest professional achievement?

Opening and creating my food concept at Aster. I have found a home here and have created something I am truly proud of.

helena puolakka

If you could give a piece of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?

I should have gone to restaurant school at that age, but instead I listened to my father and I didn’t study my true passion until six years later, at Perho, Helsinki.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

What women do you look up to or have inspired you?

My grandmother has been my biggest inspiration, but in today’s world, Melinda Gates. She has set a great standard with her intelligent approach to solving worldwide problems and her foundation has really topped up the game in philanthropy.

Finally, aside from Aster, where do you like to go in the Victoria area?

A Wong, Lorne and the Windsor Castle pub.