Saaremaa Food Festival recipe is cooked together. Who?

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Just as any recipe starts with the ingredients, the organisation of the Saaremaa Food Festival has always begun with people who aspire to offer you the finest culinary experiences.
Any truly good recipe includes secret ingredients, and the Saaremaa Food Festival’s five main organisers also have many helpers.

Angela Nairis

Angela Nairis korraldustiimi juht

“I have inherited from my mother the will to turn the impossible into the possible,” said Angela, explaining how she finds inspiration for new ideas. When discussing the Saaremaa Food Festival, she also mentioned her mother: “Our mum made the world’s best cutlets, and this is probably why I find the Visit Villages and the Apple Cafe days the most meaningful, as during these events, our own people showcase the homely dishes the local villagers and families know how to make.”

Angela considers herself a country girl who appreciates everything homemade or handmade. For her, food must be made from local ingredients, but she also values creative solutions and intriguing nuances. These values are shared by the Saaremaa Food Festival.

Angela knows from her own experience that sometimes a good idea simmers in the mind for quite some time before it becomes perfectly ripe at just the right moment. She considers the ‘Pig in Bag’ special dinners as one of the festival’s greatest achievements, and she vividly recalls the exclusive dinner held in the Maasi fort-castle, a source of pride to this day. Her new aspirations lead beyond Estonia to how to promote Saaremaa as the ultimate destination for savouring local flavours abroad.

Running the food festival can be quite exhausting, but Angela always gains strength from seeing how the festival’s collaborative network comes together, full of excitement. She draws energy from nature, often finding herself at the seashore, and in winter on the sea ice, along with her iceboat sailor sons. Angela enjoys living without expectations and being surrounded by her own family, which has been very important to her throughout her life.

Ulvi Lehtsalu

Ulvi Lehtsalu korraldustiimi liige

Ulvi has been organising the Saaremaa Food Festival right from the very beginning. She recalls how they began to bring the festival’s idea to life with their enthusiastic tourism team. To introduce herself, she mentioned how she has dedicated her entire career to the tourism industry. Over 30 years, she has worked in hotels and spas, but she has also marketed Saaremaa both within Estonia and abroad. “Tourism has been my field for a long time, and it involves a lot of communication with people,” she said, optimistically, and added that anything related to people comes naturally to her. A couple of years ago, Ulvi started doing social work, and this emphasis on teamwork is a logical continuation, given her background. She has had the opportunity to assist unemployed young people, applicants for energy benefits and Ukrainian war refugees in various projects.

Within the food festival’s team, Ulvi’s responsibilities involve relaying information regarding the Saaremaa Restaurant Week and the Apple Cafe as well as handling agreements. Her warm communication style and excellent teamwork skills ensure that all questions receive answers and that all information in the Restaurant Week’s programme is always in the right place at the right time. At times, all of this demands great patience, which Ulvi possesses in abundance.

Ulvi recounts a story from the first Restaurant Week, when a participating restaurant provided feedback, mentioning that there were so many people walking through the streets of Kuressaare, it almost felt like the Estonian Song Festival. “This goes to show that the Saaremaa Food Festival is doing well,” she said with a smile. Ulvi predicts that the food festival will continue for many years to come and hopes that it will always have the persistence and stability to implement new ideas. In this regard, new supporters and sponsors are always welcome to bring even larger and more interesting projects to life.

Outside of work, Ulvi enjoys singing. She has been doing this for several decades, finding that singing offers her excellent company, a source of stress relief and many great cultural experiences. But what about food? She enjoys simple home-cooked meals, but she also never declines gourmet food, the makers of which she holds in high regard. The Saaremaa Food Festival highly values both sides of cuisine.

Anu Lomp

Anu Lomp korraldustiimi liige

Anu actively participates in a variety of activities, which is why she considers herself to be quite a multi-talented individual. She is a skilled communicator and a source of creative ideas, possessing the energy to manage two small seasonal accommodation places, organise large entrepreneurship classes and serve as a guide, introducing others to Kuressaare City and Saare County. Additionally, she engages in various smaller activities.

Within the Saaremaa Food Festival team, Anu is the person who strives to think outside the box and foster new ideas. She also possesses the invaluable skill of assessing potential risks associated with various activities. “I am a well-intentioned critic, which is always necessary in a team to ensure that dreams are not taken too far,” said Anu, describing her role as a balancing force. She advises playing through various scenarios, applying thorough consideration and asking questions. Due to her thoroughness, she has been entrusted with the task of correcting texts that introduce the festival.

What Anu appreciates most about the food festival is the notion that people go out of their homes specifically to try the food from Saaremaa and that it serves as a motivator for visiting the island. “We have very high-quality places to eat, and we are proud to present them to our visitors,” said Anu. “When I visit a new place myself, I find the local cuisine particularly interesting. One aspect of the food festival is to attract visitors, but we also hope that the local community will come to appreciate the high-quality food that is grown, produced and prepared here even more.” Anu also emphasised the significance of keeping local food producers and places to eat in focus.

She sees food as the body’s fuel; the way our body functions is dependent on the type of fuel we provide. Anu appreciates delicious food, but she doesn’t have enough time for serious cooking, which gives her another reason to savour the creations of skilled chefs. “In addition to looking appealing, food has to taste delicious. The more colourful, the better,” she added.

In addition to enjoying good food, Anu likes to swim, cycle and travel. In the last three years, she has been on pilgrimages to Portugal and Spain, which have become something of a habit for her.

Kadi Hiie

Kadi Hiie

Kadi is one of the two new recruits on the Saaremaa Food Festival’s organising team. In everyday life, she is involved in producing smoothie mixes, which she has done for five years now. When the Saaremaa Food Festival began in 2014, it became evident that the significance of local food was on the rise, with an increasing number of new products and active producers. Kadi stands as an excellent real-life example of this trend. As a food producer, she has personally experienced how the Saaremaa Food Festival provides significant support for entrepreneurship. “This is greatly appreciated, especially if you are active and eager to contribute,” said Kadi. She also mentioned how even the residents of Hiiumaa come to the Saaremaa Food Festival to showcase their products

Kadi mentioned that she enjoys multitasking and introducing change into her daily routine. She described herself as an active person, stating, “I tend to change my mind quickly and can sometimes even be a bit impatient.” In organising the food festival, her background in marketing certainly comes as a bonus. She praised the organising team by expressing her appreciation for how everyone always has a say in matters and how decisions are made unanimously.

For the food festival, she highly values how it brings people together and ties them into a community. She also holds a strong sense of community, as she and her husband are involved in the development of the Muratsi Harbour near their home, which holds great significance for the locals. As a family, they are active in making the most of their free time: they go on bike rides together, swim in the sea and generally spend a lot of time outdoors. Kadi’s hobby is surfing, which she picked up in elementary school. Though she doesn’t have much time to surf now, she still manages to do it at least a couple of times every summer.

Kadi’s clear priority is authentic food, and she enjoys cooking. “It’s hard to pick my favourite dish, but I can definitely state that I enjoy anything that tastes delicious,” she said. “It’s important to enjoy food, as it can provide an experience.” She agrees that the Saaremaa Food Festival certainly knows the recipe for a great experience.

Paul-Mark Pihl

Paul-Mark Pihl korraldustiimi liige

Paul-Mark is the second newcomer on the food festival team. Thanks to him, the rest of the team gets to experience the festival from the perspective of a visitor, as Paul-Mark has been attending it since its inception. His absolute favourite is Restaurant Week, attending which has become a tradition for his family. He also has fond memories of the Visit Villages programme. Last year, he managed to visit almost all the villages that participated in it with his family.

There’s a saying that eating increases the appetite, and you might start generating your own great ideas while attending the food festival. Paul-Mark explained how he joined the team: “Over the years, I’ve had a few such ideas that I wanted to bring to life, and now I have the opportunity to do so instead of just thinking about them at home.” For him, a significant advantage was his prior experience in organising the Tartu Student Days. During his four years there, his primary responsibility was securing sponsors for the event, but he also assisted with its overall organisation.

Paul-Mark appreciates that the organising team of the Saaremaa Food Festival is open to new ideas and that his teammates bring a broad range of experiences to the table. Despite being a new member of the team, Paul-Mark feels that his opinions are heard and he is always given the opportunity to test out his ideas. His tasks involve communicating with various partners, which is made easier by his uniquely warm and polite communication style.

In his everyday life, Paul-Mark manages a hotel, even though he studied to be a math teacher. In his free time, Paul-Mark enjoys folk dancing and activities in nature. But, as it happens, he also enjoys simply watching TV at home. Paul-Mark considers himself to be quite homely, and, after all, Saaremaa Food Festival shares that same characteristic. “The Saaremaa Food Festival is a great opportunity for developing local life,” said Paul-Mark. “The greatest value of the festival lies in connecting local life through local food.”

You can find information about the Saaremaa Food Festival from various sources

In addition to the Saaremaa Food Festival’s website, it’s worth following us on Facebook and Instagram.

You are welcome to share your culinary and festival experiences and emotions on these platforms. When you do, please tag us using @saaremaatoidufestival / #saaremaatoidufestival. We record the events of the Saaremaa Food Festival and share the galleries on these platforms.