a brekkie date with tara junker

writer: emma ranne
picture: emma ranne

Helsinki Foodie Tara Junker | brekku in bed

A few weeks back my lovely friend (and basically neighbor) Tara Junker invited me over to her place for a brekkie. It was a mellow Wednesday morning, Tara had cooked some gorgeous food and we chatted about well food (obviously) and what it’s like to be a young creative entrepreneur in Finland.

This lovely 22 year old Helsinki based foodie, does magical things in the kitchen and glows with creativity when it comes to anything relating to food. She’s currently studying food and nutrition science in Sweden along with media & communication and sustainable development. Besides being a student she’s also staying busy with running 2 companies: Brekku by Tara, which is her own and Brekku in Bed which she established last April with her friend Anna Sarmanto. Tara writes recipes for magazines and different companies, does food consultation and organizes food events like the very popular’’Tavastian Sunnuntait’’-brunch in Helsinki. 


What inspired you to start Brekku by Tara and where did you find that first spark?

I think it all started with my dream of opening a breakfast place which I had had for many many years. I really felt like there was something missing from the Helsinki breakfast scene. Now in 2018 the brekkie situation is much better, but back then it was all more about brunch and buffets, with no one really serving breakfast. Besides this I have always loved food. So I decided to give it a go by starting off with a small pop up cafe in Punavuori, and well then it kinda escalated from there (bursts into laughter). It’s been a crazy year and a half since I first started first with Brekku by Tara back in summer 2016, and then Brekku in Bed with Anna in April 2017. Everything went so fast!


What does a typical work day look like for you?

I would really say that every day is super different. There’s of course a lot of paper work to be done, mails to be read and financial stuff to be dealt with which takes quite a lot of time. My favorite thing would definitely be the planning of the menus. I also love coming up with new recipes for the food magazine job, and creating new dishes for upcoming events. 

On days that we have an event or catering it’s all about cooking in the kitchen. Like the whole day. Especially when we first started we used to work for like 24h straight, and I know how crazy that sounds. But luckily we’ve learned to do things more effectively now, so our work days are not that crazy anymore, haha!

When I work with Anna we do lots of things online, sending recipes back and forth and planning new things. Work for me is also looking for inspiration on Pinterest, browsing recipes in cookbooks, oh and of course doing social media which is like our main marketing channel. 



What is it like to be a young entrepreneur in Finland? What are the challenges?

Hmmm… I think one of the biggest challenges that I have faced while doing this has been getting things run smoothly with my university. Universities are still not too used to young people jumping into having their own companies, which can be a little challenging. Of course education is always education and it has to be fair, but I really feel like (especially in Sweden) I didn’t get any support from my teachers. The lack of flexibility from my school has probably been my biggest struggle.

But it’s not too bad! There is a lot of support for you to get out there like for example from the organization ’’nuoret yrittäjät’’ (a society for young entrepreneurs in Finland). In the end, there is a lot of things you simply just have to learn on the go, through fails and errors.


Could you tell us a little bit more about the creative process behind your recipes?

I always try to challenge the taste experience. I love to make crazy food combinations by for example combining traditionally more savory herbs with sweet foods. Everything is always about trying to take things a step further and to find that next level factor.

It’s also really important to me to be up to date with all the latest food trends and to try out the new things. But I think we also have to be critical with these shouldn't just buy anything. You have to find your own style and way. Sustainability is also a very important factor in both of the companies. I think it’s very important for us to try and find out what products to use to make things a little earth friendlier, and to see some products more like luxury foods.


Oh that’s very important indeed, could you tell us a little more about that?

Well we should remember that we are quite spoilt with the big selections of our super markets. No matter what time of the year it is, we pretty much have access to anything. Especially for us living here in the North like in Finland. We rely on food import quite a lot. Lots of our foods like  exotic veggies, but also things like almond milk and avocados are shipped to us from sometimes literally across the globe. Those products should be seen like luxury products and we should not forget about the story behind them. We are often a little alienated from the reality, simply because it’s all made really easy for us and we don’t see these things when we go and buy our groceries. 


What are your favorite food spots in Helsinki?

Oooooh that’s so hard! I mean we have an amazing selection here these days and our food scene has really reached new levels in the past few years.

Breakfast-wise I really love Levain. I think they have a good price and quality relation and well, I really love bread. I also really like Lie Mi on Eerikinkatu. I’ve been quite into the Vietnamese food world lately and at Lie Mi they do it very well.


Please share a favorite book, artist or musician that has inspired you lately?

Linda Lomelino’s cakes have been such an inspiration, since I’ve really been in a cake state of mind lately!Overall I get lots of inspiration from Instagram, there are so many beautiful food accounts there to be discovered.


Any tips for young people dreaming of starting their own business?

I think that of course you have to think things through beforehand, but on the other hand  you should try and not think about it too much. You should really just go for it! I feel like we’re always told that it’s really really hard to be an entrepreneur and how it’s so much responsibility with the bills and everything. We’re made to believe that it’s just difficult. And well of course like with everything there is a down side, but in the end you get to do what you love. It’s a great feeling and when you really feel passionate about your work it’s really worth it.

Just go for it, although it sounds a bit cheesy. We’ve learned everything through the mistakes we’ve made, and we’ve made some horrible ones, but then the next time we know. In the end it’s all good.


On favourites: 

favorite ingredient to cook with:
ahhhh… I love garlic. I mean i would’n eat it on it’s own but apart from that I like it with everything no matter what time of the day it is. Also with breakfast. I love it.

Fave cookbook at the moment:
I recently bought the new cookbook by green kitchen stories. Their work has always been an inspiration to me and I loved the new book as well. They have really made an impact on me by making veggie food so fun. Oh and I love their visuals! You can tell they’re good, as this is like their fourth cook book and it’s still filled with new things and ideas to discover.

Favourite brekkie:
I love savory things. breads and spreads and oh sour dough. I really love sour dough.

fave spotify tune at the moment:
I love Zara Larsson. I mean she’s just cool.
Make that money is my confidence boost song and it feels so empowering.
If I’m getting ready for something important, this is my go to tune.

top 3 instagram accounts at the moment:
@nourish_atelier by Nina Olsson
@figandsalt by Cassandra Morris
@cashewkitche by Agnes Cecilia Gällhagen

We love Tara and her creations.
Feeling inspired to cook something yourself?

Check out Tara's butternut squash toast recipe,
that she made especially for you!