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The Knights of Torni Helsinki
The Knights of Torni meet again on 19 September 2019 to pay their respects to tradition.
After Finland's wars, Hotel Torni was used by the Allied Control Council. The Allied Control Council operated in Finland between 1944 and 1947, representing the Allied powers in World War II. It supervised the execution of the Moscow Peace Treaty after the Continuation War. Torni needed a complete overhaul after being used by the Allied Control Council. Starting from 1948, the newly renovated hotel was led by businessman Jorma Soiro.
During the term of the Allied Control Council, Torni lost some of its reputation, but also gained new publicity from it. Now, the question was: how can Torni be advertised to the public as a high-quality and modern hotel? These were serious times both in Finland and in Europe. However, people remained entrepreneurial and had a firm faith in the future. As a result, a decision was made on 19 September 1948 to found the Knights of Torni.
Jorma Soiro used the Knights of Torni to make Torni a notable hotel and restaurant in Helsinki. That winter in 1949 witnessed the birth of a new Torni and its new splendour for the joy of the large and loyal group of friends of the Knights of Torni and the city.
From the very beginning, the Knights of Torni was a brotherhood leaning towards Europe, following the example of European food and wine brotherhoods. Torni has been a pioneer in bringing various gastronomic trends to Finland. Even though the first ethnic restaurant at Torni was Chinese, its chef came directly from Paris. After Nalle Karhumäki, one of the Knights of Torni, started flying to Andalucia by Convair, Torni soon opened a Spanish restaurant.
People living in post-war Finland did not know what gastronomy meant or why, out of the few joys in life, culinary pleasures were so important. Gastronomy and culinary pleasures were considered to create strong bonds between people, and this is exactly what happened. Under Jorma Soiro's leadership, the Knights of Torni published the Torni paper and short gastronomic books that allowed readers to learn about the basics of gastronomy. In all parts of Helsinki, Torni became known as a culinary centre, and nearly all connoisseurs of good food were members of its brotherhood.
The Knights of Torni continue to meet to celebrate the anniversary of the brotherhood and to knight new members on the day of its founding, 19 September. Members of the Knights of Torni are selected by invitation only, and being a member is naturally a great honour. Members include notable persons and pioneers in gastronomy and long-term loyal customers of the hotel. The brotherhood knighted its first female member in 1996 when Riitta Uosukainen, the then speaker of Parliament of Finland, was elected. Every year, three to four new members are knighted.
The Knights of Torni are no longer highly active or have that much impact on the development of Torni, but the tradition continues strong. The programme of the anniversary has largely remained unchanged from the very beginning, and the brotherhood also has fairly aged members. During the anniversary, the Knights walk their traditional route around Torni wearing their cloaks and carrying their banners, knight new members following the traditional pattern, give speeches, enjoy the good food of Restaurant Torni and drink from the famous three-part glass.
It is the duty of the Knights to maintain the dignity and honour of their high castle as well as its good food and drink. When hosting an event at Torni, the Knights can have the pennant of the brotherhood on their table.
"You don't need to be hungry or thirsty to enjoy good food and drink"
– Motto of the Knights of Torni