ALEXEY ALEKSEEV – “THE ART OF COOKING IS A WHOLE SCIENCE.”
Alexey Alekseev is executive chef in the scandinavian restaurant “Nordic” in St. Petersburg. In this interview we get to hear all about the scandinavian culinary style of the New Nordic Cuisine.
What moved you to become a chef?
In 2009 after a party, my friends and I met up in the apartment of an acquaintance. Everyone was really hungry and there wasn’t much in the fridge except some tired lame stuff. Among us was a chef who whipped up an amazing snack with tartar sauce. I was really blown away and at that moment I was struck with the desire to learn that skill as well, so I ended up in a cafe in St. Petersburg.
You’ve worked in restaurants in Finland and Estonia. What was your most important moment from these times?
Internships are always a new experience and a new discovery for me, and it was also the case in Estonia, Spain and Finland. The gastronomy there… is another world, such that everything is organized down to the finest detail, every employee, waiter and chef knows their exact role, duties and responsibilities. It’s like a living organism that works like a swiss clock. That is exactly what I strive for in my restaurant. That’s where I came up with the ideas for the New Nordic Cuisine where the complex and conceptual ideas were impressed on me. I was extremely pleased to be able to meet so many talented chefs as well.
How would you describe New Nordic Cuisine and how does it differ from traditional scandinavian cuisine?
New Nordic Cuisine is a combination of the best nordic culinary traditions, new trends, and also technology from other countries. It also focuses on seasonal and local products.
Which dish is loved the most by guests in the restaurant “Nordic”?
The favorite at this moment is our crustacean soup featuring Kamchatka crab, salmon from the Faroe Islands and spaghetti vongole.
Could you share your favorite dish with us?
All my dishes are loved by me deeply, born through fire. I love them all. Every dish has gone through my head, heart and hands.
Which technologies do you utilize in restaurant “Nordic”?
I always stay abreast of new technologies and use appropriate technology in my work. At the moment I am very involved with fermentation which is practiced by scandinavian chefs. I started off with a simple type, the Lacto-fermentation. Fermentation emphasizes and enhances the flavor of products and opens the way for new sensations. We also practice dehydration, making chips from vegetables, fruits, berries, cereals and broth. This gives our dishes a pleasant crunch and surprises the guests with a taste experience.
Which local products do you work with and which products are imported?
We try to use only local products in line with our concept. Around 90 percent of our product is sourced locally, karelian berries, mushrooms, roots and microgreens. A lot of products grow right here in the Leningrad region. Gourmet foods such as game or Muksun (a white fish) come direct from the Yamal and the Yenisei region, scallops, oysters and the Kamchatka crab from the Far East. An example of a product that is imported would be the salmon from the Faroe Islands, a fish unmatched in quality and fits very well with our concept.
Where do you find inspiration for new dishes? How do you go about consant improvement?
I read many books and watch many videos, research complex chemical processes, and the compatibility of different products in order to bring forth new tastes and experiences. The art of cooking is a whole science which instills in me an interest and love, which ultimately leads to the inspiration and creations of new dishes.
In your opinion, what impression do your guests take away from visiting your restaurant?
I think they always leave in a good mood.
What are the plans for the future and do you have a “career dream”?
I dream that restaurant “Nordic” will be the central gastronomic attraction in St. Petersburg and the President will stop by.
How did you start your career as a chef?
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