Chef Nikola Kadmos says Vegan cooking is a pretty large part of Arabic Cuisine

Nikola grew up in a small village near Homs under the wooden table of his mother’s backyard kitchen. Surrounded by fields, wine yards, fresh farm products, self grown herbs and influenced by family gatherings revolved around feasts of traditional Levantine cosine –Nikola started sharpening his sense about food. This lovely place is where his culinary adventure started. At the age of fifteen he enrolled in a hotel high school, 2 years later he became an apprentice at a restaurant in a hotel centrally located in the heart of Homs and continued his food journey to the Middle East, working as Demi chef, Chef de Partie, Chef de Cuisine in Qatar and Dubai for the most prestigious and luxurious hotel brands worldwide such as Intercontinental, Radisson and JW Marriott Marquis hotel. Expanding his food expedition to the Far East he was the Star Chef for the Arabic Food Experience in JW Marriot Bangkok in Thailand and Bombay, Pune in India.

Nikola’s fusion of herbs and spices with a few handpicked ingredients is bringing an exciting culinary experience of the ancient spice route from Asia through Middle East and Mediterranean with sophisticated modern edge. Spices and herb blends, traditional Arabic food, Mediterranean fresh ingredients and Asian cuisine were always a great inspiration for this talented chef’s food. Simple and honest cooking, soul food rich in flavors and emotions form part of Nikola’s cooking style and his culinary signature. Currently Chef Nikola is executive Chef and co-owner of Gourmet Arabic Food Restaurant allSPICE in Skopje, North Macedonia.

 

Tell us something about Levantine cuisine, what makes it unique.

Levantine cuisine is known in Arabic as the Bilad al-Sham (all countries surrounding Damascus, capitol city of my country Syria) which covers a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps the most distinctive and unique aspect of Levantine cuisine is the set of small mezzeh before the main course including tabbouleh, hummus, moutabel, muhamara, wine leaves and baba ghanoush.

You have worked in India and all over the world. What do you miss most about working in India?

Incredible India, I had the pleasure of cooking several times during my visit there and experiencing by far the most outstanding hospitality and cultural diversity. India for me is an explosion of food variety with never ending creative dishes, fulfilled with the most unique spices and colors. I love Indian cuisine and miss eating butter chicken with garlic naan bread and rasmalai.

You’ve cooked in some really intimidating kitchens. Was there anything you did to build your confidence and ensure you always maintained the drive?

Kitchen is the place where I can accomplish my goals and satisfy my inner desires. Having the opportunity to cook and to put my fingerprint on creating some imperative dishes that brings an exquisite dining experience on the table is my ultimate drive.

What is one food trend you wish would just go away?

That’s definitely Edible Gold Leaf

Hiring and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges in any industry, but most especially in hospitality. How do you speak to your staff about career growth and progression?

Love and Passion about food and every day learning that’s my kitchen manifesto. I’m trying to plant that seed in my team’s heads. A Pinch of love is the secret ingredient – an ingredient that makes the best executive, head, deputy, senior or junior chef.

What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

Chicken Makloubeh (Cooked rice with eggplant and chicken covered with fried almonds) is my favourite dish when I am cooking at home.

What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food? Which is your favourite place to dine?

Various Salads and Wraps are comfort foods for me. Wagamama Restaurant in Dubai is my favourite restaurant to dine at.

What exactly is vegan cooking and how do you go about it?

Using Fresh Ingredients while cooking is the secret of creating impressively delicious vegan dishes. However, at the moment my biggest challenge (in my newly opened Arabic gourmet Restaurant allspice) is the availability of the various vegetables, fruits, meat substitutes from around the world, in Macedonia (where is my newly opened Restaurant allSPICE) where the market is very limited. Vegan cooking is a pretty large part of the Arabic Cuisine – traditional Arabic Mezzeh including more than fifty different kinds, all very different and exciting for cooking and serving our guests.

Have you ever worked with meat substitutes? If yes, what are the pro and cons.

There are lots of plant based meat substitutes in the market that you can buy. I was cooking with: mushrooms, beans, legumes, textured vegetables etc… For example Tofu has been a staple of Asian cuisine for ages, Tofu gets a bad reputation as being soft, spongy, bland, and tasteless, but that doesn’t have to be true. The cooking method has to be right in order to produce a great vegan dish. The restaurants and us as Chefs can do a lot about the innovative sustainable plant-based food. By making and promoting plant-based dishes and options in our current menus. Our Guests are excited to taste something different apart their traditional food. Vegan or vegetarian food is highly recommended by me as it contributes to overall health.

Please tell us more about the concept of zero wastage and how you have contributed to it so far. Does this put pressure on your budgets?

In my restaurant our food waste is reduced to minimum by controlling the food items order, preparation in the kitchen, the portion sizes and left overs in the plate. It’s all about planning with my team and using data for the best possible outcome/prediction.

Tell us about the concept of ‘farm to fork’ and how it helps to promote the idea of sustainability and good health. How do you think we can create awareness amongst more chefs and restaurants and hotels so that they contribute to this initiative?

Macedonia is a small market, just something more than 2 million population. During the spring, summer and autumn season of “Farm to fork” initiative is a great concept for promoting local farmers and locally grown food, healthy lifestyle and national wellness. Food that has soul, and is tastier even without any spices…

Jyoti Balani