Dmitry Pustovalov – Chef at KIT bar&bistro, St. Petersburg – combining incompatible ingredients
Dmitry Pustovalov – a chef from St. Petersburg on how to combine the incompatible and create new tastes. Chef Dmitry works at KIT bar&bistro.
Dmitry Pustovalov – Chef’s Portrait
Dmitry, as far as we know, St. Petersburg is not your hometown. And where do you come from? At what point and why did you decide to move to St. Petersburg?
I was born in Samara, where I studied and began my career as a cook. Since 2006, I have started my professional activities. In the spring in 2006 we opened a new restaurant in the city, where I got a job as a cook. By the autumn of the same year I became a sous-chef at this restaurant. A year later, I became the chef of this project. After that, I was invited to rebrand one restaurant in Samara. After some time I received an offer to go to Sochi. I worked in Sochi under a contract at the Beach Club on the seaside. I was also invited to Voronezh to open two new restaurants, one of which was located at the boutique hotel. After that, I returned to Sochi again to launch a project at the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort. And in 2015 I was invited to work in St. Petersburg.
In St. Petersburg, I went to work to the famous Russian restaurateur Alexander Rappoport in his new restaurant Block, which was opening at that time. But my friend, who had previously moved to Petersburg, invited me to work in the new project Marche, and I eventually chose this place. During the launch of this restaurant, we faced some difficulties and while we were waiting for the opening, we managed to launch another project KIT bistro. And now I am launching one more project. I have been living and working in St. Petersburg for more than three years. So now I have no plans to move anywhere, here I have found my place.
Where did you study?
I studied in Samara in a vocational school; this is a fairly well-known educational institution in our city. My further training has already taken place during the work in different restaurants in Russia.
What experience was the most important and significant for your entire career?
I got the most significant and memorable experience when I first opened a gastronomic cafe in Samara. At this place, everything was started from ground zero. For example, the walls were pulled down and everything was rebuilt. My task was to do everything from scratch – change equipment, study all technological processes, create a new menu and much more. By the way, this cafe still works, although in a slightly different format, it has become more specialized in banquets. During my work, an intern has come to this restaurant, I have trained him, and now he is the chef of this cafe.
Tell me about the KIT bistro where you work now. What does the name of the restaurant mean? What is the idea behind the concept of KIT?
The name of the place is an abbreviation of the expression “keep in touch”. Through this name we wanted to show that our team is in touch with guests all the time and is open for communication. Initially, we opened up as a mono-project and focused on fish, because there were no places of such a format in neighborhood. But we began to receive feedback from guests that they would prefer variety in menu. In addition, our street is very lively and has many bars around. We did not have a bar. When we understood this, we literally built a bar counter in a week and organized a friendly zone for communication with guests.
We also began to develop the concept of food paring; we have a separate page in the menu dedicated to it. We make a pair with cocktails and snacks. We can say that the format of the place is neo-bistro, since we use several gastronomic directions, for example, Asia and the East.
How long has KIT bistro been working?
The official opening took place in May 2018. But in fact, from last New Year we launched the project in test mode, and by the spring we had corrections of mistakes. In May, a lot of guests came to the opening. After that, information about us began to spread very quickly.
What is your role in this project?
My role is one of the main ones. I am fully responsible for the kitchen, for everything that happens there and for the working atmosphere. I also work a lot with the guests and their feedback.
What is the difference between a bistro format and a classic restaurant?
Bistro has small mature menu, small quantity of seats and work on quality and service.
Are there any places of such format in St. Petersburg or they are new, unusual for a guest?
No, the idea is not new. This is a modern trend, since so many places of this format are opening. In St. Petersburg, almost no one builds large restaurants. Everyone tries to make everything compact and convenient. The main problem is that when you open a large restaurant, you need more control over it. In such a place, you will have to make a large menu, there are a lot of seats inside and there is a risk to worsen the quality.
You are known as a chef, using unusual combinations of products in your dishes. For example, you cook shrimp schnitzel and cabbage with mayonnaise made from maple syrup or pike perch with pumpkin and mussels cream. How do you manage to find the right combination? Are they born during experiments or you have any specific rules?
Of course, there are certain basics that I use. These are combinations that have already been tested and proven by many chefs practically from a scientific point of view, at the molecular level. For example, one of these rules is the taste compatibility of products of the same color.
In addition, I am support the idea of taking familiar and well-known products and making something interesting and unusual. I also spend a lot of time on culinary experiments and tastings. Dishes are not born immediately. I can work on one dish for one or even two months.
And at what time do you conduct such gastronomic experiments? And who tastes the result?
It happens in completely different ways. Sometimes I can even work at night when the restaurant is closed. Then I have the opportunity to be alone with the kitchen. Sometimes I experiment at home.
At first, I try everything myself, many times. After that, I give the dish to the tasting team, and we are finalizing it together. And only when most of the team agrees with the result, we begin to give this dish to guests.
How do your guests perceive these unusual combinations in food?
To be honest, when combinations are too crazy, people often get lost and even get a little scared. It is very important in this case to tell everything in detail, what is the idea, why we have chosen exactly these products, how to present a new dish correctly. We do not even add some controversial dishes to the menu, although we have them, since not every guest will understand these dishes.
When you explain your idea to the people, they become interested, and they begin to try new things with great pleasure. We also have regular guests who come specially for experiments and always wait for something new.
In the restaurant, we also organize gastronomic dinners. For dinner I make a small set with tasting portions. This is a very convenient tool, because during dinner we look at the reaction of guests and when we see a positive response, we introduce the dish into the menu. At dinner, we have the opportunity to test our ideas. This is a creative process that I really like.
Where do you get the inspiration for new dishes? How do you generate new ideas?
It often happens when suppliers introduce new products. They start calling, offering and showing their novelties. If I am not familiar with them, I take these products for study and begin to make experiments. I watch how it behaves in different dishes with use of various techniques.
Do you take cooks for an internship? How can they work at your restaurant?
Yes, of course I do. It’s easy to do; they just need to contact me. One conversation with a candidate will be enough for me to understand at what level he is now, his aspirations and how much he is a fan of his business. For me it is important to see a passionate person. Guys often come to us for internships from other Russian cities.
This year you took part in the MEGUSTRO festival for the first time. You took part in a master class at gastronomic show CHEFS CHALLENGE paired with French chef Xavier Isabal (1 * Michelin). Share your impressions. How was your paired show? What do you remember most?
The atmosphere of the festival is amazing; I really liked how we cooked together. Xavier is an interesting and funny chef. The main topic of our performance was unusual product combinations. In KIT bistro most of all unordinary combinations we have in desserts. In addition, I noticed that all the other chefs prepared main dishes or snacks. That is why I decided to make a dessert. Xavier brought for me anchovies, which he cooked in his restaurant in France. I decided to use this product in the dessert. I made a burnt banana with cream of black bread and white chocolate with anchovies. I called this dessert bananas and black bread. I managed to balance the sweetness and salt due to the fact that I added anchovies.
Also, within the framework of MEGUSTRO, you and your team at the KIT bistro restaurant took part in the food market, where you presented a completely new product – gougères. How did you get the idea to create such a product? Was it popular among festival visitors? Do you plan to develop this concept and how?
We decided that we will prepare street food. Usually, food markets always cook burgers and something similar. Soups, for example, ramen and pho bo, are also becoming very popular. I understood that people were accustomed to burgers, to the combination of bread and certain toppings. While ago bao buns were also popular. We decided to go the familiar way and cooked French cheese buns – gougères. This dish comes from Burgundy, with different toppings in different styles – Asian, Mexican, and French. The product is completely new, so it was complicated, because people did not understand what it was and we had to communicate, tell and explain a lot. Then it became interesting to people, and they began to try. There were even people coming to our food corner every day and tried different tastes of gougères, brought with them other people. Therefore, I can say that the reaction to the new product was positive.
We have plans to develop the story with this product in future, but for now we have decided to concentrate on one big and new project. Here I will be even more involved, since part of the project will be my own.
Share your plans for the near future.
Now I am going to open a large and important project for me. It will be a family restaurant. The restaurant will not focus on one particular kitchen. It will be based on both Georgian and Italian cuisine. We want to combine two popular and well-known cuisines in one project. After the New Year, we will gradually begin to reveal more detailed information. The launch of the restaurant is scheduled for spring 2019.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you great success in your new project!
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