Maxim Rybakov – chef from Vladimir about tastes from childhood and development of the region
Maxim Rybakov – chef from Vladimir about tastes from childhood and development of the region.
Maxim Rybakov is the chef of restaurants in Nizhny Novgorod and Tyumen. Over the past four years he worked as a chef in hotel complex in Suzdal called Pushkarskaya Sloboda. In 2017 he studied at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon. In 2017 he and his team won gold in the culinary championship Chef a La Russe.
Hi, Maxim! Tell us, how did you start your career?
Meat factory was my first workplace, from where I was invited to work in a restaurant as a cook. So, I got a job in a restaurant of European format that was owned by Greeks.
Where do you live and work now?
Now I live in Vladimir, and I work in several cities, in Nizhny Novgorod and Tyumen.
What projects are you working on?
In Nizhny Novgorod, I participate in updating the concept of the restaurant with modern Russian cuisine called NOVO. In this project, I play the role of a concept chef, changing the menu, creating seasonal offers. I don’t appear in the restaurant every day. I work there several days a week.
What project are you working on in Tyumen?
We are preparing to open the restaurant “Capital of the villages”. We are working on the kitchen, we are setting up technological processes, we are launching the banquet service. The name of the restaurant comes from a local saying: “Tyumen is the capital of villages”. Before the 50s Tyumen was surrounded by villages which were a part of the city, so the locals jokingly came up with such an expression.
The project owners were looking for a chef specializing in modern Russian cuisine and working with local products. Therefore, they invited me to head the restaurant’s cuisine.
It was interesting for me to work with such Siberian products as fish, venison, game, wild plants. In my opinion, it is a great case and a rewarding experience.
When is the launch of this project planned?
Now the restaurant is in construction process, but we plan to launch it by spring, in March-April.
Recently you have left the iconic project “Pushkarskaya Sloboda” in Suzdal, in which you worked for a long time. Why did you decide to leave?
Pushkarskaya Sloboda is a hotel complex in Suzdal. In this project, I used to be the brand chef of six restaurants. I had a definite vision of the development of each restaurant. I believe that every three years it is necessary to make changes for future development. But my opinion did not coincide with the opinion of the owners, so I decided to leave the project.
You were born in Vladimir, then you moved to Moscow, where you worked for about 8 years, after that you returned to your native region. Why did you decide to leave Moscow?
I went to Moscow as a young cook to earn money. In Moscow, I got a job in the GQ bar headed by chef Konstantin Ivlev. Then I became a cook in hot kitchen, in cold kitchen and grew up to sous-chef. I was working there for about three years, I enjoyed working in a good place. I was interested in Moscow, its dynamic life. I had many weekends, so I managed to work in several places. I worked as a chef in restaurants Mint, Bianca, Lemonade.
I worked in Moscow from 2007 to 2015. I went to Vladimir every weekend. There I’ve got a daughter. Me and my wife began planning more children, and I realized that I did not want to carry them in Moscow. For me, Moscow is a place where you need to work and hang out, but not live. In Moscow, you should create your individual projects that are interesting personally for you, not for the business. But only few chefs succeeded in it, I was not one of them.
I believe that you need to live in nature, in an eco-friendly place. Therefore, I decided to return to my city. I realized that I wanted to leave a mark in my region. For this reason, there is a popular Russian expression: “East or West, home is best”. Travelling around the cities is good when you gain experience, learn something. Once this path ends, and you need to start doing something that will remain after you.
Is there some difference in guests’ tastes in Moscow and Suzdal?
Yes, the tastes of the guests are significantly different. Moscow and St. Petersburg are two gastronomic capitals of Russia, and, of course, guests are spoiled there. Their taste map is wider. They have been to many places, tried different food, have already seen a lot. The level of development of taste in the capital is much higher than the basic level in regions. Therefore, it is more difficult to work in Moscow, but it is more interesting. You can offer guests something completely unusual. Serious chefs are always at the forefront, they try to be different, to stand out.
In Moscow, guests have higher solvency, so cooks can work with a more premium product. Also, restaurants there have a higher traffic and therefore less problems.
Most of the guests in regional cities go to a dozen of certain restaurants, so there is a struggle for each guest. You need to adapt to the tastes of guests and think about how to attract a guest to the restaurant. In regional cities, it is necessary to think more about savings on products, on staff. You have common feeling of restaurant market decline. It is despair circle, and you need a powerful mechanism, a serious teamwork to solve all these problems.
Everyone sees the solution only in offering lower prices and buying cheaper products. This is also a decision, but it is not suitable for everyone. Therefore, the development of the restaurant market in the regions is much more complicated.
What lifehacks do you have to solve such problems?
My first lifehack is classic basic marketing. It is very important to make an analysis of the target audience and to create a unique selling proposition that will distinguish you from others. For example, you can find your own unique products, use a unique technology. It is very important for any restaurant project to find its own niche. There is lifehack number two. If you have no money, you should not deal with a restaurant. At the start, it is important to calculate the economic feasibility and payback of the project based on its concept and team. Another lifehack is the creation of a cool team that always begins with cool managers who are interested in the project for years.
Why did you choose Russian cuisine? What does “Russian cuisine” mean to you?
For me, kitchen is, on the one hand, a kind of craft, and on the other, an art form. In my opinion, Russian cuisine is a cuisine that is the ethnicity of Russian people. Russian cuisine began to develop since the formation of our state, it changes its appearance, acquiring new forms. For example, in Soviet times it was limited. Nowadays we see, that Russian cuisine is thriving. Despite the fact that its shape is changing, the essence remains the same.
Russian cuisine is the food that triggers our emotions. We remember these emotions from childhood; they give us flashbacks. For example, it can be grandmother’s patties or mother’s porridge.
Also, Russian cuisine is the cuisine of new products. It is new to guests, but it has always existed in our traditions. For example, spelt wheat, pea jelly drink, white kvass. Now, many of these products are forgotten, but it is also a big part of Russian cuisine. Many chefs have turned to it lately.
Where do you find traditional recipes of Russian dishes? Do you interpret it in your own way?
First, I create it using my own experience. My family always cooked Russian cuisine. As a child, I spent a lot of time in the village with my grandmother, where I ate her food. I get a lot of inspiration from books, as well as from other masters and teachers. I use all possible sources, starting with the literature of Tsarist-era. I try to consult with experts, historians of Russian cuisine, I follow their activity on social networks and I am interested in what they are currently studying.
Where do you prefer to buy products and why?
My vision of Russian cuisine relates to regional and seasonal products that identify us and give us individuality. Therefore, I love working with Russian products, especially with forgotten and rare ones. But mostly, of course, I try to work with simple products that anyone can find.
Seasonal products form about seventy percent of everything I work with. I try to find these products everywhere. I go around the markets, work with local farmers. For me, this story began in Moscow, when I became interested in veganism and was looking for bio and eco-products for myself.
Can you give an advice on working with farmers?
In terms of working with farmers, trust is very important. It is important to know about the origin of this product, animal nutrition, plants fertilization. Often I don’t even look for the cheapest products, I buy it from farmers to support them.
In our region, I found good suppliers of lamb, pork, dairy products, cheese, sausages. I found a supplier of seasonal vegetables, from which we buy broccoli, cauliflower, strawberry tomato, carrots and potatoes.
There are people who pick mushrooms and berries for us. I have my own way how to find such people. I advertise in local small newspapers that are read by the target audience I need – those who regularly go to the forest. I learned this from the Noma restaurant. They have been using this method for a long time, and it works.
Sometimes it takes more than one year to find reliable and trusted suppliers.
Why do you try to work mostly with local products?
After a while, I realized that the best products are those products that grew up in the place where you live. This can be justified even from a scientific point of view. If these products come from your region, your body has become accustomed to it. You have been eating these products since childhood, it is easily digested.
There are main advantages of local products. It is always tastier, more familiar and cheaper. Any local product is always cheaper than a non-local one. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to look for and study local products, tell others about it. The product is the foundation of any kitchen.
Are there any products that you grow yourself?
Yes, in our restaurant there are three vegetable gardens where we grow various spicy herbs, leafy greens for decoration and some vegetables. In the restaurant, we actively use small sprouts, dill, parsley, carrot tops, chervil, anise, borage, purslane, nasturtium, celery cabbage, which we grow ourselves. One of these gardens is part of landscape design. There we grow mint, basil, lavender. Each plant has a small nameplate. The state has a gardener who cares not only for flowers, but also for herbs.
Name your favorite products that you use in your work.
I love those products that connect me with childhood, with my memories. This is a strawberry, baked milk, hazelnut, pickled cucumbers, bread and rye flatbread.
Do you bake bread in your restaurants?
Yes, I bake it myself. We cook buckwheat and wheat bread, with and without sourdough. In 2019, I plan to develop in this direction.
Do you plan to go somewhere to study?
I consider two options. I will go to study myself or I will invite us bread maker, a cool baker, to organize a small baked line in the restaurant. For example, in Nizhny Novgorod there are a couple of worthy specialists.
Can you share your dreams and plans with us?
In the future, I would like to make my own project, open my own restaurant. It will be a place where I will invest my energy, which will be a landmark for me. It will be in Vladimir or Suzdal.
Now I am launching one new project – my web site. It looks like book. This book will be devoted to the work that I did in Suzdal. It is divided into twelve chapters, for twelve months. There will be several seasonal dishes with recipes for each month.
Thanks a lot, Maxim!
What is your plan for your future as a chef?
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