VICTORIA MOSINA – VEGAN RESTAURANT „GRÜN“ IN ST. PETERSBURG
A restaurant with an atmosphere of Scandanavian tropics. Victoria is constantly on the hunt for new local products. Armed with her extensive botanical knowledge creates an amazing array of dishes full of greens and vegetables and accompanying her green dishes she offers a blue water made from natural ingredients.
What were your reasons for switching to a vegan diet?
As a child I spent a lot of time with different animals, especially pets. It was pretty clear to me from the beginning that they understood everything, could feel and were fully aware of their surroundings.
Throughout my very young years I thought I might die if I didn’t eat meat or dairy products, but when I hit 16 years-old, it became clear that nothing bad would happen if I did that. At that moment I switched to purely vegan and since then, I have not regretted a single moment of that decision.
How did you become a chef?
I fell into my profession completely by chance. At 16 years-old, during my traineeship as an ocean freight logistics clerk, a friend asked if I’d like to help out in the kitchen of a freight ship. I volunteered and quickly found that I wanted to continue working on a freight ship on the sea, however only an education as a cook or a helmsman could put me on that path. It was much easier to go with a chef traineeship as I had always enjoyed cooking and so I decided to work in kitchens. At the age of 18, as my apprenticeship finished, I got my first job in a small Victorian cafe. It was a great fit and I worked about a year for a chain of Victorian cafes but pretty soon I realized that there wasn’t much more to learn there so I moved on to the “KoKoKo” restaurant to gain more experience.
Since when have you started working exclusively with plant-based product?
I’m really into rare plants, to look for new products and tell a story about them. It turns out that a lot of people, at least in my environment, are not aware of the biodiversity that exists all around them. A lot of people are unaware that every plant has many species and varieties, the carrot is not just orange or that the cabbage family has at least 4000 different varieties. So because of that I’m very interested to find little-known things people can’t find on the shelves in supermarkets, and I want to work with these products and tell their story. I rarely work with unusual combinations, instead I try to work with standard products such as wild mushrooms, plants and rare cabbage varieties.
By the time I started my first job I was already vegan, and had to deviate a bit from my principles if I was working in places like “Em or “KoKoKo”. During these times of my apprenticeship I had to work with meats and fish. I guess, I really didn’t have a choice. When I started creating my own menus, these were of course vegan from start to finish, and will always be vegan.
Currently you are the executive chef of the vegan restaurant “Grün”. What is the meaning behind the name?
The name “Grün” is a reflection of the whole restaurant team. It originates from Scandinavia and our restaurant brings to our guests the scandanavian lifestyle. So you also have the color green (Grün) all throughout our interior and the name really brings everything together with the products we are using.
In the restaurant you offer a blue drink, which is in essence just water. How do you get that effect?
At the time we were opening, we were brainstorming around a sort of extraordinary water, that we could offer to our guests on the house. There were lots of great ideas such as things based on aloe vera or other interesting plants steeped in water. In the end we decided on a Thai plant called the Klitorie, we used that in infusions, and that plant belongs to the legume family. The blossom does many things, one of which is turning a bright blue color. The result is quite amazing really, and I believe it’s the most hip “Instagram water” in the city. It does look really beautiful and is nice to drink.
Do you use any other “tricks” with your other products?
“Tricks” isn’t a word I would use to represent what I am about. I don’t use high-tech equipment because I am more interested in working completely with food myself. I invest a lot of time searching for new and rare products including certain dried mushrooms and lavender cauliflower. Instead of focusing on new technologies I prefer to look for unique foods and set my focus there. It’s so important to show people these products, so they don’t forget them, otherwise they will be lost to us.
Which foods do you work with the most and why?
I love to work mostly with local foods, because with globalization we have avocados, pineapples or mangos on hand, but we forget currant berries, radishes, turnips and cabbage. In my view it’s not the best that we stop or eat less of these types of foods because then the production will just become less. In the worst case our following generations will only read about them in history books. I can’t stand for that so I always look for product to use that are specific to the region, where I was born and raised just like cranberries, cabbage, radishes, apples and cherries.
How would you describe the atmosphere of the restaurant?
The atmosphere is tropical Scandanavian.
In order to reduce your waste you have made business cards from the boxes of your purveyors. Do you implement other unique possibilities to reduce your waste or plastic usage in the restaurant?
In the kitchen we strive to get everything we can out of the product we use. Everytime we use something new be it kohlrabi, red beets or cabbage we think about how we can utilize every part in order to minimize waste. With cauliflower for example we use the leaves and stems in order to make a delicious soup.
Which tips could you give to people at home or in other kitchens that would help keep our world cleaner?
I think the very first and foremost step is not to think about how to handle potato peels but how to start really handling the sorting of plastic and tetra packs in regards to recycling. In my opinion the biggest problem is plastic.
Could you share a simple recipe with us that you think is interesting and easy, where you combine different wild herbs?
The best recipe for wild herbs is when you go out in the early spring, the first moment of going out into the land and collecting the young leaves of dandelion, primrose and pansy. There might also be other flowers such as carnations which bloom quite early. If you manage to find a couple of horsetails, you can fry them up and toss them in. My most favorite thing to do at the country house in earlier times was to collect all of that with some wild mushrooms and saute it all up with a bit of garlic. Throw in the young leaves of all those herbs and enjoy it with some oil and salt. First, it’s healthy, and secondly you only need what grows all around us.
Thank you, Victoria!
Are you an ambitious chef with career aspirations? Would you like to work with Victoria Mosinas’ team in the “Grün” restaurant? We are currently looking for motivated staff who would like to get involved with what we are doing. If you’d like to apply directly, then just email firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you.