Vladimir Chistyakov – head chef of Buro TSUM restaurant
Vladimir, how have you made such a breathtaking career within 4 years?
People often ask me this question, but I think that it is a coincidence of happy circumstances for me and a great desire to do it. A huge number of people with whom I studied, began to participate in master classes, someone wanted to cook at home. I also wanted to cook in a professional kitchen, as it is shown in movies.
Who was your mentor?
My teacher and mentor is the teacher of the Ragout school, Arthur Aroyan. Probably, this is the only person who gave me a maximum of knowledge and this is the person to whom I am grateful for everything that I have achieved.
How did you start your career as a cook?
When I was studying at Ragout school, I realized that this is really what I want to do. For me, this is much more interesting than journalism, marketing and PR.
After that, I went to Mexico with my friends and found a couple of restaurants where I started to ask for an internship. I explained to them that I am a graduate of the culinary school, that I am from Moscow and that I dream to work in their restaurant, at least I am ready to clean their vegetables and wash dishes. In a letter to them, I wrote that I was ready to do everything.
For a long time no one answered me. I found the names of all the chefs on the website and started sending letters to them. In the end, the head chef wrote to me that I can come and that he wants to talk with me. We agreed with him and a few days later I went on an internship at a real kitchen on the other side of the planet. I used to go to the kitchens but until that moment I did not know how everything is arranged from the inside. It was very cool!
After Mexico I had other internships but at the first one I took as much experience and skills as I could.
What was the most important thing that you learned at your first internship in Mexico?
Everything was arranged there as in one big family. The restaurant was designed for 100 seats and it had 7 people in staff team. All the preparations of the cooks were done by themselves. The temperature at kitchen was 60 degrees, it was real hot. The team works six days a week and have just one day off. All the team has the same schedule. People in team are big fans of the chef, because he worked for a long time in the US and he tries constantly to teach the chefs something new. This restaurant uses a lot of techniques.
The first thing I was asked to do when I came to the restaurant was to cook some snack “in Russian style” for the company of top managers. For this, I marinated fish and made snacks with it on rye bread, and I also baked pies with eggs and onions for them. This created a real sensation!
What was the most delicious dish in this restaurant?
There was the first time I tried the lobster. But the most delicious food in Mexico was not limited to this restaurant. There I tried a huge amount of street food, there is a great variety. Everything was super-fragrant and tasty.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Every time I need to come up with something new, I start sorting out the various ingredients in my head and stopping normally on something I did not work with or worked with, but did not pay enough attention to it. For me, this is a new challenge to make something new and interesting from this product.
What did you decide to do after Mexico?
By the time I returned to Russia, I already had several different contacts, but I still did not understand what and how to do. My friend phoned me, who was a sous-chef in one restaurant and offered to work with them. At that time I was still working on my previous work and at first I tried to combine two works at once, including work in a restaurant. I worked this way 3 months without days off and realized that if another week passes, I just cannot stand it. As a result, I left my previous job and started working only in a restaurant. The restaurant where I settled was called LavkaLavka, and I become a chef in less than a year.
What qualities do you need to become a chef in less than a year?
The most important thing is to love what you do, despite the fact that it brings you money or does not bring it. If you concentrate on one thing for a long time and in the same time you try to show the maximum result and even exceed it, then at some point it will start to bring you money. Once I had the opportunity to show what I was able to do, and I was not scared.
When I became a chef, I realized that his task is not only to create dishes, but there are also a lot of things such as creating technological maps, working out all the technological processes, calculating the food cost, tracking the leftovers, working with all the staff and training it. I read something every day surfed the Internet, I studied all the time. And even now every new project for me is a new discovery. I needed to track and study new techniques and technologies so that I could put my ideas into action.
What did you learn from your work in LavkaLavka?
There I finally understood how the kitchen is going through all the processes. Cooking is a secondary story if you do not have the right team, when everyone treats each other well and helps, they live the same family. Only in this case the restaurant works as the united mechanism.
Tell me, what does “comfort food” mean for you?
I used to work at the Glenuill restaurant, where the whole story was built around mono-products. Each dish had one main product and was served with two or three more ingredients. For me, this is just comfort food. Mono-product style is a new and fresh trend in gastronomy. This is a trend that is becoming very popular.
What does it mean to work as a chef in a restaurant under the direction of another chef who sets you tasks?
I would call it a little bit different. The owner-chef does not put me any specific tasks, but sets a certain framework and concept, beyond which I should not go. For example, on one plate there should not be a lot of ingredients or there should not be sprinkles and foams, everything should be as simple as possible.
And do you eat all these food at home from which you cook at your restaurant, for example, topinambur?
In fact, yes. Most often, I prepare some new experimental dishes for my wife and this becomes a source of ideas and inspiration for my work. Often at home I get interesting things, which I then cook in a restaurant.
Thank you, Vladimir!
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