I was born in the city of Vladimir, my grandmother raised me. Then there was not much choice: either you have rich parents, and they decide everything for you, or you go to the working bone. I went to study as a cook, but by the end of my first year I was working in a restaurant with a visiting Greek chef, and that’s it, I was sucked in there, I didn’t appear at the lyceum anymore.
I gained knowledge in practice, even worked my way up to a sous-chef. Then he went into the army. In the army he was supposed to become a driver, but accidentally cooked dinner for the general and became his personal chef. I served in the Moscow region, so I stayed to work in Moscow, gaining experience in some institutions, but it was work for the sake of money, I lacked knowledge. I understood this and really wanted to learn.
One fine day – it seems that this happens only in films, but it actually happened to me – I was walking along Strastnoy Boulevard. There was a poster hanging on the theater – “Your Chance”. I decided that this was a sign, and went into the restaurant “Barbara” by Anatoly Komm, adjacent to the theater. And they took me just as an assistant cook. I didn’t receive much money, but a lot of knowledge, because Anatoly Anatolyevich is such a multifaceted personality who teaches not only the kitchen, but also many other things. I worked with him for a long time and eventually became his boss, and went to Europe with him on his tour. Le Bazar was opened in Suzdal, and Millionka was opened in Vladivostok.
Then I managed to try myself as a partner in an izakaya bar in Nizhny Novgorod. There I touched everything: I built and planned. The building was historical, a ruin inside, but even the brick could not be touched there, so I was engaged in the selection of plaster and furniture. Interesting, cool, but from the point of view of cooking, it somehow blurred.
In general, there were many regions in life. I opened institutions in Kaliningrad and Vladivostok, one might say, I practically traveled all over Russia. Each place is good in its own way, each has different people, acquaintances and stories. I spent almost two years in Vladivostok. It seems to be Russia, but not it. This is different. And the people there are different. Like the barbarians behind the Wall in Game of Thrones. They don’t lie. If they don’t like something, they will tell you to your face, your status is not important to them. There, they came to the restaurant with pistols, and the situations were different. Well, then there is the sea. There is no such seafood as there. Some trepangs are worth something. They are stolen to China, they treat cancer there. Both scallops and crabs are very different. Actually a different world. Very complex, cool, but different.
Kaliningrad, again, is not quite Russia. It is very close to Europe, and since childhood, Kaliningraders have traveled to Europe, seen how they live and communicate there. They are so respectful, gentle, cunning. And they think that this is not visible, but it is very noticeable. Educated, gentle, smart. European.
My native Vladimir seems to be three steps from Moscow, but there is the Bermuda Triangle right there – everything is incomprehensible. It seems that everything is there – both logistics and products, but there is nothing that raises the economy, raises the mentality of people. There is a certain level – and it’s good. A fair wind brought something, a sprout took root – well, that’s good. And in order to consciously bring and cultivate something – no, there is no such thing. Therefore, many of Vladimir are leaving. And Suzdal is generally a pearl. Tourists see a beautiful picture with hotels and restaurants, behind which are ordinary citizens with an income of 15-20 thousand per month. Which grow potatoes, carrots, stock up for the winter. The standard of living in Suzdal is very difficult.
But in any region you always run into the same thing: there is nothing that will keep you at the moment when you are seething with discontent. Here is a house. What fool runs away from home? For regional restaurateurs, luring the Varangians, in general, is not an option. It is better to grow your own frames. They understand this, they call people from outside, they give motivation, an emotional charge and pass on their knowledge and experience to those who will not go anywhere.
Now I am 33 years old, and I have received tremendous experience from all sides. From the side of the kitchen – having worked with Anatoly, traveling on internships around Europe, at the moment – with Adrian Quetglas at AQ Kitchen. They’re both from the stratosphere somewhere, that’s what they have in common. And they differ in that Comm is more about business, and Ketglas is about recipes, tastes, combinations. Both combine these aspects of the chef’s work, but each has something more pronounced. Now with Adrian, I am adopting a view of the kitchen that is hard to find anywhere else in the country. When I came to AQ Kitchen, everything was tough: we only do as Adrian said. But as a result, we make most decisions together with him, based on his experience. So now there are a lot of us, just us, not just me, on the menu: Far Eastern scallop and three types of cabbage, beef salad, fried scallop with foie gras and Jerusalem artichoke, Basque gazpacho, pumpkin cream soup, saffron risotto, orzo, ravioli, octopus… Well, breakfast.
I feel very good in AQ Kitchen. There is an opportunity to learn from a person who has very, very, very much of it. And further. There are places where you have to go through 12 circles of hell to get your account signed. And the next time you think very hard whether I will do everything that I did so that the guest has the right fork on the table, because I have to go through all this again. And here, if you decide that it will be convenient for the guest, then everyone is aimed at doing it quickly. Everyone is result oriented.
This year has made us take a different look at the life of the restaurant. Lunch landing, for example, is not happy, but the evening one gives a light. The economy affects both what people eat and how they now choose to eat. We also have to count more money. This doesn’t mean it’s easier to cook, although whatever the concept of the restaurant is, it all boils down to the fact that basically people like ordinary food. The question of your experience and talent is how you will present it, from what products and how you will cook it, on what you will serve it and at what price. Now, let’s say, seasonality from the declaration becomes a real tool for the internal economy of the institution. No raspberries or strawberries for you in winter.
Photo: from the personal archive of Anton Tikhoy