Restoclub editor in chief Margarita Belyaeva, member of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef media jury, talks about how they were choosing the most gifted chef in Russia, the CIS and the Baltics.
One week ago the best young chef of Russia was chosen in Moscow. And to be quite accurate, the regional stage of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 took place. Any cook up to 30 years can participate in the competition. You just need to make an application where you describe the concept of your dish. The whole world is divided into 20 regions. Our region includes Russia, the CIS and the Baltic states. Each region selects ten candidates, and out of them jury comprising chefs, restaurant critics and other prominent members of the industry choose the one who will represent the region in Milan. Last year’s best young chef of the world was Irishman Mark Moriarty (the co-owner and the chef of The Culinary Counter catering company) who blew away everyone with his baked in barley celery root and “tea” from the same celery root and straw. Last year Eldar Muradov, the “Mansarda” sous-chef, represented our country in Milan.
I told in detail in this article (ссылка) how the most gifted chef of Russia, the CIS and the Baltic states was being chosen last year. This time the event took place in Moscow at “Metropol” hotel. The panel of chef judges was headed by Vladimir Mukhin (White Rabbit, Moscow, №23 in the world ranking of World’s 50 Best Restaurants): it also included Uilliam Lamberti (Uiliams, Ugolek, Moscow), Tõnis Siigur (Noa, Tallinn), Sergei Shiporov (Le Dome Riga), Liutauras Chepratskas (Gastronomika, Vilnius). Nominations Critic’s Choice (where the representatives of media vote) and People’s Choice go separately. At the same time we must understand that “people” in the competition are also a qualified audience: restaurateurs, managers, etc.
Obviously, it’s pleasing to see an increased interest in the contest. This year our region had the highest number of applications, Africa and the Middle East took the second place, and the USA go third. From the “Russia, the CIS and the Baltic states” region were 160 applications received, Petersburg takes the lead. Such events are vital for the industry: they inspire, stimulate, and encourage the exchange of experience. The more people take part, the better.
This year in the competition top ten were four Baltic chefs, three from Moscow, two from St. Petersburg (both from Four Seasons) and one from Kiev. They are Ignace Visinkas (Time restaurant, Vilnius), Justinas Misyus (Sweet Root Restaurant, Vilnius), Alexander Colomar (Ribe, Tallinn), Luca Natalini (Belluci Good Restaurant, Rostov-on-Don), Hezret Berdiev and Pavel Atlasov (Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace, St. Petersburg), Dinars Zvidrins (Kalku Varti, Riga), Leonid Golubev (Fahrenheit, Moscow), Mark Statsenko (Funny Cabanny, Moscow), Antonio Alfredo Salvatori (Semifreddo Mulinazzo, Moscow).
If last year there were frankly disastrous and frankly successful works, this year everything is smoother. Moreover, you cannot help but notice that young minds are occupied with Nordic – especially the forest theme. “To survive in the forest”, “Forest on the plate”, “Summer in Siberia”. Every second plate had moss, lichen, juniper, pine cones, deer or quail. The story of “one product in three states” is still popular: for example, it’s when there are mashed goat’s-beard, fried goat’s-beard and pickled goat’s-beard in cumin are on the same plate.
In general, the level of young chefs infuses with hope that everything in the industry will be fine. The only thing I want to get rid of is the pressure of form over substance, and desire to surprise over flavor. Although, maybe you understand it when you become older. How much time a great avant-gardist and trickster Heston Blumenthal had spent on “molecular” tests before he started looking for the perfect taste of the simplest dishes: pork sausage, spaghetti Bolognese and fish and chips… It is clear that in his show on BBC «In Search of Perfection» where he cheerfully clings to people in the street to find out what the ideal sausage is, and then tries to make it, most things are done just for the show and ratings. But the idea as such – search for the perfect taste – is wonderful.