Glen Ballis, Executive Chef of 'Nedalny Vostok'
Talks to Annet Kulyagina
Photos by Ruslan Sergeev
When did you start working as a chef?
Oh, Iíve never been asked this question before, they always ask me how did I start cooking!!! Well, I started a long time agoÖ Actually I have to work it outÖ Well, about 25 years ago. Yes, quite a long time. Iíve been cooking for 25 years; Iíve been traveling all around the world.
Itís is almost a lifetime; you seem to have your own style?
I think yes, itís pretty simple. I like simple food, Iím into using quality ingredients, different ingredients. I think what I do is quite creative; itís a little bit different from what everybody does. I try to do different things, may be other Chefs donít try them.
I want a person to come and not have a whole meal experience, but have every dish as an experience, whether they enjoy it or they donít enjoy it. You know itís like buying a car or buying clothesÖsome people like this, some people donít like thatÖbut that is the sort of thing I want to do working for the people. Itís very free form. Itís very natural; itís not precision cookglen ing. I take tomatoes and just fill them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Or take fish and fry it with roman lettuce with soya oyster sauce Ė itís a very simple food but itís very, very, tasty.
Which country is most reflected in your style?
Well, obviously from my background being Australian, and working in Asia for the past ten years itís formed that way: Australian cuisine is very natural and free-form, a very simple style food, and I think my food has become a little complex because of the countries that I worked in.
Asia in general: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore; so Iíve traveled and worked a lot in Asia. Honestly, physically I havenít been cooking for 10 years, Iíve been running and opening big international hotels.
How do you come to be here in Russia?
Iíd been working in London for three years at Harrods as Executive Chef after Asia, and I was just a little bit burnt out, so I was going to take one year off. I surf, so I was going to surf places. I was in France and then I had a call from my agent telling me that they were looking for a Chef in Russia. It took a little while to think, because IĎve always said that I never wanted to work in Malaysia and Russia. I thought these were the two hardest countries to work in. So in Malaysia Iíve spent the longest time and really enjoyed it, and Russia is getting that way also. Iím enjoying it!
I appreciate the freedom that I can get here. Iím given a certain direction and as long as I keep following the direction and coming up with the constant dishes, you know I have freedom to basically do as I like. As a Chef thatís the most important thing!
How do feel in this restaurant?
I think itís going very well. Itís a beautiful restaurant. We have the best ingredients, the menu is interesting, the service is developing, we hit an outstanding place and it is getting better every day.
What about the team you work with?
The team is good and very, very young. They are fresh, they are eager to learn, they are interested in what weíre doing! And they are proud of what we do! The hard thing is the language barrier: I donít speak Russian, so, especially when we were first opened, there were a lot of people coming through the doors it was difficult to communicate with. But as the time goes by we understand each other more because we are working together. The director Marina, she doesnít speak English, but we think the same way and work good even without the common language. That is what amazes me about this team.
How would you characterize the russian restaurant tradition?
Russia is a new developing market here for food and beverage. I think as time progresses it will progress as wellÖ There are a lot of restaurants now, but I find only a handful of very good restaurants and as time goes on and people gain more experience it will become even better.
Is it bad now?
Oh, no, I didnít say so! The market is quite demanding here. Russian people obviously have money, they love to travel, they love to eat, drink wine, drink vodka and any other drinks that exist. They enjoy the food as well, and as these people are traveling around the world and coming back here their market expectations are growingÖand thatís putting more pressure on us, I think. Thatís why you see a lot of foreign chefs here!
What do you think are the expectations of a customer here?
Well, I think there is an extra pressure on our restaurant and any of Arkadyís restaurant, because he has such a good reputation in town. And we all want to be the best in the group. I think the expectations are very high. We are still in the beginning. I think in six month weíll become more consistent. What amazes me here is that within two weeks people are coming to the restaurant and judging and during that time decide if the restaurant is good. But it takes three month for any restaurant to polish out all the problems and get running properly. And in six months weíll see exactly what we are doing.
And what do you like to eat?
Well, I enjoy Italian food; I like the simplicity of it. The different salads they make, the different sorts of cheese they use. It is such a big traditional cuisine, but it is very simple; I enjoy it especially when it is kept simple. I also like Russian food, you know my day off is Sunday and I always start it the same, with the pelmeni and pirozhki.
Russian pelmeni and pirozhki?
Yes, I am stuck with the Russian food! And then in the afternoon I try one new restaurant. But if you ask why, Iíll tell you, Ďmy frig is emptyí. I am never at home and donít usually cook for myself Ė Iím working to give our guests a new experience.