Executive Chef of Cafe Cipollino talks to Annet Kulyagina
Photos by Ruslan Sergeev
Cipollino is an Italian name. Are you Italian?
I was born in Argentina, but I am Spanish. I left Argentina when I was young.
They say that Spanish men are the most passionate men about everything they do, are you passionate about what you do?
About cooking, yes! It is not just my work, it is my life. Everything in my life is about cooking. All my friends, even if they are not cooks, like to eat good food, or they are passionate about good wines.
You only have food in your life?
Well, not quite that. I have a big family: parents, my wife, children, my brothers and sisters - all of them are important for me; but food is my mission, and I like it that way. I like talking about food and this is my style of life. This passion took me over and I am no longer anyone except a chef.
Do you take this passion home?
Oh, yes! Sometimes I cook more at home than in the restaurant. I have to say I never create my new dishes in the restaurant. It is hard when you are busy controlling everything in the kitchen. I create new recipes at home when I have time to think in a quiet atmosphere. First I put my thoughts on paper, then I prepare the new dish at home and I correct any mistakes. Only then I bring the new dish to my restaurant and show it to the guys. I like being in the kitchen. It gives me strength.
You seem to know what you are living for.
Well, I wouldn’t say that, but what I mean is that I really know I am doing my job. I am in the place where I should be in my life. I knew that I would become a cook from childhood. You know, Spanish people like to eat and cook, and there are a lot of different kinds of dishes you can cook differently to finally make something new. What I am doing is trying to make a complicated dish look simple.
How is that possible?
I will give you an example. When people are coming to the restaurant they are not coming just to eat but to have a new experience. When they leave, I want them to feel fresh and light. The cuisine traditions of all countries are changing to give the food less calories. That is what I am doing. I make simple transparent dishes for the guest to see what is in it. I make complicated dishes, the ones you cannot cook at home because you don’t have all the necessary equipment in your kitchen, and make it look simple showing each guest the ingredients.
Are your guests satisfied with your approach?
Well, guests are coming not only for the food but also for the interior and the service; the restaurant starts at the entrance. You decide right after you enter the door whether you like it or not. All the employees are working together for the guests. I see my objective as making my guests plan a return as soon as possible for another new experience. I want them to have the idea that the dish they eat is simple but the only place they can have it is Cipollino. And my ambition is to make Cipollino one of the best restaurants in Moscow.
But there are many restaurants in Moscow…
I know. There are many good restaurants; modern, classical, Asian, fusion. The thing is to change Russian cuisine a little bit and to make people remember our restaurant.
How? Do you want to teach Russian people to eat different food?
No, not quite that. I like Russian cuisine but I think it is too heavy. I will cook traditional Russian food but I do it less calorie-filled and more “taste-ful”. Let me explain: here in Russia I find a tradition that perhaps food is just for eating but not for pleasure. This is incorrect. You may find a lot of pleasant moments in food and enrich your inner world by giving yourself a different taste experience.
And again, how?
I would call this process changing eating habits by using the taste memory.
Well in a way... There are foods the taste of which you remember form your childhood and you got so used to that taste that you will not confuse it with anything else. In Spain for example it is red pepper. One of the Russian products is the beet which people use to make the famous Russian borsch. I have made new borsch for Cipollino, but it has the flavor of traditional beet borsch but is slightly different. I take all the ingredients and make it lighter. Maybe because of the beet this soup seems usual. And the visitors like this soup. The tradition is to eat it with sour cream but I don’t serve it with our borsch and it is popular anyway!
What is your secret as a Chef that makes your guests come back again?
I don’t lie with my food. Everything you eat is what it is with the original flavor and everything has to be cooked at a minimum. This is the way I work. When you see my dishes they are fresh and light.
7 Soimonovskiy Proezd, Bldg. 1.
Tel.: (495) 291-6576