Nick Van Riemsdijk
Executive Chef of Courtyard by Marriott Moscow City Center talks to Annet Kulyagina
Nick, why do you think one can be called a chef?
You know, we can all cook; everything we do is just simple, but the way you turn just a dish into a fairy tale is the chef’s work. We have to make food beautiful, delicious of course, but simple; to see the consistency is to make the dish clear.
What is the traditional English food?
Well, tradition is steak and kidney pudding, beer. Traditionally most of the food is stodgy… You know, if you do go outside of London there are some terrible restaurants, when I visit my mom, I go out with my brother and he is always complaining that the food is bad. We do have a few excellent restaurants, but they are expensive. When tourists come to UK they don’t want to pay much money in the restaurant, because the UK is expensive and they come to a cheap pub and end up with bad fish and chips. And that is their idea of English food, which isn’t the case. It’s just you pay for what you get anywhere you go.
As time goes by, the traditions change?
Yes, of course, recipes are changing; but the tradition also changes. What really is changing is the way we serve the food up: not such big portions, contemporary decoration.
What is the main criterion in your restaurant: to make good food or to make expensive food?
Well, we do good food and we also try to optimize the value for money for our guests… we do not overprice ourselves…
How many years have you been working in Russia?
How many years have I been here? A long time. In this hotel a year from last December. In Russia I first came in 2000, I stayed here for three years and then I went to Portugal opened up a hotel and then I came back…
I missed it; I missed my friends, I missed working here. Well, I came back because I liked the place. I like the team, people here work hard. They are good people to work with… and I have a lot of friends around the city. The best friends I’ve ever known are here in this place.
Hmm… let me ask you another question about working in Russia. You say you like working with the team here, what about working for Russian clients?
Oh, I like any client, but working here is good because Russian clients are very open to try new things. Feeding Russian clients is very interesting, they are ready to try new things and wait for them. The last thing I want to do is to work with fussy eaters who would say what they like and what not. And it’s fantastic how quick the city changes. For the seven years I know it, it changed a lot. Life here is moving fast. And we are always changing as well. Here we listen to the guests comments and complaints. We do it every day. My team is willing to learn and I love to teach.
Who is a chef: a manager, a director, a teacher?
Well I am an executive chef. I am a manager. I am in charge of the kitchens; well you can call me a director, a Director of Food. The chef is a chef!
When did you start cooking?
When I was seven years old I made cookies, and I sort of started my own little business. I started to learn this business and by the time I left school I felt that it was my vocation and that is what I want to do, and I have never looked back since. But seriously, I started when I was 16 years old when I joined a large hotel company called Forte Hotels. I moved to London at sixteen and a half and I started working in this group of five stars hotels in London. They moved me around the hotels and worked me like a dog. That was the beginning of my experience.
When did you gain your personal experience?
Well, if you spend sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, with highly professionally trained people for several years, you will certainly manage to catch some good tricks.
Can you tell some of them?
I can tell one. You have to trust people you work with. I can tell that I am really proud of my team. To see them growing is nice.