Photo Anna Vishtak
Evgeniy Klopotenko, the winner of Master Chef-5 TV show in Ukraine, young businessman, brand chef of Rojo Ojo Mexican restaurant and the graduate of Le Cordon Bleu school, shares his impressions of Paris and future plans in Kyiv.
Evgeniy, our meetings with you become a good tradition. We talk about gastronomic culture, haute cuisine, and life plans which acquire new colors since the time goes. Your trip to Paris to the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school is the main event of the last few months.
Photo Anna Vishtak
Obviously, you found out a lot of new and interesting things about cooking and acquired invaluable experience. It was said a lot about low gastronomic culture in Ukraine, but I want to believe that there are some things that positively distinguish us from the French. Tell me, is there anything very Ukrainian that you would like to teach a French chef?
Oh, that's an interesting question. The French chefs are very obsessed with their own culture, cuisine and traditions. You can feel this especially in Le Cordon Bleu school. We prepared meals, serving of which was formed about 50 years ago, but I was told: "You are studying the classic French cuisine, so do as we say. Then, outside the school doors you can do anything you want.” The recipes, technology and serving are strictly enforced in a way they were originally created. In this case, of course, it's all very tasty and nice even today. But, to my mind, it would be great to upgrade some points. I would like to teach French chef our Ukrainian approach to be flexible and creative. We just started to form our own cuisine traditions, so we have a lot of daring solutions, innovations, and weird combinations of flavors. That's what I'd like to share with a French chef. It is something impossible for them. And it is very easy for us; we are in constant search of what would become "our style" over time.
Read: Evgeniy Klopotenko: about food and dreams
Photo Evgeniy Klopotenko Facebook Page
So, do you think that the classic French cuisine has to be modernized a bit?
Yes. They have traditional cuisine in general, and pastries and desserts - as a separate line. So the traditional cuisine can be updated, but as for the desserts and baking, there is no need to interfere. They brought this to perfection. Their desserts and pastries are the best in the world. With that, I'm not a fan of desserts, but in Paris I have tried all possible variations.
According to press reports, in 2008, a student at the London School of Le Cordon Bleu grabbed the chef's knife and threatened to kill himself after he was told that he had failed a basic test. London newspapers reported that negotiations with the police lasted for four hours. Tell me, is there such a cherished secret which you would like to find out from some of the great chefs, even with the use of force (joke)?
Photo Anna Vishtak
I would like to live and work side by side with some great chefs to learn how to cook. In the school I asked an incredible number of questions. The teachers said to me: "The bossy voice you already have, now you need to learn how to cook." I tortured them with questions. I’ve got answers only on 50% of them. The way of thinking is what I would like to find out from the chef. And I still have a lot of questions.
Read: New Rojo Ojo Restaurant in Kiev
Did you have fears while going to Le Cordon Bleu? Do you have some fears now?
My biggest fear is that I don’t know how to cook. When I went to school it was a feeling that I was getting into the center of knowledge that had been accumulating for centuries. Three years ago I had a friend who had been saving money to go to this school. And then I thought: “It's simply unrealistic. This course costs 50 thousand Euro”. And then suddenly I get into this school as a winner of Master Chef Ukraine, 5 season. There was a fear that I didn’t match this level. The more you learn, the more questions you have.
Photo Rojo Ojo Facebook Page
What would you like to take from Paris to Kyiv?
It is the ability of people to love their culture. In Le Cordon Bleu school each door is named in honor of the person who made their cuisine better. For example, Alexander Dumas is the god of cooking for French. He wrote 300-page book in which he collected the oldest recipes. French people respect their culture and traditions like no one in the world. I would like to borrow from French this ability to be proud of the country you live in.
You often talk about the new approach to gastronomic culture and you eagerness to change the post-Soviet attitude to this. What would you like to see in our cuisine?
I’d love it to be a non-Soviet one. The idea is to understand what we eat and why. Our local products that we use for cooking can be the basis for entirely different, delicious and healthy dishes. I want to go through all the ex-Soviet products and recipes, rearrange and modify them, to modernize and to make them healthy and delicious. And it is important not to be afraid to cook, in fact it is easy and it is not necessary to use expensive products for this. When people stop eat some trash on the street and stop cooking the same trash at home, it will mean that our gastronomic culture is changing.
Photo Anna Vishtak
What would you like to take away from Paris?
The Pelican. There are 7 tables and a young chef, who also participated in some TV shows, and now he works in his own mall restaurant. It was a divine meal. I remember the melon gazpacho and sardines with sauce. It seems very simple, but it is very tasty and the atmosphere is nice there. There was another place; I don’t remember the name. There is no menu. There is a bar counter with cooks. A set menu costs 50 Euro. And what's in there? They will not tell you. They will ask only whether you are allergic. If not - you are welcome. You taste different dishes of 5-7 different flavors each. The point is to guess what this dish is. When you finish your meal, the waiter comes and tells you what it was. And you think, if you were right or not. Every time it's like a puzzle. There's no place and time for the mobile phone and the Internet. Everyone goes there to enjoy the food.
Read: Hector Jimenez-Bravo: the successful foreigner in Ukraine
How would you describe Klopotenko brand?
I always say: “Cooking is simple”.
What are your future professional steps?
I want to go on with TV cooking shows. I’d like to open my Cooking School and my own restaurant. But who knows what will be tomorrow. Every day I get some interesting offers. So we will see.
Ok, let us meet again and discuss it.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak