David Marjani: Chef Has to Have Skillful Fingers

David Marjani: Chef Has to Have Skillful Fingers

I'm in Ukraine for a year and a half. Have my impressions of this country changed within this time? No, they haven’t. When I moved to Kyiv, I knew where I was going to, I've been here before. And I always liked Kyiv. The only thing that disappoints is politics.

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About gastronomy in Kyiv
About two years ago being here on a trip, I went to cafeterias, restaurants and cafes, and that time I liked the variety of Ukrainian cuisine. Now there are a lot of venues of very different cuisine, but if we talk about purely Ukrainian restaurants, there are fewer, and the choice of good food is very small.
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About Ukrainian cuisine
I do not even know what authentic Ukrainian cuisine is. It seems to me that Chicken Kyiv used to be tastier some years before. In Georgia, food in Ukrainian restaurants is tastier than here now. You very often forget your own, and praise other cuisines. It's scary for the culture.
About Georgian cuisine
Georgian cuisine is loved by everyone in the world, it is known directly by dishes, not by chefs. It's delicious, the recipes did not change for centuries. Even if we modify something now, the base always remains as it was 100 years ago. As a chef, I can come up with many new dishes, but this does not mean that this is traditional Georgian cuisine. But we have more than 1000 authentic recipes.
About Georgians and Ukrainians
The Ukrainians and Georgians are not alike at all in terms of mentality. The Caucasian people are different, although the Georgians are Orthodox as well as Ukrainians. Georgians are more hospitable. For a year and a half here I was not invited to visit some Ukrainian family, I have very few Ukrainian friends, but may be this is due to the fact that I work a lot and I communicate mostly with colleagues.
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About cheese
In Matzoni we built our own cheese factory. Yes, French cheeses are known all over the world, and Georgian ones are not, although they are not inferior in quality. But this has its own explanation. About 250 kinds of cheese are made in Georgia. And only 14 types are well-known, the rest are local products. Therefore, they are not popular. Plus, geography and history have contributed to the fact that few people in the world are familiar with Georgian cheese. Georgia had been a part of the USSR for 70 years. Then you could not advertise yourself. Plus the country is located in the mountains. Until the 20th century there were not so many connections between different countries. Now the situation is changing and we will learn more about Georgian cheese.
My favorite cheese is Imeretian. Thanks to it we built this small factory in Matzoni. it's a homemade cheese made from cow's milk. And khachapuri is made exclusively from this kind of cheese. We want the Ukrainians to try the real Georgian cuisine here with authentic recipes and products.
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Ukrainian cheese
Recently at the Exhibition of National Economic Achievements, a competition of cheese was held in Kyiv. I was on the jury. It was incredible, I really liked it. I would like to see the brand of Ukrainian cheese appear as a national product. So far this is all local production. I hope that soon we will taste the national Ukrainian cheese, unique one. This is quite real.
About the work of the chef
Knowledge, skillful fingers are the most important. I do not like to stand and cook, I'm not crazy about it. No. But they say I have skillful fingers and if I cook, no matter what, it turns out delicious. I can work with any product. Everything is edible; it's important how to cook it.
About treats for guests
If I invite guests, I would certainly cook cold snacks, khachapuri and meat. And the wine? This is a difficult question for the Georgian. The most delicious - homemade wine. I love the semisweet Kidzmarauli, Ahashani, red types. This is for enjoyment. And white wine is like water for us - Georgians.
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Editor's note: It is worth saying that after this conversation we agreed with David that, firstly, within six months he is going to visit the restaurants of Ukrainian cuisine in Kyiv, and then we will discuss his impressions. And secondly, I, of course, invited him as a guest in my house hoping to change his first impression about poor Ukrainian hospitality. I hope he will share his impressions with you after this. In addition to the conversation, we also cooked together with David. It was a traditional khachapuri. It was very easy and fast to cook it. The main thing is good products, real cheese and a couple of secrets from the chef. If you want to try the real Georgian cuisine in Kyiv, then definitely come to Matzoni. In addition, it is still possible to buy real cheese of different kinds there, which David produces in a local cheese factory. The restaurant itself is very cozy, and after a hearty dinner you can always stroll along the Rusanivska embankment and admire the slopes of the Dnipro River.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak
Photos by Yuriy Zaluzhniy

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