Evgeniy Klopotenko: about food and dreams

Evgeniy Klopotenko: about food and dreams

Evgeniy Klopotenko, the winner of Master Chef-5 in Ukraine, young businessman and now brand chef of the new Mexican restaurant in Kiev, talks about his future plans and ideas about gastronomy in Ukraine.

We know each other for many years and now the life of this guy has a crazy rhythm, but I am glad to realize that his fame has not changed this open and positive person. It was not easy to catch Evgeniy out of his busy fuss, but finally we've met in the center of Kiev. It was 3.30 pm but Evgeniy did not have lunch so far; as such, we combined it with our interview. Vapiano is a great place for a meeting when you can have fast and casual food like pasta, pizza or salad as well as drinks and enjoy spacious halls of this restaurant while talking with friend during lunch.
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Photo by Anna Vishtak
Evhen, what do you think about present gastronomic culture in Ukraine?
Speaking about Ukrainian cuisine, I should admit that its current level is very low. Surprising and great is only Kanapa restaurant in Kiev. But if we talk in general, the gastronomic culture is developing, but slowly, in my opinion. We have a Chinese restaurant in Kiev, Spanish tapas bars and good Georgian restaurants such as Chachapuri. It is already good. Molecular cuisine is not developed yet, but it will be. Vapiano has an interesting approach: casual food - this is what we need to eat every day in the city.

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Photo from Rojo Ojo Official Facebook Page
Please, tell us about the new restaurant in which you are brand-chef.
As to Ojo Rojo, I have tried to implement adapted Mexican food over there. In the original form this cuisine is very simple, and as for me it is not tasty, and we will make it adapted to our visitors, and it will be very good. We are trying to combine my culinary vision with traditional approach. We will have the most delicious steak with a real taste of meat. We cook dorado ceviche with lime instead of traditional carpaccio, and it is very tasty. We do tapas and nachos with spreads (celery, artichokes, beets, candied vegetables) and hot cheese. We are still in the process of developing the menu, while there are only 25 items there. Burrito is very tender with sous vide chicken; we cook wild rice in rooibos tea.

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Photo from Rojo Ojo official Facebook Page
Chicken coated in cornflakes is very special. Plus we'll have dishes for vegetarians, where peanut butter is used instead of meat, for example. Our burgers will be juicy, but the real Mexican ones are dry and tasteless. We add a lot of fresh coriander and lots of chili. We will use Smoking Guns in cooking. All dishes are prepared out of the local products. We will alter the taste with salt. We cook very special desserts such as cheesecake with guacamole, tequila and lime. As for the traditional desserts there will be churros - deep-fried choux pastry. There is a dessert of sweet popcorn.
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Photo from Rojo Ojo official Facebook Page

Delicious sweet potatoes with orange and feta marinated in beet juice is unusual and tasty. These are South American traditional ingredients. It will be a real mix of flavors. And of course, Mexico is associated with spicy flavor. We ordered the 25 species of chili peppers. We will either cook super-spicy or super-coriander dishes. And the visitor himself will be able to adjust the degree of spicy taste. There will be plates with chili and spicy oil on the tables so the customer will add it as much as he wants. And if the dish is very spicy, there will be a plate with sour cream, which neutralizes the spicy taste. We'll have soup with cherry tomatoes juice, meatballs, lentils and anise. We will serve it in a bottle of Corona beer with lime. And this soup is super spicy. Mexican atmosphere is the most important, and the dishes are incredibly tasty and spicy.

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There will be aroma lamps with aroma chili pepper oil and other spices in the restaurant. It also creates the taste. Although we added 400 g per 1 liter of chili soup, there were some guests who said that it was not spicy enough. Our people like when the food is super spicy. For such spicy extremists who love flame in the mouth we ordered Trinidad scorpion. We will increase the dose of chili 6 times in our dishes.
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Photo by Anna Vishtak
what about your ideas and plans for the future?
In the end of June I'm going to France to study culinary for a month (the reward for winning the Master Chef-5). After this I will implement this expertise in production of jams and desserts by my company Gastronomicheskaya Confiture. In addition, we run a street food project with gurus (Turkish dish) such as shawarma in pita bread with yogurt; it is juicy and delicious. We will try out this dish at different festivals of street food, and if it succeeds, we will open some food-points in the city. Now we are developing new types of jams with traditional Ukrainian tastes, such as cherry and cranberry, strawberry and mint. We want our jams to become more widespread, but at the same time to follow our high standards of quality.
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Photo from Гастрономическая "Confiture" Official Facebook page
I also try to change the children's food culture in our country. I meet different people who are responsible for catering in Kiev schools. I want to change the menu in 2-5 schools, and then to show this as an example for others. We will arrange a conference and I will tell how we can change the food system for children. I believe that this will work. Over time, I will open an unusual culinary school and launch a franchise all over Ukraine. I plan to make the educational program for cooking, to write a book also. These are the plans. I’m going to implement some them probably in autumn.
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Photo by Anna Vishtak
How do you find time for everything?
I don’t have a working day, but a working week, which never ends. I get up at 6-7 am, write recipes for STB TV channel for 2-3 hours, and then I open my calendar with planned meetings and move. The schedule is very tight. But it brings great pleasure. Now all efforts are directed to rebuild the processes so that they will be able to function without my involvement.
Is there a dish that you’ve tried to cook for a long time and finally succeeded? What do you love to cook?
Yes, to tell you the truth, it is a steak. Just a day before I prepared a truly delicious steak for the first time, and it was just with salt and butter. It is a recent revelation for me how to make a delicious simple product really tasty. In addition, I like to combine different tastes, to experiment with flavors. The latest discovery is a beet with nuts and chocolate. It's just something. Banana with parsley is also very tasty. I love pasta, it takes 7 minutes to cook it and the dish is ready. This is the rhythm of my life. Italian lifestyle… It's about me: talkative, energetic, emotional and fast.

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Photo by Anna Vishtak
Do you have special places (restaurants) in Kiev which you would like to share with a foreigner?
Everything depends on what the foreigner wants. There are many places which are worth visiting and trying. "Olivka" (small olive) located on 3 Dekabristiv street (founded by the same guys as “Under Wander”) is a great place, which is in the top 3 of my favorite restaurants in Kiev and their Vitello tonnato (tuna and veal) is amazing. If we speak about desserts we should visit Honey café. If we want to try the best coffee we will go to Espressoholik. If we are looking for the best steak we’ll go to Ojo Rojo and the best oysters are Ukrainian ones in Goodwine.
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Photo from Gastronomicheskaya "Confiture" Official Facebook page
But do you like original Ukrainian cuisine?
I want to learn to cook it, not its post-Soviet variation, but true Ukrainian one. I plan to study this in a year and a half or two.
Aren’t Michelin stars and your own restaurant your dream?
No. My dream is to develop gastronomic culture in our country. I want everybody start eating better. I want to cook simple but delicious food, available for everyone. Over time, in 10-15 years, I will focus on the preparation of food and will get a Michelin star.

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Photo by Anna Vishtak
What would you like to say to a foreigner who is going to visit Ukraine?
Ukrainians are unique nation. We are not in the European Union and we want to get there. We're not a part of Russia, and we don’t want to be. We are in the middle, between 2 different worlds. And a foreigner can feel our uniqueness. We are ready to make a revolution, but are changing very slowly. We are good, open people, but not ready for rapid changes. We honor traditions, but also we move to the future. We are special and you should get to know us better.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak

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