I know that before launching a career as a chef, you were trying to become a football coach. How did you end up in the kitchen?
Well, when I was in school, I was a bit stupid — I messed around, didn't really do any homework, didn't study for my exams. And then when you leave school you realize “well, maybe I should've listened”. The choice for me was the army or the kitchen, and well, in the kitchen you don't get shot.
I see. So why did you decide to stay?
Matt Abé, the three Michelin-star chef, and I were both asked this question some weeks ago and gave the same answer — it's all about the rules and the discipline. I don't know about Matt, but from my side I can say that when before I never listened, never paid attention and wasn't disciplined. So going somewhere with strict rules made me change my mind.
To talk about the rules, what are the top 3 rules for launching a restaurant?
First, have a small menu to start with, because it's better to add than take away. You need to work hard — when I opened my restaurant, I worked seven days a week for three months and that's why the restaurant is successful now.
I never step away until I'm happy. Some people will open a restaurant and then have the weekend off next week, but it doesn't work like that.
The third thing is getting someone you trust. Normally, when you open a restaurant you have a whole new team. But you need one person you would trust.
Duly noted. Please, tell us about your favorite ingredients to work with.
Right now is the game season [wildfowl shooting season - editor's note] in England, so partridge, pheasant, pigeons...all these different beautiful birds. Apart from this, I think fruits and vegetables are my favorite right now.
I bet everyone is curious about your experience in the Gordon Ramsay. What's the latest funniest story that comes to your mind?
Every day is a funny story. Every day I'm sitting at the meeting and he sits across the table and he's my hero, so...it's very strange. When I grew up and when I was doing my apprenticeship in Cambridge, there was this TV program with Gordon, Kitchen Nightmares. It was the original one, the British program.
So I watched it and thought "Wow, look at him, he's amazing" and now I sit on meetings with him and we go to Hong Kong together in two weeks, it's crazy. The funniest thing for me is just being there, really.
I know you're in Ukraine for the first time. How do you like it here?
I like it a lot. It reminds me a lot of Istanbul when I opened Zuma restaurant there 11 years ago. They were changing things a lot, adopting a new food culture, opening all these new restaurants...I spoke to a lady looking after us here in Ukraine and she told me H&M was opening soon, that it was a massive thing for the country. It's kind of similar to Istanbul when we opened Zuma — the wow-factor from London restaurant in Istanbul. So, I like it a lot here.
I see. Are you familiar with Ukrainian cuisine? Do you like any dishes?
I'm not really familiar with it. I know there are lots of dishes everyone kind of debates the origin like borshch or pierogi — some Polish people say it's Polish and Russians say it's Russian and Ukrainians state it's Ukrainian.
True, we have these kinds of disputes often. Hopefully, you will have a chance to try the local cuisine.
Yeah, I really want to try pierogi (laughs).
Photos provided by RestArt Forum.