Serhii Pozhar: Transforming Galician Cuisine in Lviv

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Chef at the At the Golden Rose restaurant Serhii Pozhar

Serhii Pozhar is a brand chef at the Lviv’s famous !FEST Holding of Emotions. He is also a mentor of the none less famous Jewish Kneipp “At the Golden Rose”, located in the former Jewish quarter. We talked to Serhii to find out the past and future of the Galician cuisine, Jewish influences in Ukrainian dishes, and how to find a perfect hummus.

Your restaurant focuses on the Galician cuisine — is it possible to experiment with it like many chefs do nowadays or do you remain faithful to old recipes?

The chef always knows what to do with this or other product. He always experiments and knows how to do it right. Galician cuisine is an extremely difficult cuisine to serve in the restaurant. It has its own technologies, for example, long braising, roasting… These technologies are difficult to use in fine dining formats. Therefore, most restaurants and cafes turn Galician cuisine into a kind of street food, which is very fashionable today, because it is quick and easy to cook. The delicious Galician food in its turn is unfairly pushed out of the picture.

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The menu of the Galician-Jewish Kneipp “At the Golden Rose” embraces the Galician cuisine with the Jewish accents thanks to the diaspora. Jewish people value their customs and traditions, which have always been used where they settled for a permanent life. It concerned food as well — they added their traditions like elements of kashrut or cooking methods to the local cuisine. For example, the famous gefilte fish became a Jewish dish, as the recipe doesn’t demand to remove the bones which is convenient during Sabbath.

Galician cuisine that survived through the centuries is not the same as it used to be. Moreover, we don’t need to revive it in its initial form. We need to know and cherish it as a multicultural cuisine of many national traditions in one story. Experimenting with dishes is very easy and simple if you know the Galician cuisine itself. That’s what we do — we experiment.

A chef should understand the product: how to handle it, what will be the end result. The Galician cuisine has a lot of technological nuances, skills, and flavors. By knowing and using them, you can turn any product into a Galician dish. That’s why it’s not the product matters but the way of cooking.

We cannot use the products that were used centuries ago: humanity’s taste preferences have changed over time. For example, at one time in history, dishes were very sour and spicy. If a person could afford pepper, then he or she was considered wealthy. Hence, the more pepper in the dish, the higher the status of the family. As there were no refrigerators, the products were stored due to their acidic environment.

I know that "At the Golden Rose" Kneipp is located on the territory of the former Jewish quarter. What are the most popular dishes from the Jewish cuisine present on the menu?

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Naturally, it’s gefilte fish. There are several options of this dish: there’s a stuffed carp baked in a creamy sauce with potatoes and mushrooms, and also gefilte fish based on the 1680 recipe. It’s called ‘In pirnyk sauce’, where pirnyk is a kind of a gingerbread, at one time used not only as dessert but also as a seasoning and a mixture of spices.

We do not serve kosher at our restaurant — this is the Galician cuisine of the Jews, who lived in Lviv. We modernized the dishes a bit without stepping away from the foundations. As for the popular dishes, we now have a creamy dessert called Malabi, as well as forshmak, shakshouka, and cholent.

You often organize different workshops in your Kneipp. Where did the idea come from? Can anyone take part in a workshop?

We have long been thinking about this idea. In fact, we did not want to do the traditional culinary workshops, where prepared professionals share their experience. In “At the Golden Rose”, it is an event where people talk about cooking in a good company, spend time with pleasure and gain experience in culinary. There is even a team that comes to us regularly.

Firstly, people that come to a workshop get acquainted with each other and then cook dinner together. Then the prepared dishes are beautifully served, and the participants chat in a relaxed atmosphere and eat what they cooked together. You can also take the dishes with you if you have not eaten or want to boast to your family. As a rule, we cook three or more dishes and each workshop has a theme.

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Hummus is a fairly trendy product worldwide and in Ukraine as well. What is the reason for its popularity?

Delicious hummus from Under the Golden Rose Kneipp in LvivHummus is popular because it's easy to make. Besides, it is affordable, healthy and quite nutritious. The basis of hummus is chickpeas. There are different kids — solid inside with a soft shell, or soft inside with a hard shell; bigger or smaller; hardly-boiled or medium-boiled. To prepare hummus, you need to boil and grind it. Then you need to add sesame paste, which can be found at many convenience stores.

Good hummus is hard to find because the sesame that is used in the recipe can be bitter. In a very short time, sesame paste called tahini may become bitter. We prepare tahini paste ourselves. What you need to do is to pick good, fresh sesame, and then add it to the boiled chickpeas. Finally, you have to add spices and other ingredients.

So how do you choose the best hummus?

Try different kinds and find the best for yourself. It does not have to taste bitter. In "At the Golden Rose" we have a set of hummus — not only traditional but also our specials with baked pepper, beets, spinach. The guest can order a set to see which one they like the most.

What is your personal favorite dish from Lviv?

It’s the same as if you asked a composer which note he likes the most. I like to write symphonies, where I use all these notes. I do not have a favorite or not a favorite dish — they are all incredible.

And what do you like, for example, for breakfast?

I used to eat the same breakfast all my life: a cup of coffee and a slice of bread with butter. Then I put a piece of dried sausage, or cold-smoked fish — and that was my breakfast. Nowadays, my diet is different — I eat less bread, so, as a rule, my breakfast is a porridge, oatmeal or buckwheat kind.

At the Golden Rose Kneipp is located on 37, Staroievreiska Street.  

Photos provided by !FEST Holding.

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