Travel & Gourmet

Interview with Chefs Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy

Twin brothers Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy, the leading chefs of Russia (their Moscow restaurant is ranked 19th in the world rating of The World's 50 Best) about why they don't like the "hype" around restaurants and chefs, how they treat rumors, why a secret of a successful restaurant – is kept in people, and what is the future perspectives for Russian cuisine.
Reading time 6 minutes
Photo: Press office of Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy

In light of recent events in the world, do you agree that the role of the restaurant has become even more important?

Ivan: Of course, yes! Now people have finally realized: a restaurant is not only about food, but also about the opportunity to be together.

Sergey: Having been in quarantine, people did not have live communication in the restaurant, now that it is there again, and it is appreciated much more. We are convinced that food is something living, so one person prepares food in a restaurant, another serves it and explains it, will not replace any delivery. The magic you really go to a restaurant disappears a combination of good food, communication between people, atmosphere. Delivery is not something that we work for, as we operate for the client to enjoy our food and see it in his eyes. When ready food is delivered, in an hour or two, in Moscow context, how is this a true gastronomy? There is no soul and emotions in delivery.

You often say that, actually, people "make" a restaurant ... but not only those who work there, but also those who come to it, right?

Ivan: A restaurant cannot exist without guests. We work for them. The success of a restaurant is really hidden in people, which makes our profession the riskiest because here some people work for other people, there is always a human factor and the possibility of error. Therefore, it is essential for us that each person in the team does something for joint success.

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Photo: Press office of Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy

Do you feel insincerity on the part of the guests? People often say to the chef that everything was fine, and when they step outside the restaurant, they are not so happy, in fact.

Ivan: It's very difficult to understand. We try just to believe and trust our guests. We think that this is extremely important.

How close can you take negative criticism or comment from a client to your heart?

Sergey: It's much easier now. When we were younger, we could get distraught.

Ivan: With maturity and experience, understanding and perception of criticism came. Therefore, the reaction now is not so painful. Any mistakes with age do not seem to you the end of the world, a tragedy. Any criticism is an opinion, and it must be justified.

Sergey: It happens that Ivan and I sit in a restaurant and eat the same dish. He likes it, but I don't. It would seem: we ate the same porridge in childhood, but we have such different tastes. And why should we both like this dish? These are our subjective opinions. How should the restaurant react to this? This is their decision. However, if there are several such opinions, then you can think them over and make decisions.

You are one of the most famous chefs in the Russian-speaking world and the world. How do you deal with rumors around you and your job?

Ivan: Some rumors make it seem like the world has gone crazy (laughs). Journalism should not be based on rumors but facts.

Sergey: It's sad that now a lot is being done for the sake of hype: rumors, conversations, speculation around someone or something.

 

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Photo: Press office of Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy

How do you feel about this "hype" trend?

Ivan: For me, the hype is nothing more than an opportunity to be noticed. It often happens that you work, but no one notices you, but here you understand that having done something special, everyone will suddenly see you and will need you. No matter what kind of, a person resorts to this opportunity to warm up the interest towards himself. Usually, this possibility denies any norms of ethics and morality.

Sergey: And, unfortunately, it works. Because of the possibility of the Internet to say what you want and how you want, the network is full of nasty things and people who consider its authors as heroes without any restrictions. This is terrible.

Ivan: The desire for immediate popularity is already a kind of self-doubt. The hype is not close to us because it implies a "retreat" from our life principles, and we do not like it.

Would you sacrifice much for the sake of your principles?

Sergey: Honestly? We have already sacrificed a lot (laughs). No situation could take us away from our beliefs and principles.

 

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Photo: Press office of Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy

A little about Russian cuisine. What prevents it from being in demand in the world?

Ivan: So many stories, good and not uncommonly, are connected with Russia. We should be more sincere and transparent. If we want to be on a par with restaurants in Europe and compete with them, we must be honest and open.

What prevents Russians from being like that?

Sergey: Lack of trust in us. In any case, they look at us with caution, and now the Michelin guide, having come to Russia, has shown by its example that there are good and interesting restaurants in Moscow and there is no place for those prejudices that many talks about. This is a good trend that will improve our particular reputation. Even if no one gets a star now, this is normal. This is the very first inspection in the country.

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Photo: Press office of Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy

What is the global goal of Russian cuisine?

Ivan: To be honest, the global goal is to open more restaurants of Russian cuisine. The second goal is to become attractive and understandable for foreigners because cuisine is a part of the culture. When you come to a new place, what do you do first? That's right. As it carries a cultural code, you go to try the local cuisine, introduces a person to traditions and history in the simplest and most accessible way. Everyone knows about the Bolshoi Theater and Red Square, but we want to tell and show authentic gastronomy. This is our language, which we, the chefs, speak the most convincingly. Therefore, the more restaurants of Russian cuisine we have, the better it will be for us and our country.

World recognition and love await Russia and its cuisine?

Sergey: Our kitchen is now driven by everyone involved in this area: foodies to chefs and journalists. This is the teamwork we do. Therefore, the task now is to create a cult and brand for Russia and its cuisine, and then yes, a great future awaits us.

All is in our hands.

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