Breakfast with chef. Alexey Fokin, cafe “the Same pillow»
Decided! Open the loop an interview with “Breakfast with the chief.” And the first thing I asked to visit Alexei Fokin, chef of popular projects in the city: bar “Molchanov” restaurant “33” and, of course, “The same pillow” (hereinafter simply “Pillow”). In the legendary cafe and agreed to have Breakfast with Alexei.
Weekday. “Pillow” just opened, and I already had to argue a little with a regular guest of the cafe. She certainly wanted to sit at a table with chairs by the window, which we have chosen with the photographer. The hall was filling up before my eyes; in a rare institution in the morning there is such a revival.
Emerged Alexey. T-shirt, jeans, embarrassed smile: “I’m without a jacket, Yes. I have a day off today.” My interlocutor ordered only coffee (already had Breakfast), and recommended us a scramble with salmon and spinach or oatmeal waffles:
— The most popular breakfasts, — says the chief. — Well, I usually order these dishes. Here is my opinion with the guests the same.
— Do you usually have Breakfast at home?
— Very easy to eat at home. Most often it is coffee, good cheese with a cracker, or porridge on the water — the usual, in a box, from a set of cereals. Still at home I have no meat, the wife is a vegetarian, I support her in it. He would not eat the animal food, if not a profession.
Then we talk a little about the pros and cons of vegetarianism, I order a scramble and move on to the prepared questions.
Recently on the food forum with the rostrum to the people of Irkutsk asked the question: “What place in your city you would call the most popular?”. Many remembered the “Pillow” and “33”. How much do you think you’ve done?
— I think it’s 50%.
— Something a little…
– Yes, the main thing in the restaurant is the dish. Let’s say I invented it, it’s delicious, cool, even amazing. Let’s say he taught him how to cook his cooks. But it’s still only half way. Then the hard work of the team — a quality that I have achieved, to maintain the proper level.
— But to come up with an amazing dish, probably, is not easy. Tell us how it happens.
– First, we need a base — knowledge about cooking technologies and combinations of products. Secondly, each chief has an experience based on the experienced moments: what he loved since childhood, what inspires him (from books, from the Internet) what he learned in different places of his work. The dish is created based on the base and experience of the chef. And there must be a desire to experiment.
– The menu shows that you like to experiment. And you have quite a lot of experience, as far as I know.
— Yes, as for the experience, I was lucky: even when I worked in Krasnoyarsk, I got to the good chefs who collaborated in St. Petersburg with the Berezutsky brothers (popular chefs in St. Petersburg, distinguished by a special gastronomic handwriting – approx.ed.). It gave me inspiration back then, in 2011.
Then there was a three-month internship in White Rabbit (fashionable Moscow restaurant Vladimir Mukhin– approx.ed.). Offered to stay a chef in this restaurant, or sous-chef in the institution network, but I did not really like Moscow. Its only advantage (as I thought) — there are many possibilities, but it soon became clear that this is not true. Opportunities are where you create them.
I returned to Krasnoyarsk with this idea, and I was soon invited to Irkutsk, first for a short time — only to make a menu in “33”, and then the work carried away in other restaurants of the network (“Pillow” was then a month). The owners have long been watching my work in the “Instagram”, they wanted in their restaurants something like this-a kind, not like all the others. I wanted to get away from the banal “Caesars”.
— And you helped them: in any restaurant under your patronage there is no “Caesar”. As people this survived, certainly this salad until now ask?
— Asked in “Pillow.” Month cafe worked even before my arrival, and “Caesar” were here. Some rebelled when I removed it, but gradually ceased. Because in return they were offered another salad (in any menu that I do is the chicken salad — an alternative to the popular dish), now “Caesar” I don’t think there are plenty of other favorites.
Owners in menu development involved in the process?
— I have carte Blanche in all the restaurants. If I want to do something in the kitchen, I don’t even ask. In the beginning even happened that I was hosting the tasting, all came, tried. Now I came up with something — first I try myself, then I immediately give the staff an estimate of who is on the spot. If OK — immediately enter. I consult with the owners only in some nuances.
— Perfect conditions for the chief! No wonder you stayed longer than you planned. Have you decided to stay in Irkutsk forever?
— 95% sure I’m not staying here. When Irkutsk ceases to give me a sense of growth and development, I will go for something new. But I will cherish what I have created. Cherish “33”, it’s my project, a fully-rendered my kitchen. I will leave this restaurant with a heavy heart.
— And you do not think that without you the project can collapse?
I’m thinking about it. And I’m afraid. Change grow perhaps, but very difficult. There is a shortage of personnel. The more serious the position, the more creative and organized you need to be. There are a few that can do it… But I’m looking.
— Among the cooks of Irkutsk there are rumors that you are a terrible tyrant in the kitchen. Is that true?
— Yes (laughs). I am cruel in the kitchen, because I am very sensitive to the case to which I devoted half my life. Since childhood I dreamed of being a chef: to create, to create. And now, imagine, I created a dish, it is important to me that it reached the same person, but now it does not depend on me, on other chefs… Sometimes you need to use a ruler and a thermometer to prepare. If it’s not respected, I lose my temper.
You know, the rumors appeared when I started to reform the “Cushion”. I came, and here work has been conducted as soon as-because. I publicly, brutally and abruptly terminated the cooperation with people who came just to serve their shift and then to walk, to drink beer. I did it so that everyone else could see: to treat the work as horrible in my team is unacceptable. You don’t have to stop me from going forward.
— A you… (whispers) language; swear?
— (whispering) Yes. But, generally, now rarely swear. I am most loyal if I see people working hard. Very kind, praise and joke.
— What is the most difficult thing to teach cooks?
— The most difficult skill of any cook is working with salt. Salt is the main flavor enhancer. The scale of taste and salt is as follows: the amount of salt grows – the taste improves. Until a certain point. And then abruptly with increasing amounts of salt scale taste falls down. That is, we must feel the edge. And I set the line: I say how much the dish should be salted according to my feeling. Next is the task of the chefs that line to follow.
In “33” I do not have salt and pepper shakers on the tables, I do not allow the guest to change the dish, bring it to taste at its discretion, because I am confident in my cooks.
— Wait. They in grams you know how much salt in each dish?
— No, by eye and taste. With salt only experience, sample. I showed them how to, they have to reproduce. You can’t completely automate everything in a restaurant. There are huge network institutions which constructed the work so: at the cook everything is written, there is a check-list, grammovki. And here it is: glass eyes, measured-threw-gave, thoughts zero. If I’m automatisera everything, even salt, then the guys will stop thinking completely. The work will become a mechanism.
— Learning to think is a difficult task. How long is your probation?
— All work is a trial period. I have had: three months of work that people understand that it is not necessary. Now the team has a good, proven people who understand exactly what I want, do everything well, and I strayed away from them, but that doesn’t mean don’t continue to watch them. Man is fickle. It can burn out, and at different stages it “leads” not there. For example, he got a confession once (“Everything is cool, you cook well”), got two. Then he gets more and more of it, and finally can go limp, become conceited. And this is the way to nowhere, consider have fallen down.
— It’s like a scale with salt?
— That’s right, here as with salt… Daria, you have cools down.
Alexei points to a plate of scramble. I obediently try. It’s really getting a little cold. But still good.
Delicious… And you have delicious restaurants in Irkutsk? What places in the city would you call good?
— Honestly — I rarely go to restaurants. I just never go there to eat, I need experience, inspiration… Well, definitely not in Irkutsk you need to look for it! In terms of taste inspired in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There are a lot of good chefs, ideological, love Berezutsky. I like how George Trojan, restaurant “Williams” under the direction of Lambert. I like it when the kitchen is deeper than the mainstream.
The perfect restaurant for me is Magnus Nilsson’s Fäviken in the Swedish forest, far from the city (Nilsson recently decided to close the restaurant — approx.ed.). The restaurant is fully self-sufficient – fish is caught around the restaurant, mushrooms grow. The chief has his own garden. He uses not only his products, but also his techniques. Menu not “a La card”, and always set, on him bought tickets. And this is a very popular restaurant, record there — for six months. There is a very deep work, there is true taste, true love. And that is the ultimate wine and food.
— Irkutsk will come to this?
Never? Well, at least 20 years from now?
— Too little. We are very far from this format. We have the most guests so far is primarily for “eat”. I do not condemn at all, there should be restaurants for this. But why not get higher emotions from the dish? Emotions from gastronomy are sometimes even more interesting than going to the theater. After all, in addition to visual perception, we have a sense of smell, we also feel the taste. It is impossible to organize a gastronomic revolution here, until the desire to develop the taste arises in the head of every guest, until everyone ceases to perceive food as a mess in the plate.