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Honest chef

From Khabarovsk to Khabarovsk via Moscow - the story of the chef Alexey Shilov

Now, having experience in the fashionable Moscow restaurants “Parisienne” and “Semifreddo Mulinazzo”, a graduate of the Komsomolsk-on-Amur culinary school №24, the chef of the Khabarovsk restaurant “MeetMeat” Alexey Shilov says with confidence: you can and should study everywhere , but it is easiest to realize yourself and do what you want in the Far East!

Honest chef
Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

Alexey's path to chiefs can hardly be called simple. He was born in the family of a serviceman, not far from Vanino - in the closed military town of Mongokhto in the Khabarovsk Territory, where long-range bombers are based. It is difficult to think of a place farther from the science of cooking. But the move to Komsomolsk-on-Amur and an accidentally seen culinary show had an unexpected effect.

- No, well, we must start with the fact that my mother cooks well, and as a child I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, watched how and what she was doing, and said even then that I would go to work as a cook. And the decisive push came when I saw Jamie Oliver's "Naked Chef" show. I really liked him - a young, energetic, lively British chef who cooked from then unknown products to me. I, of course, romanticized this profession in my head - and went to the 24th school of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Alexey's studies brought nothing but disappointment - outdated equipment, ancient methods ... But the practice in the grill bar once again awakened interest in the chosen business, and the master class of the chefs from Vladivostok became a fat exclamation mark.

Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

- I saw the real level, - Alexei recalls, - when the chefs in white, smart, beautifully speaking, preparing modern dishes, and not "Chop on a lettuce leaf", "Sea cocktail" salad or "Ladies' whim". I caught fire and after the master class I went up to them and said: "Guys, take me with you!" Of course, they did not take me anywhere, but they advised me to move to the nearest large city. For me it was Khabarovsk.

This is how Alexei started in 2008 to master the art of cooking with a capital "I" in Khabarovsk restaurants. True, I immediately realized that the professional landscape is scanty, so I got busy with self-education and began to participate in competitions - city, regional ...

- I began to participate - and constantly lost, - says Alexey, - due to inexperience, other reasons ... but it tempered my spirit. It made me study further, read a lot. Through Internet correspondence, he met Estonian chefs of Russian origin - cousins ​​Roman and Igor Zashcherinsky. They explained a lot to me, shared information and seriously encouraged me.

Alexey sat down to literature, began to practice more and even took a vacation to prepare for the Master Steak 2010 championship, which was held in Vladivostok. The main prize was a professional and educational trip to America for 10 days.

- About half of the 27 chefs reached the final, and I am one of them. I started to cook - my hands are shaking, I understand - I’m not doing something. And he said to himself: "So, if you don't get yourself together, you will never win!" I don't know how, but I pulled myself together and started everything according to plan. I prepared an author's sauce for meat according to the recipe of classic French cuisine of the XNUMXth century - I cooked it for two days - as a result, such an interweaving of French and American cuisine turned out.  

The trip to the USA turned out to be eventful - Washington, Chicago, Dallas. At the University of Texas - a theoretical course "How to Determine the Type of Meat", a special course on breeding meat breeds and genetics, immersion in the history of American steaks, a visit to a factory where marbled beef is processed, ...

In the homeland of steaks
Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

- I came to Khabarovsk and depressed, - says Alexey, - the contrast was too striking. And I realized that I want to study further, I want to do some more training.

At that time, Aleksey was already the chef of the "DJ Cafe Gallery" - the establishment from which he started after moving from Komsomolsk-on-Amur. I talked with the management and got the go-ahead for an internship with my acquaintances, the Zasherinsky brothers, who by that time had opened two restaurants in Tallinn. There was not just a personal meeting, but a close acquaintance with the work of a European-level kitchen - when the ideal discipline reigns, when the products are freshest, when everything glitters and sparkles. Having learned all this, Alexey found the strength to return to Khabarovsk in order to ... leave it again.

In Tallinn with the cousins ​​of the Zashcherinsky
Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

- After my trip to Estonia, I realized that I am not a chef, that I lack knowledge, skills in management, in organizing the work of the kitchen and restaurant. Therefore, in 2011, he sold everything, which hindered, and went to conquer Moscow. I knew where I wanted to, which restaurants in Moscow are considered cool, and immediately went to Semifreddo Mulinazzo, whose owner and chef Nino Graziano is the owner of two Michelin stars. They took me after the interview and said: "Come, bring a health certificate." In general, in the kitchen of a person you can immediately see how he moves, how he organizes the workplace, therefore, by the way the cook makes the slicing, one can say, if not all, then a lot. But I started from scratch - with peeling vegetables, “bring it in, don't bother it,” then I became a cook in the hot shop, ”recalls Aleksey. - It was there that I got a tremendous experience, there I absorbed what a real cuisine is, how it should be organized, there were amazing products, everything was fresh, the fish was fresh! 

Introducing the "products" at Semifreddo Mulinazzo 
Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

- Nino Graziano himself sometimes cooked right in his hall - he had his own kitchen there - for VIPs, - continues Alexey, - the Italian ambassador came there, guests on Maybachs with personal drivers, pop stars ... Three months later I already received independence, no one looked after me. But, on the other hand, the work was hard, physically exhausting - with one day off a week and a salary of 55 thousand rubles a month (2011 - ed.) In addition, we also had an Italian sous-chef, a real tyrant, yelled, and a year later I went to another restaurant - also very cool, but already French - "Parisienne".

interior of the restaurant "Parisienne"
Photo Shoot:

Parisienne is located in a historic building - the Royal Pavilion, built over a hundred years ago. It was intended for the rest of the imperial family and was the main building of the grandiose complex of structures of the All-Russian Trade and Industrial Exhibition of 1882. It was here in 1896 that a dinner party was given in honor of the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, and Parisienne continues the centuries-old history of this mansion, offering guests original French cuisine - the favorite cuisine of the Romanov family.

- Christian Maurino was then the chef there. He is very cool, although, like many chefs, he is also a tyrant and a narcissist, but he had a very cool organization of work, this is a French base. He was also a teacher at a culinary school in France, and it was he who taught me the discipline. He told me: “Alexey, I don’t need you to run 10 kilometers anyhow. I need you to run one kilometer, but beautiful! ". In general, he was very confused - he loved all sorts of difficulties. He could have three side dishes in a dish, two sauces each for a hot one, and a hot one of some sophisticated kind. And I have remembered this experience for the rest of my life - if you want to work in the kitchen, especially in French, then everything should be clear - organization, movements, stewpan to stewpan, spoon to spoon. As you feel all these little things, so in food you will have all the cubes even.

Readiness number 1 
Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

Working at Parisienne was even harder than working at Semifreddo. The working day is 15 hours, constantly on my feet. Alexei lost a lot of weight and fell ill, but could not afford to stop. Happened - fainted in the kitchen. And although the Khabarovsk resident had already risen to the rank of a senior chef and was just a stone's throw away from the sous-chef, at some point he realized that this rhythm, this atmosphere was all “not his”. I decided to return to Khabarovsk.

“I just worked at the limit, at the maximum limit,” says Alexey, “and my nerves began to play pranks, what really… The constant cry of the Frenchman had to endure, there people broke like matches. My picture of the world has changed, and that's it - I packed my things, bought a ticket and went home.

After resting in Komsomolsk, Alexei returned to the profession in Khabarovsk. It was a period of active search for oneself as a boss. Nobody pressed "from above", there was an opportunity to try, search, invent. The first independent "conscious" menu appeared, thought out from A to Z. Understanding and confidence came, and in 2016 Alexey and his team decided to participate in a competition, but not a local one. We swung - no more, no less - at “Chef a la Russe” - the all-Russian open culinary championship among chefs.

In the midst of a culinary duel
Photo Shoot:

- We have been preparing for six months! There were three of us - this is a condition of the competition, this is a team story - Ilya Kozhevnikov and Ksenia Boyarkina - the owner and pastry chef of the Khabarovsk confectionery Le Nuage, - recalls Alexey. - We come to Moscow, draw lots, and ... we find ourselves first in the top ten! There are ten huge boxes, each equipped with its own stove, stove ... in general, a full kitchen. You cook from scratch - you bring food with you, vegetables can only be peeled, and all the slicing, heat treatment is all there. You are given an hour and a half, and you make four identical hot, four appetizers and four desserts. The judges are our chefs, both from Europe and from Australia. And in the semifinals we took gold! And in the super final - there is a "black box", you do not know what is inside, what products - we took bronze. And this from the first visit! Despite the fact that some chefs try themselves in the competition for several years in a row, but leave "not salty".

Khabarovsk - forwardд!
Photo Shoot:

After the brilliant performance, the chief Alexei Shilov became snapped up. There were moments when I thought about continuing my career in Moscow. Difficult logistics spoke against Khabarovsk, first of all, because good products have to be transported from afar and at a high price. But another moment played - Alexei understood that at home, in the Far East, he had a name, there was authority, there were established and growing ties.

- They began to invite me to other cities just to make dinner, - says Alexey, - and in general I realized that here, in the Far East, I manage to enjoy life. I have to plow, be healthy, of course, but here I have the highest demand, I can implement projects on which in Moscow I would put a mountain of effort and nerves. Here I was offered to build a restaurant from scratch, plan everything and do it, as I see it! I did not have such experience, and, of course, I took up this project.

This restaurant is “MeetMeat” - as the institution itself positions itself, “a restaurant with fair prices for meat and wine”. Khabarovsk residents quickly appreciated the competent wine list, a variety of steaks - from premium to alternative. The place instantly became popular. Working on his idea and concept, Alexey found new meanings for himself.

Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

- Wisdom has come, probably ... Together with experience. Gone is the desire to become taller, stronger, faster, - he shares. - The food that I am doing now, I do it consciously. Without trying to prove something to someone. This is food for people, not self-expression - they say, look what an "incredible artist" I am. Now I look at many things easier, cooking is also easier, and I found a way out to the creative itch in photography. No, I certainly have creativity in my kitchen, but now its amount has decreased. I would even say that the world of photography is very similar to food, it is simpler, of course, and I understand it very much.

Photo: from the personal archive of Alexei Shilov

- What will happen next - I do not think too much. Recently a good friend from Moscow called me - a former resident of Khabarovsk, offering a joint project. I don’t know how it will turn out, but so far I’m good here. Here in the Far East - I am in my place. After all, it is not only nature that makes the Far East cool, but people and their energy. This is how it is in my kitchen - without me it's all just pots, stoves, walls. And by and large, everything is like the proverb - not a place paints a person, but a person a place!

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