Odessa cuisine: Past. Present. Future
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen!
Good morning, dear colleagues!
I'm glad to see familiar and new faces!
It's great to have new people on board.
As we all remember, before 2014 new venues sprang up like mushrooms. Then the number of new restaurants declined. In 2018, the growth resumed.
There are more than 50,000 various food outlets in Ukraine, varying from sidewalk cafés to restaurants.
Is it a lot?
I don't think so.
There is one good indicator to be guided by – a direct correlation: number of seats per number of inhabitants.
In Europe, there are 8 persons per one seat.
Ukraine has the following statistics: 35 persons per one seat in Kyiv, 40 – in Dnipro and 25 – in Lviv.
This means that even with our best performance, these numbers are three time higher in Europe.
There is room for growth: we still have places and customers to open new restaurants.
Despite all these crisis talks, the market is waiting for new players and new ventures.
Our task 1 for the nearest future is to saturate market with new spots!
Be sure, there is enough money at the market.
However, we lack for good chefs.
Not only our chefs go into politics, they have also occupied TV.
Decent chefs used to say they had graduated from Ferrandi Paris, Ducasse or Escoffier schools.
Now they are proud of participating in a 135th season of MasterChef. But we all know quite well this TV show can boast neither masters, nor chefs.
By the way, I graduated from an old Soviet culinary school in Odessa.
Our task 2 for the nearest future is to raise good cooks and chefs!
Meanwhile, pseudo chefs from TV make pseudo food for our guests.
They can get away with it only because guests don't care much about what they eat, but still ready to pay for surroundings and replication.
Here is our task 3: to foster culinary appreciation of our guests!
Today, I don't want to talk about losses in the restaurant industry. As Nassim Taleb writes in his book The Black Swan, 'The cemetery of failed restaurants is very silent.'
These are owners' poor decisions that contribute the most to this cemetery.
We have a significant number of restaurant owners, who travel to London 'for a week', visit restaurants there, take selfies, seize beautiful menus and think they are now aware of all new trends, which they awkwardly try to replicate back home.
They spend money and time, meanwhile McDonald's systematically, reliably and successfully sells its food.
Here comes task 4 for our community: to get to the new level of business owners.
Globally, we need to snatch the Ukrainian market from the Neolithic Age, take a quantum leap and get to the Modern Age.
I believe our ultimate priority is to develop National Gastronomic Concept.
Is this a challenging task? Yes.
Is it ambitious? Sure thing.
But without an ambitious goal we run in short bursts to earn yet another fistful of dollars.
I'm sure, the time has come to think globally and to develop Modern Ukrainian Cuisine.
Without platitude and pseudo national influence. Without stunts. Without sparklers, smoke screens and other special effects.
How long are we going to sell 19-century recipes and practices?
How long are we going to exploit peasant food, once needed and popular, and apply it to modern cities, high-speed Internet and another mentality?
Ukraine needs modern and potent cuisine, based on the National Gastronomic Concept.
This is not about borscht and vareniki.
This is about determined efforts, both intellectual and physical.
Still those, who will respond to this challenge, will get all credit for reforms and significant profits.
Restaurants offering new, rich, potent Ukrainian cuisine could earn millions of dollars. It is worth fighting for.
Where do we start from to cope with this global task?
We need to take the national cuisine to pieces, scrutinise, rethink and assemble it again with a new content and a new form, but with Ukrainian DNA.
The new cuisine would become yet another universal language of the whole nation.
Ukrainian gastronomy would enter the world market as a recognised brand.
This is a long journey, but we need to start small – from regional cuisines.
All of you know where your home is and where your roots are. This is where you can find your gold mine: the cuisine you will succeed with.
I was born in Odessa, as well as my parents and parents of my parents.
When I grew up, I took Odessa cuisine to pieces and scrutinised it. Then I rethought and reset everything.
This is how modern Odessa cuisine emerged – an extremely successful and differentiated product, which I plan to bring to the international market.