Anatoly Kazakov, head chef, Selfie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st July 2019

Anatoly Kazakov is the head chef at Selfie in Moscow. 

At just 35, Anatoly is one of a handful of chefs revolutionising Russia's gastronomic scene. 

Together with Vladimir Mukhin, his friend and the head chef of Selfie's sister restaurant, The White Rabbit, a new spotlight is being cast on Russian produce and traditional techniques. 

Originally, the chef wanted to be a professional water polo player, but he soon realised that the contracts available for the sport didn't quite meet the level of a hockey player or a footballer. Instead, he went to cooking school. It wasn't until he experienced highly-acclaimed kitchens such as that of Gualtiero Marchesi that the chef truly began forging his own culinary identity. 

What characterises the food scene in Moscow and what's good about it?

Over the last five years in Moscow, there's been a big jump for Russian gastronomy. We have a new young generation of chefs that are 30-35 years old who want to learn something new everyday and who trained outside of  Russia.

I learnt about gastronomy in Italy, Vladimir Mukhin studied in France, the Berezutskiy brothers studied in Spain. When we went back to Moscow, we discovered a new view of Russian product and philosophy.

We really wanted to change Russian gastronomy together - like how to prepare produce better, how to improve on logistics and how to create a restaurant's philosophy.

15 years ago, restaurateurs opened restaurants thinking about how to design, how to plate, how to create atmosphere but didn't think about food.

We started with the food, and from the food we created everything else.

Can you tell us a bit more about Selfie and what people can expect when they visit the restaurant?

We opened Selfie five and a half years ago. When I created this restaurant, I had a bit of a manifesto with my partner. It's a restaurant about local, seasonal farm products.

For me it's very important, I want to show my clients my products, my philosophy, my suppliers. When we started 70 percent of the produce in the restaurant was from Russia, now it's more like 90 percent. I have 15 family suppliers who produce and grow vegetables for me, wild fishermen, hunters.

It was a big jump starting four years ago, because the first time you talk to people about something new, people don't understand how to do it and every time you ask, they say no.

But now it's getting better because we have a lot of good family suppliers.

Four times a year I invite all of my suppliers and I cook for them, we eat and then we talk about the new season, who's going to supply me with artichokes, asparagus, who's going to produce different products for me and we have a calendar of seasonal products.

For me it's easy because I know what I cook in September, I know what I cook in October, November and so forth.

What Russian ingredients and techniques do you like to use?

Lovage, turnips, at the moment I have young orange beetroot which is very sweet and floral. 

In terms of typical Russian techniques, I love pickles.

It's such an important part of Russian gastronomy because we have extremely short seasons; if you want to cook any interesting ingredients and products in autumn and in winter you make a mise en place for winter like my grandmother did.

I like cooking in a big charcoal oven. It takes a long time at a low temperature - like 10-15 hours. I like it because it imparts smoke, a good texture and aromatic flavours. 

I don't love sous-vide, I don't like the plastic taste of the sous-vide. For me it's better to cook like my grandmother.

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How did you define your style in the kitchen?

I only worked with Marchesi for three months but it really changed my understanding of products and how to cook to get a clean taste of the product.

I love simple combinations - just three ingredients can work well together.I love the clean taste of natural products.

What dish on the menu at the moment would you say best showcases your style?

At the moment, I love king crab with almond milk. We've had a very good season of young almonds from Soshi, the East of Russia. We make it like a centrifuge -  like a perfume or a distillation of the almond milk and we mix and cook king crab with extremely reduced vegetable stock with a gelee of lemon and a little bit of pickled apples.

These are typical Russian flavours - a combination of sweet, sour and salty flavours.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st July 2019

Anatoly Kazakov, head chef, Selfie