Alexei Krakowskyi is the chef partner at Adelle restaurant. He belongs to selfmade-chefs who have learned everything on their own thanks to hard work and desire to do what they love. In the framework of the One Day with the Chef project, we talked about his development as a Chef, his education and emotional burnout.
— Tell us about your path to the position of the Chef.
— I have lived in Israel since I was 14. It is there that I was developing as an individual. I studied at a boarding school for naval officers, then I joined the army. After that it was the moment of choosing a profession. And I have loved cooking since childhood. In six years I cooked charlotte with my grandmother, and later — homemade hot dogs because those on the city streets were tasteless. I cooked avocado toasts 15 years ago before it became a mainstream.
— As far as we know, you do not have profile education. How did you learn everything?
— Yes, I have no education. After the army I was already aware that an office work was not for me. I decided to try what I liked. I applied for a job in the bar where I sometimes drank beer. I was asked to whip up a salad, and I cut my fingers. Naturally, they immediately told me: “You are not okay for us.”
I tried my luck again — and they took me to a good Italian-Israeli restaurant. It was there that I became a cook. It was the first time I saw the real work going on. My boss sometimes brought me to tears, and I made him cry. Now I understand that he was right in everything. We are still in touch. I am also strict with my cooks but only when it is actually needed.
For a while I worked “for the sake of money.” It means I worked at places that were not that good but offered good wages. I managed to keep on it for several months before realizing that I could not offer the food I do not like myself to my customers for any money in the world.
— Were you an universal cook then or did you already know which product you would like to work with?
— I believe that any good cook should be an universal one. When we talk about a shift supervisor and sous-chef, they have to be ready to assume any process. If we are talking about directions in the kitchen, I tried almost all of them and succeeded. Even if we take projects in Kyiv, they all became successful. I came to the conclusion that in order to cook, it is enough to have a head on your shoulders.
The only thing I know at the moment is that I am not ready to work with Georgian cuisine, although I love it very much.
But what I would like to learn and try my hand at, to develop, is the Indian cuisine.
— Do you think that profile education is not necessary?
— Of course, in famous culinary schools you will be taught techniques, combinations of tastes. But no one will teach you to think. There they can suggest the direction in which to think but not inspire the ability to think. One of my chefs once said: “You can cook from the stomach, but you can also cook from the head.” I try to combine it. Constant practice is the best way to learn and develop.
— Would you hire a person with no experience but with a great desire to learn?
— Of course, I would! It is clear that the starting process is semimanufactures. But this is an opportunity for a person to discover talent in himself and for us to notice a good professional. I have a vivid example. Two years ago Sergei Voznenko came to “Shoti”. He was a car mechanic, had no experience in the kitchen. Now he is the chief of one of the restaurants in Kiev. In two years he has made tremendous progress, and in three months of work as a chef he has grown even more. Therefore, everyone has a right to a chance.
— You have lived and worked in Israel for many years. What brought you to Kyiv?
— Once I worked as a sous-chef at Vova Tashaev’s who moved to Ukraine five years ago. One day he told me that he needed a chef for a major project.
After some time I was in a free consulting voyage. It was a rewarding experience. The main thing that I learned from consulting is that it does not work. No matter how well you do your job, everything will collapse in a month. The chef you teach probably has no opinion of his own. He does not know how to defend a product, he does everything as he was told at the initial stage. As a result in a month he has to look for opportunities to save somewhere and to sell something at a higher price. Moreover people often miss the point — why bother if you can make it easier and faster.
— Adelle is your first restaurant where you are the partner. Tell us more about it.
— Two years ago Gusovskii and I had the idea of such a place. We rocked for a long time and returned to this topic from time to time. Once I finally said that it was time to make a decision and act. And we quickly found a location, began to make repairs that was long and painful. Menu has been rewritten several times. Some ideas always came to work. February 28 was the opening day and on the same day we approved the final menu.
Adelle is a restaurant that I would open without thinking in the center of Tel Aviv, with the same interior and menu. Here everything is exactly as I wanted.
For me it is important that the dishes are not adapted. I believe that adaptation is a way to nowhere. There were cases when they said that it was tasteless. But I always ask to objectively argue their opinion. And I can advise another dish. But if you do not like it, it does not mean it is bad. Dishes are the way I always wanted to see them and I do not want to change them.
— How do you behave as the boss in your team? What about your staff?
— We have 26 people in a team, four pastry chefs and two bakers. There are few procurers as I believe that a good cook is also able to cope with it.
I am tough but I think it is fair. I do not forgive the disrespectful attitude to the product. When, for example, they prepared tehna and forgot to put it in the refrigerator and it spoiled, when they overcooked schnitzel or when the dish is not brought to taste based on the technological map. Respect for yourself and the product is in the first place. I do not allow obscene words in the kitchen and all the team tries to follow this rule.
To be honest, there is a catastrophic problem with people in the restaurant industry. Some of them just do not come to work one day because now chefs are very lazy. The kitchen employs 15 people, each has its own area of responsibility and simply physically has no place to “play around”. There is no time for a smoke break but people are not used to this. They do not take work seriously and are not proud of it.
Therefore, I organize work with my guys in such a way that, despite the difficulties, it will be a thrill.
When people sit on the bar and say that everything is delicious, I always cry it out to the kitchen. We also have a tradition — every day at 19:40 we have a glass of something tasty. All hard phisical work must be compensated morally.
— What projects are you still involved in now?
— In the restaurant Napule I work on the menu of the kitchen, except for the main part of this place – pizza.
Preparing for the opening of the “Diner” on Podol — an American burger house with steaks. We are building a “meat ripening room” there, both for steaks and burgers. Diner’s idea is burgers without any problems. Simple, clear, tasty burger.
They will also produce ice cream for our entire network there. I have traveled recently to Italy for a special course on ice cream in Bologna at Carpigiani Gelato University. There I saw that I did the half thing right and half — absolutely wrong.
— Could you describe your day?
— Let’s start with the evening. After work I have a glass of wine in a pleasant company and a healthy sleep. I wake up differently, for example, today it was at seven. I try to do some jogging. After jogging, I clean up and eat breakfast. By 11:00 I am arrive at the restaurant. The first two weeks I was here since morning, I was engaged in preparations and took part in service. Now I can afford more freedom to myself. As a rule, I spend the first half of the day at the ‘paper work’ and meetings. At 17:00 I get to the service and by 22:00-23:00 I leave home.
— Do you have an emotional burnout? How do you cope with it?
— Yes, I have. On such days, I try to exhale as much as possible and not even come to the restaurant but to do some pleasant things or even do nothing. I love concerts very much. Now my plans include a metal concert and a jazz one. I also need travels, of course.
— Now you have four projects, is there any limit?
— Everything is possible, the only question is to find the right people, like-minded people. The main thing is the team you feel comfortable with. And it does not matter how many projects you have — four or eight. The only limit is the sky.