Ruslan Evstigneev: “My dish has its own unique story to tell”

The young chef representing Russia – CIS talks to us in this interview exclusive ahead of the Grand Finale.

Ruslan Evstigneev, from South West Russia, was named the best young chef in Russia and CIS region during the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 regional heat when he defeated nine other handpicked candidates.

The chef from restaurant Pushkin in Kazan will now put his passion for cooking to the test at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 Grand Finale in Milan. 

It’s here he will face the ultimate culinary challenge when he faces off against 20 other global finalists on the international platform in front of peers, friends and family.

Under the guidance of mentor chef Andrey Shmakov, and the watchful eyes of the Seven Sages, Milan will give him the chance to shine and be recognised as Russia’s rising star.

We spoke to him about his preparations on how he turned a passion into a profession.

Please describe your signature dish …
My signature dish is named 'Horse, Kumiss and barley'. Nomad approach for a dinner.

Basically, it’s a horse tenderloin cooked in my particular way, sauce based on spicy katyk with dogwood berries and fine ground barley porridge.

This dish came to me based on idea thinking about my land, my heritage and my ancestry. As I’m half Tatar, this leads to a fact that my ancestry were tataro-mongols - a great nation of nomads who conquered a half of Eurasia. Their primary domestic animals were horses which were commonly used as food. 

Also, my grandfather owned a farm and bred horses for food. In that way I added to horse meat one the oldest and cheapest grains used by man, barley, and made porridge out of it, the sauce is based on typical for my homeland dairy product called katyk.

What made you become a chef?
First of all my passion and my wife :) I've always been interested in cooking, in food, products, hunting, wood hiking and so on, but until a short time ago it wasn't my job. (I used to work as a project manager in biggest IT company until age of 28) so my wife insisted that I should go study to Italy for cooking and train at some best restaurants there, as she was tired of seeing me cooking every evening for 4-5 hours at home after work. Since then my passion for cooking is only growing bigger and bigger :)

Who has influenced you in your career?
First of all my wife. Then, of course, great chefs like: Rene Redzepi, Michelle Brae, my first chef from Toscana - Gianluca Pardini, chef Theodor Falser from little restaurant in Alps mountains, who pays a lot of attention to local plants and local product and Russian chef Sergey Fokin. These mentioned are but a few.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time?
I still want to travel the world, to see and learn more as I'm a young person. Maybe in 5-10 years I will be in Africa or Australia, or maybe North America. But for sure I will be with my beloved family.

Ruslan Evstigneev, best young chef in Russia and CIS region during the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 regional heat

How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
We already have discussions and mutual work with my mentor Andrey Shmakov and will continue to do so. Our main goal is to show the idea of my dish and tell a story about myself, my land and the food we have. The dish is self-satisfied already, maybe we will add a few marks only and redo the presentation.

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
To finalize the dish as it was planned and deliver it to judges until it's hot :)

Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
I do believe every each one of the participants want to win, and each one of us will do his best. My dish is quite simple, but tasty and more important has its own unique story to tell. And other chefs might be able to learn something from my experience of creating this dish.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
I would be an IT engineer or tennis player :)

What’s your most memorable food experience?
I'm still waiting for it. Maybe a moment from my childhood when we used to go fishing on a boat with my friend and stopped at some abandoned islands full of wild blackberries bushes and we ate as much as we could, the taste was like heaven.

Or a case from last year in Italy, at a sausage making class the butcher offered me a raw ground pork, which I never happened to eat raw, but since he ate it, I did the same.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to spend time with my wife and playing with my little son. Also play tennis, fishing and hunting with my friends!

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