Born in Argentina, raised in Spain, Adrian Quetglas has been a breath of hot latin air in Moscow since 8 years. He works at Cipollino Cafè, a mediterranean restaurant, as well as at The Sad Restaurant in Yakimanskaya at the hear of Moscow: there he presents his avant-guard dishes, a mix between Spain, Italy, India and China. “Sad“ means garden and each table is surrounded by a subtropical atmosphere, exotic plants and soft chairs. Quetglas will leave his mark and shake things up in traditional Russia, here he explains how in an interview with Fine Dining Lovers during the 2014 Chef's Cup in Alta Val Badia.
“Traditional Russian cuisine is based on heavy dishes, difficult to digest. Customers are more interested in decor, ambient, Hollywood style, a great wine selection, designer plates, than ingredients and cooking methods. I gave them what they wanted and added great food to it, with a concept behind".
You've started your so-called revolution with a traditional Russian dish, the borsch.
It's a soup with meat and vegetables, especially beetroot, garnished with sour cream. I tried to preserve the classic version, but changed the consistency and the ingredients. I used concentrate borsch and created a gelatin, from there I made ravioli filled with sour cream and onions. To finish, I used a fillet carpaccio, dill and potato chips. It's been hard at the beginning, however, now even those who really care about their traditions like it.
Do you still use this process?
Yes, we could say that, I try to mix Russian food with Italian techniques such as ravioli, Spanish cooking methods, Indian spices, and Chinese touches. Cuisine is the product of contamination. I want to offer to my Russian customers something new, a new kind of gastronomic experience.
How do you come up with a dish?
If I tell you cooking is also my hobby, you kind of gather how much I love my job. When I am not at the restaurant, say I am home, that's where I get new ideas. I draw some sketches, try making it, use my own kitchen as my laboratory. We are not artists, but we should try to be good artisans. I start with one ingredient and come up with the rest, never the contrary.
Is there anyone you trust to try on your new dishes and give you sound advice?
I have to like it, if I do, I put it on the menu. I have to believe in it. My wife is also my harshest critic, her name is Martina. I also share it with my men, then we decide if we are going to use it.
What have you learned from Ferran Adrià?
Adrià is an institution, his imprint has been fundamental in understanding the relation between chemistry and food, creating a new language. I also think French cuisine is a core value and lesson, you then learn from the best. Chemistry and technology should never dominate a chef's work.
What are your favorite Italian ingredients, the ones you use the most?
I love prosciutto crudo, Italian cheese, especially fresh pasta, which I've learned to make in my restaurants. Fresh pasta is the greatest Italian contribution to gastronomy.