With five state of the art kitchen spaces the school has seen over 8000 eager learners pass through its doors since opening in 2016, from professional chefs looking to brush up on their skills, amateur chefs looking for a career change, and enthusiastic home cooks who want to pick up a few tips from Russia’s best chefs at the school’s various masterclasses.
It’s also the location for industry events and competitions, including the regional heats for S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 and if you are simply looking for somewhere to eat, it has a cafe where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner cooked by a special team of cooks.
It began as a start-up, but if you recognize the name above the door that’s because it is now part of the stable of one of Russia’s most successful restaurateurs Arkadiy Novikov, who has over 70 projects worldwide. S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna are now also onboard as the school’s official water partners.
We caught up with Novikov, to find out what drew him to the school and what he hopes to achieve.
What made you want to get involved with a cooking school?
I'm a restaurateur! Therefore, I was always excited with the idea of a school where young Russian chefs can get proper training and connoisseurs can meet the restaurant chefs and learn their secrets. So when I met a person [Yulia Mitrovich, co-founder and managing partner of the school] who felt the same way and wanted to build such a school, I wanted to be a part of it. Also I wanted an opportunity to hire all the best graduates and to make more people love and enjoy really good food. People in Moscow love going to restaurants and food markets – the next level is to study cooking like a chef at home.
How would you describe your role?
Oh, I’m like the Queen of England. The school is working well and I have a great team. I visit often to speak with students, to answer questions, to inspire future cooks and find talented professionals.
Why do you think this is the only private professional culinary school in Moscow?
Well, there are a lot of private culinary studios in Moscow, but most of them focus on entertainment cooking. Some have a few programs for professional cooks, but the Novikov School is the only place where you can obtain a standard professional qualification. And we’ve created a unique place for food lovers: you can come for dinner with a star chef, for degustation, or for masterclasses in different world cuisines. You may become a fan of cooking and go to amateur courses, then find yourself on our professional courses and starting a new career.
Do you think a school like this could’ve existed, say even five years ago, before the boom in New Russian cuisine?
Moscow has developed rapidly as a gourmet city. Of course, five years ago fewer people were ready to change their careers at 35 and become cooks, but they were already devoted viewers of Masterchef and visitors to different gourmet restaurants. Five years ago, by the way, there was already the Ragout cooking school, which was later incorporated with the Novikov School. I think it was partly the boom in New Russian cuisine. People became more interested in food, chefs, a few TV shows aired and it created an interest in cooking courses and masterclasses.
Do you see a little of yourself (Novikov began his career in the kitchen) in the young chefs that come through the doors of the school?
Sure! But they have far more opportunities, which at their age I could not have dreamt of. They can come and visit Omnivore in Paris, write directly to René Redzepi on his Instagram or take an internship at Arzak restaurant.
Are there any cooking schools around the world that you see as a benchmark and take inspiration from?
Le Cordon Bleu, of course. It’s not just a school: it’s a quality label, the gold standard. There’s the Culinary Institute of America, which is like Harvard for gastronomy. As we now also have restaurant management courses we look at Swiss hospitality schools, though one of our key points is to be relevant to current Russian trends and situations.
What does the school offer you from a business perspective?
First, the school makes a profit. Second, as I already said, I can hire all the best graduates. The more talented and well-trained chefs, the more new successful restaurants. And as for amateur courses: people meet real star chefs, study their tricks and secrets, and become pickier while visiting restaurants. So they will come to my restaurants for sure!
What do you ultimately hope to achieve with the school?
To nurture a new generation of chefs and make Russian cuisine great again. We also love that people come to our school with their families and we have programs for students from four years of age, so more people will have healthy food habits and good taste, and they will choose restaurants in a different way and cook at their homes like real cooks.
Any plans to open more? And not only within Russia – could you go global with this?
Maybe, but let’s win this battle first.