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I first met twins Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy at Chef’s Cup 2015 in Alta Val Badia where they amazed everyone there with a dish wrapped in parchment paper in the form of a letter with the sender printed on it: Twins, the name of their brand-new restaurant that opened a few weeks before in Moscow. Playfulness and irony are the hallmarks of these two chefs.
Moreover, even the foremost Russian food critic, Igor Gubernsky, had no doubts last year as juror when he tried a dish of the not-yet 30-year-old Sergey: Daghestan lamb shoulder with pomegranate sauce, onions and popcorn. That dish won him the S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Young Chef of the Year award in 2014. Here the Berezutskiys talk to Fine Dining Lovers.
Who started first?
Sergey had signed up for architecture, and I went for a cooking course. When he discovered that he was with all men and I was with a bunch of girls, he changed schools. Joking aside, we owe everything to our grandma and our mum. If you become a cook, there’s always someone at whom who serves as the example.
What do you think about the movement calling itself Russian nouvelle cuisine?
This is the only way of conceiving Russian cuisine, although we don’t want to reject the past. Many cooks of our generation of thirty-somethings are looking for identity. And it’s not just a culinary identity but a set of factors, even cultural and geographic ones, since our country has been through a lot of changes. Our philosophy is the perfect mix of Russian tradition and the new technologies. If we can’t do whatever we want with hundreds of ingredients like those who have a Mediterranean climate, then we are looking to perfect the conception and the techniques. We don’t avoid going looking for ingredients, even if they come from far away; the important thing is to respect them thoroughly. Contemporary cooking means giving up a ritzy napkin, but it never means stinting on the raw material. Our cuisine is rigorous but casual.
Sergey worked with Anatoly Komm at Varvary Restaurant and in the USA at Grant Achatz's Alinea which has 3 Michelin stars, whilst Ivan worked on Adrià’s team at El Bulli and at El Celler de Can Roca; you both have substantial experience behind you: what have you learned?
Working with the big names in cooking is very tough but always constructive. You can summarise the lesson in two words: concentration and creativity. Without these two factors, you can’t reach certain levels. Adrià taught me to look at things from a whole other perspective, adds Ivan. And that’s what we’re trying to do in our work. If we have trouble finding just the right flavour, then we try to turn the problem on its head, and most of the time, the problem disappears.
After Ivan’s success at the PMI Bar in just one year, six months ago you opened Twins: will you be changing anything in your styles?
The PMI is a top fine-dining restaurant already recognised by the guide to St. Petersburg that was an immediate success. I think that’s because of the concept: three floors of heaven for the palate: one for tapas, a gourmet restaurant and a roof-top terrace. Ivan is still a partner in PMI, but now we’re ready for something of our own. We are trying to maintain our identity by playing on the fact that there are two of us. Together, but different. It’s amazing when two ingredients look the same but their flavours are completely different, for example in one recipe we use a white truffle that looks like a mollusc from Asia. Or we’ll riff on variations: an artichoke or a lamb chop treated using two different processes.