I wasn’t expecting the huge melee of people that thronged Raddison’s Waterfall Garden when I walked into the hotel. The star attraction, as the invite read, was celebrity chef Denis Perevoz, especially flown in from Russia to give us city dwellers the real deal. By 6:00 p.m. the mood was already set—salad counters that had glass backgrounds topped with large multi-colored candles, the waiting staff dressed in traditional Russian attire, quaint traditional dolls that decorated tables, and the beautiful hosts of the Russian Embassy and the Russian Cultural Center extending their warmest welcome.
The evening formally began with the introduction of the chef at the center stage, that also had incredible fire-dance acts, extremely talented singers, and performers from Sushila Arts Academy who were prepared by the talented Yulia Koirala. The Russian Standard Vodka, a premium import, served chilled from ice buckets, was a perfect accompaniment to the gourmet food that beckoned connoisseurs and amateurs alike. The seafood selection, succulent roast pork, pinkish-at-the-core-yet-cooked-to-perfection duck, the assorted vegetables, and the traditional pumpkin played marvelous symphony on the taste buds, as the guests soaked up the flavors of the evening.
The very traditional desserts—honey cakes and pancakes with apple and cottage cheese-blueberry filling—were a fitting end to an evening that opened our eyes to an until-now-unexplored side of the Russians who call Kathmandu their home.
Later, I got to meet the chef himself in a private tete-a-tete, kindly facilitated by Kushal Khatri, Administrator at the Russian Embassy. Chef Perevoz was born in the Urals and recalls his grandmother as one of his earliest inspirations. The family kitchen, where he often helped his grandmother, helped sharpen his instincts. Later, he graduated as food process engineer from Russian State University of Trade and Economics and Russian Tourism Academy. A board member of Russian Culinary Association, a WACS international judge, a winner of international and Russian culinary championships, Perevoz is one of the more popular and widely-known chefs in Moscow. He is currently a chef-consultant and co-owner of HoReCa consulting company that helps build businesses around strong, process-oriented kitchens that deliver quality food to patrons.
One dish that he vividly recalls from his childhood days are the mini-pies, stuffed with vegetables or meat, which are a common fixture in many Russian households. That, and the popular traditional soup called ‘shie’ that has cabbage as one of the main ingredients, is one of the aromas that the chef recalls from his home kitchen. He cooks simple and easy-to-prepare meals for his family in Russia, and complements the lovely meals that his wife cooks.
Having achieved top honors in his profession in the last two decades, Perevoz now looks forward to institutionalizing many of the skillsets that he believes are necessary for top-quality restaurants serving food and a slice of tradition with every meal. He firmly believes that a technically-skilled kitchen should be the heart of any establishment; additional embellishments only add value of the meals’ appeal to the hearts and minds of the people eating them. To that end, he wants to set up culinary schools in association with city-governments to train aspirants.
Unsurprisingly one of the dishes that he liked during his visit was momo. He told me of the fruit-filled dumplings that are a Russian specialty. As I took leave, I urged him to try the local aila. He replied in the affirmative and shared that the best Russian vodkas are often made at home using traditional utensils and ingredients. He said he would love to return. Cheers to that!