Russia’s Culinary Pioneer – Anatoly Komm

Born in Moscow in 1967, Chef Anatoly Komm discovered his love for culinary arts at the age of three. His passion stems from his grandmother’s cooking as well as his travels while he was in the fashion industry. After deciding on a change of career, he interned at several restaurants around the world, before opening his first own restaurant Green in 2001, where he also was the chef.

Currently the concept chef of the legendary restaurant of the Central House of Writers, he has become renowned for being the first Russian chef to work with what was then known as molecular gastronomy in his restaurant Varvary, often referring to set menus as ‘spectacles’. A strong believer in using local produce, Chef Anatoly Komm carefully broke down traditional dishes and built them up in an astounding and delightful form. The end result was a theatre-like experience that brought patrons on a gastronomic journey like no other. Varvary first entered the top-50 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2011, since then Anatoly Komm has opened several other restaurants in Moscow and abroad.

Here Chef Anatoly shares with us candidly about his inspirations and his thoughts on The World’s 50 Best.

Aspire Lifestyles: When did you start cooking professionally and how many years has it been?

Chef Anatoly: The first restaurant where I really got involved in the kitchen was Little Ibiza in 1998, where I also owned the place. It’s been altogether 16 years now that I have been a chef! Time really flies but I’ve worked at Green, in Moscow and Geneva, Anatoly Komm, Varvary, Russian Seasons, Tverbul, Anatoly Komm at Barvikha Hotel & Spa, Anatoly Komm for Raff House, Le Bazar (Suzdal) and now Restaurant C.D.L.

Aspire Lifestyles: When did you start cooking?

Chef Anatoly: I’ve been cooking since I was 3 years old. It all started when my classmates came to my home to taste my cooking, then my university friends, then my comrades from the army. At some point, one of my close friends advised me to turn it into a profession.

Aspire Lifestyles: Who inspired you?

Chef Anatoly: First of all, my main inspiration in life is my wife, Nadya. But of course, all the chefs whom I have worked with over the years of touring were also a great inspiration to me. From some you learn how to do things, from others – what not to do, either way you learn. My greatest professional inspiration is Quique Dacosta (chef of Quique Dascosta restaurant in Valencia, Spain) whom I am honoured to call a friend. Pascal Barbot (chef of L’Astrance restaurant, Paris) inspires me with how he works with his team; they are a real family, they do everything together. Servers wash vegetables if they come in early, and cooks help to clean after the service. Also, it is the only 3-star restaurant with such a tiny kitchen. It is amazing what they managed to achieve together.

Aspire Lifestyles: Why have you decided to work with Russian cuisine?

Chef Anatoly: The type of cuisine a chef serves is determined by the geographic origin of the ingredients he uses. I use mostly Russian ingredients; hence I am a Russian chef.

Aspire Lifestyles: What are your favourite local delights and where do you go to have them?

Chef Anatoly: I love oatmeal cookies my wife gets in our local supermarket. I also like Russian marshmallow – Belevskaya pastila that my wife’s relatives send over from Vladimir, and Kartoshka pastry from the patisserie department of a local grocery store.

Aspire Lifestyles: Whom would you like to cook with from those on the World’s 50 Best list?

Chef Anatoly: Definitely Gaggan Anand. I have never been to Bangkok, but from what I’ve been told, Gaggan is doing wonders there. It would be exciting to work with the ingredients that I’ve never used before.

Aspire Lifestyles: Who do you think could be a winner from Russia at The World’s 50 Best next year?

Chef Anatoly: Café Pushkin should definitely be there. It was the first Russian restaurant to get onto the list years ago, and it is still the most popular restaurant among tourists visiting Moscow.

Aspire Lifestyles: What are your plans and special projects for the next year?

Chef Anatoly: I am very excited about my new project in Geneva – it’s called N#ICE Tapas Bar. It is a wine bar with primarily ice cream-like tapas – I have created over 200 tastes that will drive people crazy all over the world; from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.