A plate needs to be minimalist: elegant, beautiful, neat
Andrea Galli was born in 1970, near the port city of Ancona, Italy. He graduated from IPSAR A. Panzini. Throughout his career, he has managed to work in some of Italy’s best restaurants – in Milan (Aimo & Nadia, 2 Michelin stars) and on the Ligurian coast (Relais Chateau, an exclusive restaurant chain), the Bahamas, Switzerland (Hotel Palais Sankt-Moritz), Denmark, New York (Il Palio), San Francisco, Germany. In Moscow, he’s been in charge of the kitchen at restaurants like Peperoni, Cherry Mio, etc.
In 2004, he was awarded the “Best Young Italian Chef” prize. In 2005, he represented Italy at BocuseD’Or – an international chef competition in France, where he made it into the finals. He is the recipient of the first prize at the prestigious Festival della Cucina Italiana and won the title of best Mediterranean chef at the Qoco Culinary Tournament. Andrea prefers to cook traditional, classic Italian food, served in a modern style.
In an interview with Capital Ideas correspondent Anna Sirotina, Andrea Galli talked about trends in the Russian culinary industry and what it’s like to work at the Italian restaurant Osteria & Pizzeria Bolognetta inside the Evropeyskiy Shopping Center, where Sicilian dishes are the primary focal point of the menu and guests can special order a pizza made out of rye flour with bran.
You’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and have managed the operations in dozens of restaurants. Who is Andrea Galli today?
I’m a chef who also works as a regular cook every day. I can’t be just a manager. I’ve been putting together menus for many years, I put together pictures in my head of what it should look like. It’s hard to do this – to put it together, look for ingredients, figure out what all of these dishes will look like and whether or not they will go well together, set the right price. Because one ingredient can cost 6 rubles, while another is 15,000.
So aside from management, you still work with your hands?
I can’t only manage, I don’t know how, it’s boring. If you don’t do anything, then it will be harder to communicate with people, you’ll be too far removed from reality. if you work, time goes by faster. It’s easier for me this way. But managing people isn’t so hard. My team is already 2 years old, we’re together every day and understand each other well. I don’t have to say much, they work on their own and hardly even need a chef – I’ve taught them everything. We change 10 dishes per season, not more. We can’t completely change the menu because our guests already know what we have and are used to ordering it. You always need to have the staples. People want to see spaghetti carbonara, for example. I can change one seasonal salad, think of a new soup, pasta with a different sauce, new raviolis… I create the new dish, the right technique for making it, we take a photo, publish it online… the rest is boring. So I keep working as a cook.
A lot of expats say that Russia is a unique and peculiar country. There are those who love it and understand it, and those who think it’s terrible. You’ve been in Russia for 13 years. Is it fair to say you have a good relationship with Moscow?
Before coming to Moscow, I worked in Milan. I was invited by Arkady Novikov to open a restaurant (an Italian trattoria). I already knew what he wanted and we did this project together. That’s how I ended up in Moscow. Of course I like it here, since I’ve stayed for 13 years. The only thing that was hard was to start living here without knowing any Russian. I studied it for a long time. I think this was the biggest challenge. But I definitely consider Moscow to be my home and love it here.
What were your impressions from that time?
Because the restaurants I worked in while in Italy really wanted to get Michelin stars. The main focus was always the restaurant’s original cuisine, not traditional Italian cuisine. But when I got to Moscow I understood that even traditional Italian cuisine is exotic here. So I made simple Italian dishes and was surprised that our Russian guests were perfectly satisfied with this: pasta al pomodoro or seafood tagliatelle, for example.
There was no focus on any kind of original cuisine back then. Even now, many guests prefer to order simple Italian dishes. I understood that the most important thing for guests in a Bolognetta, for example, is the quality of products, which we always make sure is really high.
It used to be easier to get good quality products in Moscow, but the sanctions have forced us to start making Italian cheese, pasta, and sausage ourselves. And they’re just as good as what you can find in Italy.It was hard for me to adapt when I came to Moscow. For example I was confused and surprised by the fact that, as a really good Italian restaurant, we had to have beef carpaccio or spaghetti with tomato sauce on the menu. In Italy we have these dishes in any pizzeria, you can order them everywhere.
How did this adaptation period go?
It was very tough to learn Russian, but our director spoke English and Italian, so it wasn’t too stressful. But I did have to learn Russian, even if it were at a slower pace, so that I could talk to people who work with me at the restaurant. I had to explain my plans to the team, what kind of result I expected, to teach them how to work like wanted them to.
What about life outside of work, like friends or hobbies?
There were a lot of Italians at the Moscow restaurants where I worked. And we’re still friends now. We meet up after work, go to restaurants, meet other chefs and business people living in Moscow.
What kept you in Moscow?
My wife. I met her 11 years ago. This is one of the reasons I’m still living in Moscow. Before I met my wife, I spent a lot of time with my friends. Then we had a mutual group of friends, and now I feel a lot more comfortable in the city than I did 13 years ago. Life is getting better and better. I’m more integrated in Moscow, in Russia.
Why did you decide to live and work in Moscow?
My wife and I planned to have our own business for a long time. We spent a lot of time looking for something that would be both interesting and profitable. We looked at options in France and Italy, but Europe is a lot more expensive than Moscow. It’s a lot easier to start your own business here, in our opinion. We’re still looking to start something here.
You’re looking to start your own business, have lived here for a long time, know the culture and the language. What advice would you give to a foreigner who wants to come and start a business here?
For newbies from other countries, I can definitely say that Moscow is huge and there are so many opportunities here. But there are already too many restaurants. Start any other business, but don’t open a restaurant. You can make cured meat, grow vegetables, breed chickens or sheep. There is plenty of room for everyone.
You’ve written many culinary books. In your opinion, what are the most popular culinary trends right now? Which ones do you implement at your restaurant?
In Moscow, just like everywhere else, simple and elementary cuisine is really trendy right now. Experiments with molecular gastronomy are a thing of the past. The portions in any cafe are much smaller than they used to be. But the prices are better because there are more restaurants, the competition is insane, everybody wants to attract customers. Delicious, simple, elegant cuisine is what’s popular right now.
What about healthy food? Or is that in the past already?
Healthy food is a trend that will never die. Today, it’s a lot more than buckwheat with mushrooms or lettuce with lemon juice. It’s really important to watch what you eat. You can eat pasta, but you have to eat it the right way. if you follow it up with bacon, a sandwich, and some coffee all while working on your computer, you’ve ruined it. Eating right is an important and detailed process.
Given your experience, would you say there is a distinct difference between working in foreign Michelin star restaurants and restaurants in Moscow?
I don’t see a difference. I’m always professional and give everything I have. I come to the kitchen because I like what I do. It’s my life. I don’t work for Michelin stars, but for the people – to bring them joy, make them beautiful and delicious dishes. I try to always give it my all. To work professionally and make my guests happy – this is my motto. I always want to stick to this rule and always grow in my profession. I also want to open my own company and develop my own business.
What would be your most important accomplishment in life?
I want my restaurant to be very popular, for people to know where I work, for it to be as famous as Cafe Pushkin.
I have the energy, the enthusiasm, the love, and the good health. This is very important. I try to be alive inside. A new day, a new idea.
What has life in Russia taught you?
I’m a foreigner, because I was born in a different country. Russians like Italy. When I came here, everybody was surprised, but also happy to meet me. People invited me to the theatre, to their dacha, and I never felt out of place as a guest. An open heart and soul draw people in.
Do Russians and Italians have a lot in common?
People are the same everywhere. There are a lot of fun, smart, serious people in Russia who love their jobs. Same goes for Italy. In any country, there are people who want to work and people who just come to work for a paycheck.
Do you have places in Moscow that revitalize you?
I like being outside. In the summer, I walk around parks. In the winter, I go skating.
Do you go to your competitors’ restaurants?
We live in the age of the internet and can’t live in isolation. But I want to stick to my philosophy. If you go to a restaurant with professionals, they only talk about work. I don’t want to analyze things all the time. It’s interesting to just go for a meal. I prefer to meet with people who don’t talk about food the whole time.
Right now you’re the chef at Osteria & Pizzeria Bolognetta inside the Evropeyskiy Shopping Center. Why would you recommend a visit to your restaurant?
I selected and re-worked the best recipes from Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, Sicily, and Naples. I highly recommend our traditional Italian delicacies – the salami, ham, and cheeses that I personally make in the restaurant’s kitchen. If you want a tour of Italian cuisine without leaving Moscow, come to our restaurant.