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All news / How Moscow chefs are coping with food embargo

  • 18 Aug 2015, 12:56

Russian ban on European and other food imports changes of habits.RBTH polled chefs at Moscow restaurants to find out how they are dealing with the challenge.
The ban that Russia has introduced on food imports from certain countries is affecting the work of many popular restaurants in Moscow. The worst affected are the owners of Italian and French restaurants, who have been forced to remove some traditional dishes from their menus. 
"Without a doubt, the sanctions have affected my work. C'est la vie. I can't say that there are dishes that I had to change completely or to take off the menu: I have been able to find fully adequate substitutes for all the products that I used before. I have turned my attention to the local market and, to my surprise, have found many new and interesting items there: beef, veal, lamb from Bryansk and Voronezh, geese, duck and quail as well as chanterelles and black trumpets from farms around Moscow, Kamchatka crab, northern fish (halibut) from Murmansk, seasonal fruits, vegetables and greens from Krasnodar. But my biggest discovery has been Crimean truffles, which are in no way inferior to their French counterparts."
"My projects are originally based on the use of only regional products: game, northern fish, farm-grown meat and poultry, seasonal vegetables, berries and fruits. Of course, demand for domestically grown and produced foodstuffs has grown considerably. I see that other chefs have started looking for new products, adapting their menus to market conditions. It goes without saying that some restaurants will find it difficult to survive the sanctions. I mean premium-class restaurants focusing on Italian, Mediterranean, French cuisine, since previously they could justify their quite expensive average bill by the use of some exclusive products, most of which have come under the sanctions."

"I think, overall the situation has not yet become clear and it is too early to be making far-reaching conclusions. But, of course, as a chef I cannot be happy about it. I miss cheeses, sausage, imported dairy products, good cream, meat, several types of fish, molluscs. For example, Foie gras had to be taken off the menu. Prices on some products instantly - and considerably - went up, some items have disappeared altogether.

Politics makes us revise the menu and look for substitutes to imported products. So far we have adopted the following tactic: of course, where possible, we search for domestic substitutes and introduce them into the existing dishes and if we realize that there is no good-quality substitute for a particular product, we remove those dishes from the menu. Under no circumstances can quality suffer."

"Because of the sanctions, our choice of dishes has become smaller because we simply struck off the menu everything that we could not find a substitute for. Previously we bought Australian meat, whereas now we get our meat from Bryansk and Voronezh. It's a good thing that we have been able to find decent-quality meat. However, with cheeses we have not been so fortunate. For instance, we have not been able to find a substitute for mozzarella. We have also come up against difficulties when trying to source seafood: octopus and king prawns. Our salmon is now coming from Murmansk, but we had to replace king prawns with tiger prawns because what is present on the market legally has become very expensive. In absolute terms, the choice of food we offer has shrunk by about 40 percent.""The choice of suppliers, I believe, is one of the most important and essential tasks facing a chef. Some of our rare and gourmet ingredients come directly from China, for example swallow's nests, fermented duck eggs, sauces and spices. My sous chefs control supplies of ingredients on a daily basis. I cannot say that we have been significantly affected by the sanctions: we hardly use any of the embargoed products since authentic Chinese cuisine implies the use of exclusively Chinese ingredients. Whereas the economic factor, the rising dollar and euro have had an effect on us too: products have already become 20 percent more expensive, pushing up restaurant prices too."