‘In Russia, Soup Is Thought to Be a Man’s Food’

PHOTO by Saxon + Parole
Elena Osipova interviews an American chef brave enough to open a restaurant in Russia’s capital

None of Moscow’s restaurants can boast a Michelin Star. One man who does have one is Brad Farmerie – and now he’s in Russia to spread the shine.

Brad Farmerie opened a Saxon + Parole restaurant in Moscow three years ago. Before that, he had pioneered the Public restaurant in New York, a venture that won him a Michelin star: the world’s most significant symbol of culinary prowess.

How did you manage to run a successful restaurant in Moscow, where restaurants go bankrupt every day?

By having a creative approach, by being persistent and, of course, by being lucky. We had a very successful concept that we had tried out in New York, and we found partners who understood what we wanted right away. In the past three years, our New York team came to Moscow over 25 times, and our Moscow team often flies over to New York. We all understand how to maintain this high level of restaurant culture.

Povar
Brad Farmerie

What brought you that Michelin star?

I had an idea of what a good restaurant should be like. At the time, New Yorkers found my vision unusual: I was using lot of strange ingredients, leaving out chicken and beef, and had put together a wine card of mostly Australian and New Zealand wines. But my persistence determined my success.

Before moving to New York, I had worked in London restaurants that had one, two or even three Michelin stars. I really respect the Michelin system and I never even thought that we could receive a star. What I wanted to create was very different from a traditional Michelin restaurant, but we have had their recognition every year since 2009. I did not have to sacrifice my ideas for the star – and that is the greatest reward ever.

Burger

Why do you think Russian restaurants never receive Michelin stars? Do you think they could start earning them in the future?

If the Michelin Committee paid more attention to Russia, it would encourage more restaurateurs to launch more high-quality projects. Michelin critics generally pick cities with good long history of gastronomy. In the USA, the Michelin Guide pays more attention to San Francisco, New York and Chicago, but it does not mean that there are no other American cities with great cuisine.

Being listed in the Michelin Guide is a great honour, and I hope that this is what the nearest future holds for Russian restaurants.

What is the main difference between the restaurant business in Russia and in the USA?

Well, I was very much surprised to find that in Russia, soup is thought to be a man’s food. It was also a shock to see that guests don't wait until everyone has been served to start eating. If one of the guests wants to start on their dessert, they do not like waiting for the rest of their group to finish the main course. They want to get their dessert right away. This is not the way it is in the US.

Tastes in Moscow and New York turned out quite similar: the most popular dishes are the same. They are both cities where people like trying out new things, as long as it reminds them of something familiar. All recipes need to be adapted - in different countries flour has different density, or milk has different fat content - but really, the basis of the recipe is the same.

Eda

Do you use local produce or do you import everything?

Given the current situation, we use local produce more. Actually, that's exactly what I wanted to do from the start. I really like Russian dairy, and we use traditional young and brined cheeses in our menu a lot. Burrata is ordered in from the Vladikavkaz. The chickens and ducks that we use are raised in the Moscow Region because the quality is very good and the taste is very rich.

Our black Angus beef comes from Voronezh and Bryansk; our crabs come from Kamchatka, and all seafood, honey, vegetables and herbs are also produced in Russia. Unfortunately, the sanctions have led to higher prices, but there is a positive effect, too: a lot more attention is paid to local production. It’s made many chefs change their mind about using it.