CHEF TALKS: An interview with chef Roman Zaštšerinski from Kolm Sibulat
Silverspoon 2017 winner: Best Gastropub
After an extraordinarily sunny week in Tallinn the Friday has gathered a thin layer of clouds around the sky. On my way to Telliskivi I have reserved my raincoat with me as a security. Leaving it home would most likely mean rain or at least a light drizzle. The temporary set-back in the weather pattern seems to be good news for the restaurant Kolm Sibulat, at least according to their amount of bookings for the day.
The modern Gastropub era making way
Kolm Sibulat, located in the corner of Telliskivi and Paldski road, houses some hundred seats in a brasserie style atmosphere.
This of course runs into a slight controversy with the fact that Kolm Sibulat was awarded with the best gastropub award. Obviously my first question to Roman Zaštšerinski, one of the three co-founders, is why does he think they received the award.
“It’s hard to say. Maybe because we offer quite a wide selection of beers”, Roman starts.
“But we are definitely more perhaps a modern gastropub”. With this, Roman refers to their take on plating. I happen to see some of the new dishes prepared for the new menu, which are being tested on that very same day, and rest assured they are pretty far away from the stews and pots you’d expect to be served with in a pub.
The beauty of a gastropub is that you can serve fatty delights with good conscience, since the customer usually sinks them down with a nice bubbly beer, rather than with meaty and heavy wines.
The rising micro-brewery scene taking place in Estonia provides the restaurants with an extremely wide selection of appetite accelerators. Also the fact that while drinking fine wines and dining well is a job suitable for a sommelier, chefs generally tend to find themselves in an awkward position when faced with the wine challenge. But gobbling beer down with fine cuisine is a task most of the chefs can more easily relate to. Thus pairing beer and food is a more natural thing for a kitchen wiz’ to manage.
The effects on winning the Silverspoon award
Winning the Silverspoon award has affected Kolm Sibulat positively. When asked about this Roman states that all publicity is welcome, but definitely winning the award has created traffic. Naturally the traffic is expected to accelerate towards the summer, which, as it seems like, has already started.
While Roman and Igor Andrejev, second of the owners, have their background in the kitchen, Igor being the former head-chef of Tchaikovsky and Roman of restoran Ö, the supervising is cared by Jana Zaštšerinski, the third owner.
The kitchen field work is commanded by chef Sergei Golovko. A 26-year old chef started with the ‘trio’ when Kolm Sibulat was opened a little more than 4 years ago. Climbing the kitchen hierarchy he has now found himself commanding a kitchen established by some of the veterans of fine-dining.
Estonia still facing restaurant staff problems
The team is important for any chef de cuisine to be able to pursue his or her personal ambitions in the kitchen. This is difficult as good staff is both hard to come by and expensive. Roman explains to me how many restaurants in Tallinn utilizing the best locations and most expensive rents are being tempted with the use of cheap labor. In terms of going around the mandatory taxes concerning the restaurant staff many restaurants employ seasonal staff and avoid paying the taxes by supporting the ‘grey economy’.
“We pay every single tax that is demanded of us but it comes with a price”, explains Roman. This is probably why Kolm Sibulat is not located in the most expensive neighborhood. Naturally it is a handicap for the restaurants investing in progressive dynamics when compared to the seasonal places using the cheap labor. One should hope that progressive labor planning bears fruit but considering that nearly hundred new restaurants and cafes are opened annually it is not on very concrete foundations to hope for every single one of them to have its doors open after a couple of years.
There is still plenty of room to develop the local produces usage in restaurants.
In Kolm Sibulat the white table clothes do not characterize the dining room. The cooking is leaning a bit more towards fast-food and brasserie style cooking. This is only reasonable considering the small size of the kitchen.
When we step into ‘the most holiest’, it is apparent that very strict discipline is required in order to make functions run smoothly. Chef Sergei seemingly has managed to maintain a “Prussian discipline” in his kingdom as every single item in the walk-in fridge is carefully labeled and stored according to the requirements set by the health authorities. Sergei explains that he likes to experiment with new ingredients in the season oriented menu. The thing is that even if the Estonian ingredients are often of very good quality the problem becomes the quantity. Sometimes there just is not enough availability to certain new products, especially when it comes to organic products. I have to concur with this notion as it is exactly what chef Metsa at restaurant Juur was talking about.
Gastronomy trends are clearly going back to reinvent from the roots
As Restaurant Moon, the first brain child of the trio, focuses around Russian cuisine, Kolm Sibulat is cultivating a much more wider range of gastronomic influences in addition to its Russian roots. This is an extremely interesting note as it seems the whole Estonian cuisine is taking a peek into the past backed-up with an established national identity and a possibility to create something completely new. That is why restaurants like Kolm Sibulat are required in completing the full field of gastronomic institutions contributing to the national culinary scene brewing in Estonia and in the whole of Baltic area. I should hope that people keep voting with their feet in the future and keep filling the tables of this slightly isolated outpost of modern Russian cuisine in Telliskivi.
Chef Talks is a new Silverspoon Awards story series dedicated to introducing the hearts of every restaurants kitchen, the Chef’s and giving the readers a chance to learn more about the Top Chefs in Estonia. Chef Talks series cover restaurants from Silverspoon winners and nominees.
The author, Juho Kääriäinen: a yesterday’s chef and a today’s hedonist, who consumes gastronomy in all it’s forms. He likes his steak “as kitchen sees fit”, and prefers Global-knives instead of MACs.”