Dima Borisov is an author and owner of best conceptual Ukranian restaurants. His vision changes the culture of Ukrainians about food, about visiting restaurants and his restaurants are so beloved by foreigners for the amazing dishes.
Recently Dima Borisov opened one new restaurant in the centre of Kyiv, and this event gave me a chance to meet him and finally to get the answers to my questions. That evening was full of talking about Kyiv, Ukraine, its tourism potential, about travelling and, of course, about food.
Now Dima Borisov – owner and brand-chef of 10 conceptual restaurants in Kyiv. And all the restaurants are absolutely different. Where he find the inspiration and new ideas to realise? From trips.
◊ How do you usually plan your trip?
♦ First of all, the last 8-10 years all the trips are planned according to gastronomic principles. Each trip turns into the gastronomic journey, and the main reason to go somewhere is not to have a rest, but to get the inspiration by discovering new flavours. The first step of planning the trip is to find where to eat and what to eat.
◊ You travel a lot, so you see different countries, cities. What do you think about tourist potential of Kyiv?
♦ That is sad, but after political events, Kyiv tourism is almost disappeared. Too weak. Kyiv is not included in the routes of travellers, and I am afraid that the reason why most of the foreigners come to Ukraine is the same, why our guys go to Thailand. That`s a pity, but now travellers choose Lviv and Odessa, and only then – Kyiv. But, honestly, I don`t think that Kyiv is worse or less interesting. Most of the travellers include Ukraine to their route because of low prices. They come here because they can afford a lot and get great vacations, spending much less that they would spend in other countries. I am sure, if Kyiv organises more events and give more reasons for travellers to visit it (I mean festivals, concerts etc), it will be full of tourists.
“First of all, what to eat and where to eat; then, where to sleep; and only then – what to see.”
Most of our tourist companies and government think, that they should show attractions to get tourists flow to the city. But when you promote city with Cathedrals and Churches, you get pilgrims. Just think for a minute, what are you looking for while planning a trip? First of all, what to eat and where to eat; then, where to sleep; and only then – what to see. Kyiv has enough hotels, hostels and other accommodation. And my strategy is to create enough Ukrainian restaurants to satisfy wants of travellers about food. But, honestly, for me it is too difficult: I have only 10 restaurants, and comparing to other companies that open every month 20 restaurants around Kiev (I am talking about your favourite sushi, pizza, karaoke and burgers) it is too little. But I am interested in quality, not in a number of my restaurants. I care about each restaurant and make it unique. I care about food. I care that you come to my restaurant, sit here, feel like you are somewhere in London or New York and savour Ukrainian gastronomy.
◊ What do you think about Kyiv and the Eurovision-2017? Will it bring back to Ukraine its good reputation and thousands of travellers? And have you prepared some unusual propositions for the guests of the Contest?
♦ I am always happy to find that Ukraine or Kyiv will host an international event. Now we have only a few events which could be a reason for foreigners to visit Ukraine. Also, in the case of my business, I hope that in May my restaurants will open its doors to more and more guests: from the official delegations to the ordinary travellers, who come to see the show of Eurovision Song Contest-2017. Because all my restaurants are about Ukraine. Kanapa is a restaurant of modern Ukrainian cuisine; Ostaniia Barrykada is a Ukrainian art-gastronomic space, like a gastro pub; Bessarabia is a restaurant about modern South-Ukrainian food with Ukrainian fish, Ukrainian ostriches and Ukrainian seafood, mutton, snails, frog legs and Ukrainian wine; Lyubchik – restaurant of Odessa “city food” with pots, crawfishes and mussels, “Forshmak” and other specialties; Chicken Kyiv – restaurant of Kyiv traditional food, it is about Kyiv and its style, about chicken and eggs, meringues and of course famous Chicken Kyiv as a dish.
“For 2-3 Euros we will offer such dishes that can compete with meals from the Michelin restaurants in Europe”
By the way, special for the Eurovision-2017 my restaurants will organise a food-space in the fan zone at Sofiivska Square. It will be a Ukrainian food zone, where you will see all gastronomic Ukraine. Before we were invited for organising food-zones for different celebrations, but I don`t want to present our restaurants together with all these hot-dogs, burgers and all that fast-food that you love. But this time everything will be organised by Dmytro Borisov’s Gastrofamily. You will find a Ukrainian seafood bar with Ukrainian ostriches, mussels; Ukrainian craft beer with smoked meat and cheese, Chicken Kyiv and other chicken specialities, eggs filled with Ukrainian black caviar. For 2-3 Euros we will offer such dishes that can compete with meals from the expensive restaurants.
◊ How many restaurants you plan to open? Do you plan to open new restaurants in other Ukrainian cities?
♦ As I said, I don`t care about a number of restaurants. I don`t want to create a net of restaurants, I pay attention to the uniqueness. My restaurants are not about ordinariness, not about places with thousands of guests every day. Much more important to get guests not because you have a restaurant in the centre of the city and all the people are coming to eat something just because they are hungry, but because they know about the restaurant and come directly to you.
Talking about the geography of my business, I am not bordered by Kyiv and even Ukraine. We had a restaurant in Spain, now we are opening a restaurant in Warsaw. Our restaurants can be “exported” and to present Ukrainian food around the world.
◊ You love Ukrainian cuisine, I see. But are there some Ukrainian dishes that you don`t like?
♦ Look, there are no dishes I don`t like. And I love not just Ukrainian food, I am not just a patriot and love my country. I love gastronomic history in the Ukrainian cuisine. During the70 years of Soviet occupation of Ukraine, we lost our identity of real Ukrainian gastronomic food. Because of Holodomor (Starvation) 1932-1933, because of wars, because of revolutions. Because Ukrainians and the Kyiv elite were deported from their homes (some families deported, some – just moved to other places to find a better life) and their places were taken by Russians. Only Ukrainians who lived in the countryside saved their authenticity and traditions, and that is why now we associate Ukrainian traditions, food and culture with a village. In this case Ukrainian food in known as simple, fat, nourishing and good for peasants. But we can read literature about life in Kyiv in the 1800s, and see young women and men who speak French, wear French dresses, eat caviar, artichoke and visit restaurants and there is absolutely another gastronomic culture. And I know the history and in my vision, the real Ukrainian food is what you eat in my restaurants, not all these fried “Varenyky” with pork and fat. Back yo your question, I love gastronomic approach, I love tasty food, I love creativity in culinary, but not just traditional dishes.
“We lost our identity of real Ukrainian gastronomic food. In Kyiv in the 1800s used to live young women and men who speak French, wear French dresses, eat caviar, artichoke and visit restaurants and there is absolutely another gastronomic culture”
For example, when I travel to Italy, of course, firstly I will eat in Neapol good pizza. Then I will eat traditional pasta. But then I will go to the Michelin restaurant to savour Italian food cooked by Italian chef with Italian products with some Italy style in the modern interpretation. And the same should be in Ukraine.
◊ How you started? When you were a child, could you even imagine that in future you will be a restaurateur?
♦ Of course, not. When I was a child, I used to dream to be a musician. I used to live together with my grandmother. And for all my childhood we cooked together. Every weekend instead of waking up with alarm, I used to wake up because of smells. Smells of freshly baked patties… Or soup, or dumplings… You wake up because of the tasty smell and go to the kitchen and join the cooking process. And since that times I am in love with culinary. And I realised how great it is when I was about 20 years old. When I saw how my groupmates cook semi-finished goods I was surprised: it was so unusual for me! And I realised that all my family traditions about cooking and family breakfasts/lunches/dinners weren`t something ordinary. I realised that most of the people around me do not want to cook. But I love it.
◊ What about your family? Do you cook every day for them?
♦ Not every day, but every weekend. I care about our family traditions, I care about relations between children and parents. I know how great it is when you have grandparents, you spend time together. I try to save the tradition of family dinners, because coming together to share food and drinks you have the real rest and understand the real values.
I have a big family and it is difficult to find time to cook on weekdays and come together for the breakfast. By the way, now we are creating breakfast menu. But breakfast in the restaurant for a Ukrainian is something impossible. Despite that fact that you all love “Sex and the city” and other American films, where at 6 am in New York main characters are having a breakfast in some restaurant, on weekdays you all sleep until 9 am, quickly take clothes and run to the subway to get to the office till 9-30. And, discovered all these insights, for Ukrainians breakfasts – it is lazy Saturday or Sunday, and not in the morning, but rather after 12 am. And when I am talking about breakfasts, I mean creating this culture of taking food in some cafes or bakeries and savouring it out of the home enjoying summer sunshine.