Though there are plenty of gourmet restaurants in the center of Moscow, theres only one like Baron Munchausen, an upscale restaurant on two levels with a tiny, cozy room and a casual menu on the first, and a grand piano, belly dancing and a luxury menu on the second.
Before finding his way to Baron Munchausen, Chef Vladimir Kuznetsov plied his trade in many kitchens. He credits the early passion he felt for the preparation of wonderful food to his roots. "My parents always knew the value of the family table and I started cooking when I was six. My first dish wasnt flawless, but it wasnt an easy-to-make recipe, you know. I prepared borsch, a typically Russian dish with plenty of ingredients, and it was my first culinary victory."
What emerged during LifeStyles conversation with Chef Kuznetsov was a portrait of an acutely focused chef with serious, fully formed ideas about dining, food and people. Kuznetsov gets so carried away by his work that hes on fire. "Its a very creative, artistic and adventurous profession. And once this burning hot culinary fire gets in you, you cant put it out! My whole life is in the kitchen," says Kuznetsov.
When and why did you decide to become a chef?
At a very early age. My passion for food runs deep: My grandfather was a fabulous professional chef and it seems to me that Ive inherited this from him. But beyond that, the profession chooses you.
Whats your motivation in the kitchen?
Food. Food always turns me on. I dont know how to explain it, but what I do is a very exciting profession. The most appealing phenomenon about cooking is that it doesnt revolve solely around food, but also around people. When you come to Baron Munchausen, its my job and my duty to provide the best fine-dining meal within my means. Over the years, maturing in the kitchen has been one of the greatest rewards for me.
There are two menus at Baron Munchausen. Whats the idea behind them?
Baron Munchausen is a two-story space, which features two different approaches to food. As you enter, theres a small room on the ground floor, where you can have a good but so-called standard meal, nothing extraordinary. Shashlik is of course a hearty dish but its not fancy. If you feel like sampling some more unique, mouthwatering dishes cooked right in front of you, you need to come to the upper level of our restaurant, which is due to open April 1. Right now Im working on the menu, which wont be too big. Were going to change this menu every two weeks. I wont reveal all my secrets at the moment, but there will definitely be culinary specialties like lobster, langoustes, foie gras, scallops, steaks and shrimps. I will be cooking original dishes with unique ingredients and unusual flavors.
Could you be more specific?
For example, there are plenty of ways to cook a stuffed chicken. Chicken is usually stuffed with such traditional ingredients as prunes, onions or mushrooms. But can you imagine a chicken stuffed with sturgeon? What results is an original, unique dish. Or, for instance, set ingredients are venison and salmon. Can we marry them? Most housewives will say no. But Ill check it out in practice. Usually, I can tell if the fusion combination is going to be good or bad, wrong or worthy, before I start cooking a new dish. The biggest myth about fusion is that you cant mix meat and fish. Fusion was common practice in pre-Revolutionary Russia, because Russian and French chefs would share the same kitchen. They were keen on matching meat and fish, hot and cold, sweet and bitter ingredients.
Whats the weirdest dish youve ever tasted?
It was in the Philippines. I ate a crab smeared with some special paste, baked in a tandoor. I mastered this recipe and cooked in restaurants I worked at. It was a success! I cooked this crab for Yevgeny Kafelnikov when he celebrated one of his tennis victories. Kafelnikovs father, who is a gourmet too, once came to the restaurant I worked at in Sochi, asking me to cook hares kidneys for him. It was the first time I cooked this rare dish, and so it was a pure experiment that turned out to be a success.
Who would be your ideal famous dinner guest from the past?
Baron Munchausen, of course! I feel close to him, his way of life, his ideas and his mode of behavior. He was a real adventurer. We constantly have to restrict ourselves to living within certain limits. I find it so boring. My primary objective in the kitchen is to turn my adventurism into culinary creations. Baron Munchausen traveled all over the world, which is why our menu features dishes from most international cuisine, French, Italian, German, as well as some Asian recipes. He was a hunter, too, whats more, and so we alsohave game here.