Born in Tallin, Vitaly went to a prep school there, and then to the TEKO culinary college. He apprenticed at Danish restaurants Noma and Geranium and at Norwegian Maaemo. Before taking charge of the kitchen at Moscow’s Scandinavian cuisine restaurant MØS, he worked at Tallin’s Le Bonaparte and Korsaar, at Knutholmen in Norway, at Moscow’s hunting cuisine restaurants G.Graf and Cacciatore, and at gastro bars Pokolenie (Generation) and Klyukva (Cranberry).

A good chef is all about honesty, discipline, good taste, strong interpersonal skills, openness, ability to listen to criticism, and understanding of what the freshest product is. And brand chef is a person who grows the company with the help of taste, who represents the company, works on its promotion, using, among other things, their personal brand. I’ve been doing this for almost ten years already. Everything comes from within, which is why personal qualities are so important. The terms or the names of positions don’t play a role, I’m just doing what I love and what is useful to people. I cooked my very first dish together with my grandma. It was pancakes, which I fried on a toy frying pan. It was made of aluminum. I watched my grandma cook and I had to take part. When I was completing my prep school studies in Tallinn, our neighbour, who taught at a culinary school, suggested that I come to study there: “At the very least, you’ll learn how to cook well for yourself.” That got my attention. I went there, tried cooking, and I cook to this day. MØS is a unique restaurant that presents a Scandinavian section of gastronomy, a special path that occupies the highest spot in the rankings of world gastronomy. Our main feature is the emphasis on the local provenance and freshness of the product. Plus, we impart these products with certain textures to open their true potential and taste. In Scandinavian canon, a local product is the one that was harvested within 250 kilometers of the kitchen. But Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden are not as big as Russia, so in Russia this distance is greater, which is logical. We consider seafood, fish, meat, game, and vegetables local if they were harvested in the land where you grew up. Avocado is not our product. But beetroot is. There are so many cool places in our country! In Karelia, for example, they have excellent fish, the famous Karelian trout and Onega pike perch, or the fish from Ladoga or near Pskov. And everything that Russia has comes to Moscow, there is no problem with products. You just have to select very carefully, change the vendors from time to time, adapt, and make constant changes to the menu. That’s one of the branches of chef’s work. Each product is unique. Take a tomato, cook it so it has five different textures, and make a dish out of it. Or take a lobster and a homemade cutlet — both can be equally wonderful. What is more awesome, a lobster or a cutlet? I don’t differentiate this way, my approach is this: everything is good. It’s just that you can always change and improve something — every day and every moment. Another important difference between our restaurant and many others is the existence of our own traditions, including in relation to the people who work at the restaurant and people who come to us as guests. For example, we have a tradition that at 4pm we go from the kitchen to the room for our midday meal. We do it all together, regardless of the guests’ presence. We stop the service, the team sits among the guests, and everyone eats. The break lasts an hour. And then people go back to work, prep for the second half of the day, and continue the process. Everyone is unique in their own way, and we all complement each other. I dream of creating a company that people will want to work at. It will be a company about food, about food culture, about gastronomy — and it will have such an atmosphere that people will want to grow and make progress, that everyone will come to work with their eyes sparkling with excitement.

Guide restaurants with Vitaly Tikhonov participation