Chef Q&A – Slon Menshikov, Bistro Paprika, St Albans
PUBLISHED: 12:17 02 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:17 02 February 2014
The head chef at the charming St Albans’ Bistro Paprika outlines his approach to cooking
Describe your style.
Home-style food packed full of flavours with detailed presentation.
How do you decide your menu? I draw inspiration from nature. Different seasons bring different produce and that’s reflected in my menu. The ideas can come at any time, but normally during service, when I’m busy and only thinking about food.
Do you use Herts producers?
I only use local products and suppliers. There are two butchers from whom we buy meat, both less than a minute walk from our restaurant. I also like to go and choose the vegetables from St Albans Market, also under a minute’s walk away. This means I get to pick and choose the best quality on offer. I think it’s important to support other small, local businesses, and also greener not to transport food further than necessary.
Which dish on your menu do you most enjoy preparing?
Right now, salmon ballotine because it needs a gentle touch and attention at each step of preparation and delicacy when assembling.
Which ingredients are most important to your cooking?
At first I was going to say butter, but then I remembered a comment my colleague made about me. There’s only one ingredient in my kitchen that goes in to every dish of mine – music and inspiration from it.
What’s been your best culinary idea?
I usually find inspiration by taking on a classic dish and re-inventing it by giving it a modern twist. My newest creation is to take a Middle Eastern stuffed vegetable recipe, which I present as legumes du jardin.
Who did you train under and what did they teach you?
My first head chef was Roma Stunza. He inspired me to be creative. He taught me a lot, but his most unforgettable sentence was, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and when you do, learn how to accept them and learn from them’. He also said ‘In the kitchen you can work in two ways - either fast or very fast.’
What’s your prediction for the next food trend?
I’m not sure there will be an obvious trend. There will be no rules. As long as it’s fresh, tasty and looks good.
What’s in your fridge at home?
Most of my time I spend at work, so I don’t cook a lot at home, but when I do it’s usually quite simple and for my son. At the moment there are ingredients to make stuffed chicken breast with cheese wrapped in pancetta, and chicken and rice soup which I made.
Favourite quick meal?
Veal escalope with vine tomato salad, red onion and lemon juice.
Top three tips for amateur chefs?
Learn how to accept your mistakes and use them to improve. Pay attention to every detail, no matter how small. Always strive for perfection.
Best ever cookbook?
Everything about Spices by Russian author William Pohlebkin.