One Michelin star chef Gleb Snegin is in town this week to kick off the “Dressed Up 2016” Michelin Dining Experience, a four-month long event happening at the Le Royal Méridien Shanghai. This week, he’ll be hosting masterclasses, dinners, galas and brunches. We caught up with him over the weekend for a quick chat.
Hi Chef Gleb. Thanks for taking the time off to speak to us. How did you get started in the restaurant trade?
It was all by chance. A friend of mine was working in one of the top Swiss restaurants in Moscow that was opening a new fine dining restaurant. I was interested to move to the capital to explore a new life as well as the culinary world, and so I went. Beginning as a waiter, I observed how the culinary team held together and worked as a whole, and how a restaurant’s hospitality really makes a difference for diners. I started to love and appreciate the hospitality industry.
Years later, in Italy, I worked in a number of fine dining establishments as the Chef de Partie; meanwhile, I was studying hospitality management on the side. One day the owner asked me to help them in the kitchen to replace a sick chef, and ever since then, I’ve been cooking. I love to cook food with love, kindness, happiness, and present all my gratitude to my diners through my dishes.
Being a good chef is not only about cooking, but also about managing all sort of things such as purchasing, sourcing, manning, training, cost controlling, and more. After all these experience and studying, I have been cultivated and developed to be what I am now, a Michelin star chef of Terrazza Italian Restaurant .
You’ve worked in quite a few different cities across Asia now: Tianjin, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. Tell us about that journey across Asia and what it’s been like.
I absolutely appreciate the diversity of these different cities. Although it’s somehow challenging when you come across different mentalities and cultures; to be a master chef, you have to be open-minded to cultures, and how you can apply them to your dishes through communication and collaborations. I always cook while learning by meeting great professionals and hearing feedbacks from local diners.
Singapore is a great city with advanced hospitality, and I’d like to go back there some day. In Macau, I worked in a big organization, it was intense but very beneficial to my career. I got to know how restaurants run within the organization, a completely different ball game from the fine dining restaurants I used to work at.
Hong Kong, where I am currently working and living, is a very international and competitive market; I guess it is like Shanghai, restaurant trends are changing rapidly, diners are expecting for the finest dining experience not only food itself, but also the process of making it. People tend to be more engaged in the whole dining experience.
Overall, I appreciate all those experience I had in Asia, and would love to be able to explore more of the taste of Aisa.
You attained your first Michelin star at the Terazza Restaurant at Galaxy Macau. How was that like?
Of course I feel great satisfaction from this recognition, it took time and efforts. But it has to be said I wouldn’t have been able to attain it without my team, and I really appreciate them for supporting me all these years.
I have very strict principles in the kitchen. First of all is premium ingredients, which is like the bricks you need to build up a brilliant house. Second, my attitude of assembling and building all these ingredients into an art piece. I like to see my dishes as art because all of them have spirits, which I expect my diners to easily taste and experience. Third, dishes cooked by me need to be in my way; namely, I grant them my style. Although I have been communicating with a lot of outstanding professionals in my industry, each one has something valuable to appreciate to learn from, I never copy and paste. I like to absorb, bring them all together and understand thoroughly, then infuse the best parts into my own unique style. I needed the Michelin Star recognition to encourage me to go further in my expertise. And I think I deserved it, and even more in the future.
Tell us about what diners can expect at your dinners at “Dressed Up”: the dinner, the gala and the brunch.
I will cook traditional Italian food but presented in a modern, mostly northern Italian style. The North, especially Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, has excellent cattle breeds suited to meat and milk production, and also excellent hogs; as a consequence beef, veal, and pork are the meats of choice, with lamb and other animals playing a lesser role. Cooking ranges from boiling and frying through slow braising and stewing, and northern cooks use much less tomato, instead using wine or broth as the liquid, and chopped herbs for flavor.
The results can be extraordinarily elegant, and the same holds true for roasts, especially those that contain winter vegetable stuffings. There is also an extraordinary variety of seafood and fish in Northern Italian cuisine. So the local diners can expect for a totally different dining experience from what they can easily get in most Italian restaurants in Shanghai.
What are you looking forward to eating in Shanghai?
I am open to everything authentic in Shanghai, especially local Shanghainese dishes, not those in chain restaurants, but in small and local family restaurants. Also, I am interested into local Shanghainese dim sum/pastries which I have heard so much about, such as Shanghainese pork stuffed mooncakes which people eat for the Mid-Autumn Festival which is coming soon.
I’ve heard Shanghainese cuisine is pretty similar to Cantonese; since I am living in Hong Kong, and have tasted quite a bit of authentic Cantonese fare, I’m curious about the difference between Shanghainese food and Cantonese. This time, I finally get to experience it for myself.
Do you still cook at home? What do you eat at home?
I rarely cook at home, but every once in a while when my friends come over, I enjoy cooking for them.
At home, I cook simple Italian food most of the times. I am also a big fan of Japanese, Thai, and South-eastern Asian food, and I sometimes cook Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup, and curries.
What’s next for you?
I would like to move back to Macao, and start my own restaurant. It doesn’t have to be big, just a small- or medium-sized restaurant. There will be no menus, I’ll cook what I feel like every day. I dream of a day when diners will fly to Macao just for my restaurant and my food! And I will make that happen someday.