Chef Sidonia Radeva from Constantinoff RestoBar, the first face in Faces Cases rubric– Part 3
In the first part it became clear when and how she cooked her first meal. We also discussed the image of the chefs as angry boys in the kitchen, the rivalry between chefs, the dark side of the industry and also the unsatisfied customers.
In the second part we learned whom she was named after, what her favorite cooking techniques are, what role plays Balkantourist in her dishes.
In this third, final part, we discuss with whom Sidonia would make a culinary “duet”, the Michelin stars and recognitions of restaurants’ work in general, how the famous Bulgarian TV talk show host Slavi Trifonov influenced her carrier and what it is to be a woman in the male world of gastronomy.
I’m making a reference to show business and music again. There is a trend, famous musicians to get together and make a duet. So, the audience of the one is united with that of the other and new fans are being won. If you have a chance to make a duet with a colleague of yours, something like a jam session, who would you want to do it with?
We have cooked together with Radi Stambolov. Also, with Bobby Paunov, from Red Devil Catering, a great guy. Radi too.
And with someone you haven’t cooked yet, who would you choose for such a duet, to create side by side?
I think a big challenge would be to cook together with Pepi Mihalchev. He’s with the Japanese culture… And I don’t know what a mash-up we can stir together- it’s going to be an astonishing gig, certainty.
Why not? I wish you could make it. Organize it as an event, run tickets- we, customers, will flood the restaurant.
We are returning to the starting topic for rebel women. What would you say to your female colleagues who like you want to achieve success in professional gastronomy?
Those who now start must be aware first that it is extremely difficult. Such things as manicure, hairdresser… Eventually they can be stuffed somewhere in the schedule, but vaguely and fleeting. You feel like you’re not taking enough care of the family, children, mother. You don’t take care after yourself. It weighs on your mind. But you have to accept it. You go this way, you want to live your life the way you feel most comfortable, but you’re actually leaving barefoot on this thorny path. That’s how I can describe it.
That’s pretty discouraging. Tell me, what is the encouraging thing?
The encouraging is that it makes sense. Of course there will be always haters, but when you find out what makes you happy and there are a few people that appreciate you, in front of whom you built your image, position and name, that gives you a feeling of contentment. As a female colleague, I like very much Svetla (it is about Svetlana Ilieva, bronze medalist from Hell’s Kitchen Bulgaria 2019). She’s so brave going down this road, I’m so happy. I see myself years ago in her. We have a very good relationship with her- really friendly.
Another important thing is that women should not think that by being aggressive in the kitchen, throwing things around in anger, or rushing back and forth depict them as good cooks. They should not forget they have to stay women first. Yes, they enter the kitchen in uniform, the hair gathered tight….
… Like Catherine Zeta Jones’s character in the movie…
… That’s right, but the moment she gets out of the kitchen, she has to feel a woman. That’s the way it should be. This is how we keep the finesse, not in the shell of a tomboy.
… That is, in the fight against stereotyping of sex, women should not forget about this subtlety, because losing it will not contribute to success in competition
Yes. I’m in a hurry to say I’m working with the best team I’ve ever had. Ivan Atanasov (This is the sous-chef, he’s on the main photo with Sidonia), Cassandra Alexandrova, Bobby-the guy who travels every week on the bus from Tarnovo, although he has a small child. The pizza man, the bread maker, which every day bakes the buns for the burgers, even the bruschettas, because everything is In-house made. Each of them offers ideas for recipes. I keep appreciating that. I’m grateful to this whole team. These are people who really burn.
Unfortunately, in my practice, I’ve seen talented people, good cooks, self-destruct, or trampled by an employer. Many good chefs simply do not endure in this profession.
Which is pity. But that’s part of the competition. If you can make it, you stay and you get better.
That’s right. The law of the jungle.
Do you dream about your own restaurant again?
Look, I’ve understood that fighting windmills… I’m actually starting with this- one should be careful what they wish for. When I was working in America, I had that kind of desire to have my own restaurant. Then my sister enlisted me for the Lord of the Chefs contest, I was approved without expecting it. I thought nothing would happen. There were 16 thousand candidates who were filtered down to 1600, then it was further filtered, and in no way was I supposed to be in the 16 chosen, and let alone win this competition. I won because the whole time I imagined I was on my station at the restaurant in America and not in front of cameras, I imagined I was at work. I showed my skills as a pastry chef. This is how I got the prize- own restaurant for a certain period of time. I am very grateful to Slavi (Trifonov). This guy made me recognizable. To this day, wherever I go in Bulgaria, people know me. Because it was the first show of this type, it was stamped in the minds of the spectators. These are all ordinary people who know me and want to share their recipes with me, I even use some of them. For example, wine cookies, a dessert of jam with prunes and soda…
When you start working on something on your own, you feel alone. You procure everything by yourself, you walk the markets alone, you write the menu, pay attention to the service, select and maintain the wine list. I am eternally grateful for this experience I have gained.
But, the most successful establishments in America and Europe are joint ventures between the investor and the chef. They have their backs on each other. So I have the peace of mind that there are people who take care about some of the things- calculations, salaries, insurances, electricity, rents, taxes. I take care of the staff, the menu, with peaceful mind I decide what to cook, what will appeal to the customers… Inquiries about events, what I will offer for them. Here, even for the wine there is someone to take care of. I dare to say that we have one of the best wine lists in Sofia.
Does he offer the pairing of the wine with the food?
What I learned in Netherlands is that every chef has to know about wine and be able to offer pairing with the food he cooked.
Do you plan to offer such service here?
Yes, I can offer it right now, I can recommend the wine for the food. Every chef should be able to offer this service.
So, on the issue of own restaurant, when you have the right people, you move in one direction, you have your responsibilities and they have theirs, this is the successful place where everyone feels comfortable. In fact, you have your own restaurant in your heart, because this is your place, your soul is in it.
When we reflect for Michelin stars or recognition in any way, we come to the conclusion that when we are clean in front of us-we bake bread ourselves, we prepare ourselves sausage, appetizers, ice cream, absolutely everything, we offer purest food, one such recognition is for a team effort, for the whole team.
Yes, but if the chef leaves a restaurant, he/she doesn’t leave with the Michelin star, it stays with the place, not with the person, and it is mainly obtained because of her efforts. Isn’t that unfair?
That’s why the star is given every year. And this is the source for thousands of stories about chefs’ suicides because of taking it back from them.
As far as I know, losing a star, causes great revenue decrease on the house- reduces the customer flow, hence the number of tables, prices too. There’s a financial shock. And sometimes chefs identify with this star. It’s wrong. I think that if a team cooks because they love this work, it is much more valuable to the customer than the Michelin star.
I won’t forget how I went with my family to a Michelin star restaurant in Vienna.
(I was talking about Opus, Vienna) Outstanding performance of the chef and his team and terrible on the side of the maitre d’hotel. The latter made a remark because I went to the bathroom and he had to service the main dish. I had a birthday that day, I was not supposed to be bossed around by the waiter, no matter what etiquette I broke. This was how the kitchen performance, mediated by this man, spoiled my overall impression from the restaurant, despite the wonderful food and despite the little cake-surprise at the end. So, the Michelin star is not a guarantee for a nice experience.
Yes, it’s degenerate. The clients feel so that they should restrict themselves because of the fact that the restaurant has a Michelin star. This is a wrong direction.
Last question, although I’d like to ask a lot more.
Introduce yourself in one sentence. Start with: “I am Sidonia Radeva and I am…
… Fire, passion, love, workaholic…. and Savage. (Laughs she and I too)
… You mean rebel? Let’s get back to the beginning of the interview about the rebel girls.
Well, not exactly, rather, a savage… a wildling. I’m like that. To this day when I see a swing, I’m going to it, it doesn’t bother me how old I am. I like have pigtails in summer, or let my hair out and feel the wind, run, prank.
This is not savage, it’s a child you describe.
I want to keep the kid in me, the little girl. I like it that way.
Super! Thank you so much for this interview.
And thank you!
After this interview I went a few more times to Constantinoff RestoBar and each time they surprised me with new interesting offers in the menu. “The Little Girl”, Sidonia, made one of her pranks. She included a dish of pork ears, grilled polenta, crumbled cheese and pickles, and named it “eat our ears!”. 😊 She told me that the pig ears and legs were a global trend because of the collagen bomb they represent.
They were really great, like the spinach salad with the marinated egg. The Inverted peach tart was a great delight. Escorted by red wine from the selection in wine dispenser- Rioja. It was great! And the breaded calf marrow left a vivid memory with its delicate texture in a crispy crust-it was very, very tasty!
Keep up with this good work, Chef Sidonia Radeva! I’m glad we have a rebel girl like you on the stage of Bulgarian gastronomy.
Look at that face, and you’ll see a success case!
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