Who are The Juniper and The Raven in Gotvarnitsa “The Juniper and The Raven”? – Part 1
FacesCases interview with Chef Boykowski and Chef Velikov.
Last year, at the same time, the new section of placescases.com called FacesCases was launched, dedicated to the people behind the most remarkable restaurants, hotels, bars, all kinds of places that the blog sensographs. Whether accidentally or intentionally, these places apply the principles of the Experience Economy of, the theory of Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. They don’t just sell food, accommodation, drinks, any services. There, customers are offered experiences.
In January 2020, in an interview in 3 parts, I presented you a remarkable lady – chef Sidonia Radeva, chef in an extremely pleasant place in Sofia – Constantinoff Restobar. It was a new restaurant that impressed me a lot with its original approach to the interior, the food, the drinks and somehow I was very excited by the idea to reveal the person behind the wonderful cuisine there.
Now I have the pleasure to present to you the people behind a relatively new project in Sofia – Gotvarnitsa Hvoinata I Gargata, translated Cookery The Juniper and The Raven. The restaurant started at a difficult time, between two closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and on top of all that, the opening of its cousin, Krachmarnitsa, is being prepared. The difficulties faced by the industry are enormous. Some very good restaurants were forced to close after the first lockdown, as was the case with Bagri and Krug, but their chefs found a new field to perform.
In this 4-part interview, I will introduce you to Chef Velin Velikov and Chef Georgi Boikovski. They want me to call them master cooks, not chefs.
I met the first one during the interview, and I know the second one from Cosmos restaurant, where he was a chef. What is more interesting is that they both dealt with the Cosmos at its dawn, but did not meet then, but now fate or profession has brought them together.
They are nothing like each other. Velin is 7 years older than Georgi. He is more frugal, calm, I would say introverted even. He hardly talks, he isn’t so much excited about the questions I ask him. He prefers to express himself through his food. The other, Georgi, is expressive, bright, talkative, very passionate, terribly sincere and direct, ready to implement even his craziest ideas. One is the sea, the other the stars, the two meet on the horizon of success to which many of their colleagues aspire.
Biographical information about Velin Velikov
Velin is 45 years old and has been in the industry since 1991. He has nearly 30 years of experience. He gets up at 4-5 AM to prepare for the day. He is used to this routine from the times when he worked for tourism in Varna, when they prepared the breakfast for the vacationers. He has 3 children aged 3, 8 and 12. He does not live with his partner and is not talkative about his personal life.
Biographical information about Georgi Boykovski
Georgi is 38 years old and was born on November 1 – the Day of the National Revival Leaders. He likes to explain it. Then he adds that he is a Scorpio. Also, his name is pronounced with an accent on the second O, sounds like Benkowski, like the national revival leader and revolutionary. He has a 3 y.o. daughter. He does not currently live with his wife. After returning from Spain, he worked in the restaurants Te Quero and Cathedral in Sofia, then began to develop a new, completely different and innovative cuisine, based on Bulgarian traditions in the restaurants Pchela, Cosmos and Karmare and finally Gotvarnitsa. He is a consultant in popular TV formats dedicated to gastronomy.
(The interview took place before the second big restaurant closure, before Christmas 2020, and became a bit fragmented because I was never able to bring my two interlocutors together at the same time. They had engagements, clients of Gotvarnitsa, but they both shared a lot of interesting things.)
To Velin: What are your main cooking projects before Gotvarnitsa?
Velin: I am from Varna. In 2003 we opened in Varna Grand Hotel Musala. Then they returned the old name of the hotel – Grand Hotel London . I worked there until 2012.
It is a long journey.
Velin: We worked with chefs from all over the world. Then I went to Burgas, Rose restaurant. 2012. Then Ethno restaurant on Alexandrovska Street in Burgas. In 2014 we opened the restaurant Noti, in St. Vlas. In 2015 I came to Sofia. I did a little with Rocket Brandy Bar.
I know you launched Cosmos.
Velin: Yes, with the owner, Nikolay and Galya Dimova, she was our manager there. She is now in Burgas. With her from the Rose restaurant in Burgas we went to Noti and then we came here. In Space, I made the kitchen as a conceptual design and concept and then I did other things.
Did you and Georgi intercede there?
Velin: We didn’t make it there.
(Later, George explained to me that they had met Velin only 3 times, but somehow they felt that they fit together well as a team.)
Velin: In 2016 I started working with Zornitsa Estate. By 2017 we made it. Vasil Spasov was my sous chef. He is ambitious, constantly developing, considering and is passionate about his job.
And after Zornitsa Estate?
Velin: I was a personal chef for two years for two people. They are famous people, but it so happened that both are no longer in Bulgaria. With one of them, all the products were imported from France every week. Then the owners of the Cookery offered me to deal with this and the other project for their new restaurant in Oborishte – Krachmarnitsa. Joro called me for these projects.
How do you distribute the work between the two projects?
Velin: We are both everywhere, but there will be a distribution when the other restaurant starts.
To be continued…
A sequel follows in Part 2, where it becomes clear who is Juniper and who is Gargata in the Cookery, as well as how the restaurant was created.