The Ukrainian chef starts a London restaurant run by refugees

(CNN) – Considered a “culinary ambassador” for Ukraine, renowned chef Yurii Kovryzhenko has spent years winning national gastronomy in his home country around the world.

Now Kovryzhenko, the former owner of restaurants in South Korea and Georgia, as well as Ukraine, is preparing to open a neo-bistro-style restaurant in London served by Ukrainian refugees. .

He and his partner Olga Tsybytovska will meet Mriya at London High School in Chelsea later this month. But to say that this new industry has emerged from difficult circumstances.

They were visiting the UK capital from Kyiv for an event at the Ukrainian Embassy when Russia invaded their homeland in February. They have been in town ever since.

“When I close the door of my office, I think I’ll be back in 10 days,” Tsybytovska, who previously worked at the restaurant, told CNN Travel. “But life cannot be seen.”

Winning Ukrainian food

Mriya will serve Ukraine’s state -of -the -art borsch, a soup made with beetroot, which has been added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage that needs urgent care.

Mriya will serve Ukraine’s state -of -the -art borsch, a soup made with beetroot, which has been added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage that needs urgent care.

Elena Bazu and Dmitriy Novikov

After spending months working with famous British chefs, Richard Corrigan and Jason Atherton, to raise money for those affected by the war, they decided to start Mriya. .

The restaurant offers traditional Ukrainian dishes such as borsch, (or borscht) with a modern twist, as well as specialties such as fermented watermelon and golubtsi (cabbage roll) made. Made from zucchini flowers.

“I want people who come here to feel like I did when they were in place [food] markets in other countries, “said Kovryzhenko, a leader in the slow food movement.

“I want them to see something new – a new taste. I want them to love Ukrainian food.”

Kovryzhenko uses local products before importing food products from Ukraine to ensure the availability of natural flavors for the food.

When Mriya opens her doors, she serves Ukrainian food made from British products with a “touch” of products she has harvested in other countries.

According to Kovryzhenko, Ukrainian cuisine has many similarities with British cuisine, such as the lack of “irritating spices,” and the love of pork, dill and horseradish.

“The taste and flavor are very similar,” he said. “But at the same time, the [cooking] The technologies are very different. So I think it’s very interesting. “

The main menu is around 25 glasses, while a tasting menu is available, with a choice of infused vodka or wine pairing.

Vegetables and fruits, which are widely used in Ukrainian cuisine – the restaurant will have its own fermented room.

Dream like that

Ukrainian chef Yurii Kovryzhenko and her partner Olga Tsybytovska at their London restaurant, Mriya.

Ukrainian chef Yurii Kovryzhenko and her partner Olga Tsybytovska at their London restaurant, Mriya.

Elena Bazu and Dmitriy Novikov

Kovryzhenko and Tsybytovska said they chose the name Mriya, which means “sleep” in Ukrainian, for many reasons.

Not only does it express their shared dream of taking Ukrainian cuisine to the next level on the planet, the name of the world’s largest aircraft carrier, the Antonov An-225 Mriya, has been confirmed. Was killed by Ukrainian officials during the invasion.

Launched in 1980 by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Soviet Union, the aircraft has long been a source of national pride for the country’s citizens – Ukrainian aircraft engineer Petro Balabuyev was the leading designer for the aircraft. project.

“is it [the aircraft] It’s important for Ukrainians, ”Tsybytovska said.

Of course, Mriya also expresses a simple desire for peace and restoration to the daily lives of themselves and Ukrainians like them.

“There are a lot of Ukrainian families living alone in different parts of the world,” Tsybytovska said. “And they dream of going home and sleeping under a safe sky. To return to their homes, to return to the land, and to return to their former life.”

The men hope the restaurant will become a gathering place for Ukrainians and other refugees in London, and plan to use part of the basement as a gathering place on Fridays and Saturdays.

In addition to traditional food, Mriya will also feature paintings and crafts by Ukrainian artists and designers.

“We will give the place a Ukrainian fence and fill it with Ukrainian energy as much as we can,” Tsybytovska added.

They both believe that Ukraine could become a high -end food destination, and are excited to showcase their cuisine in a gastronomic capital like London.

‘Embassy gastronomic’

Kovryzhenko says he wants the restaurant to be "Ukraine’s food ambassador to the UK."

Kovryzhenko said he wanted the restaurant to become “Ukraine’s food ambassador to the UK.”

Elena Bazu and Dmitriy Novikov

In fact, Kovryzhenko plans to offer Ukrainian cooking classes on site, which is a short drive from the Ukrainian Embassy, ​​in the near future.

“I want to make this place a gastronomic ambassador of Ukraine,” he said. “Ukraine’s food ambassador to the UK.”

From advertising the workers on various websites, they were filled with requests from Ukrainian refugees in London who were desperate for the job.

However, those who responded did not speak much English, as some were waiting for their official documents to arrive, so this proved to be a problem.

“It’s really sad talking to those people,” Tsybytovska said. “Some of them are teachers, some are doctors and some are dentists, but they don’t speak English and their degrees are not seen here. [in the UK]. ”

Despite these difficulties, the husband said they were committed to serving the restaurant with the Ukrainians who had left.

While Mriya reveals a good motivator, the reality of what is happening at home is not far from their imagination.

“My parents and my brother lived in Ukraine,” Tsybytovska said. “So I can’t rest anymore.”

Cooked fruits and vegetables will be important on the menu.

Cooked fruits and vegetables will be important on the menu.

Elena Bazu and Dmitriy Novikov

If Mriya becomes an asset, a percentage will be given to charities that support those affected by the invasion of Ukraine.

Although their long stay in London was not planned, they both said they were very fortunate and were apprehensive about the amount of help and support they received.

“I don’t know if there are other parts of the world where we have the opportunity to do a lot of things,” Tsybytovska said.

Although the husband said they had learned not to plan ahead, they planned to return to Ukraine during safe time to work, or open a Mriya there.

Now, they are investing their energy in the new restaurant, which is expected to open on August 2, and they are looking forward to hosting their first meals.

“We want to do something completely new,” Tsybytovska said. “It has its roots in our culture, but for the locals it’s something new to understand.”

Mriya, 275 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 9JA

Photo credit: Elena Bazu and Dmitriy Novikov

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