There were audible gasps as knives flew and a fire erupted, with flames almost touching the roof. “I hope this is not too hot for you!” a mischievous, smiley face popped up from the behind the screen of flames. Knife-juggling, setting things on fire and Bruno Mars – not the first things one would expect at an Asian dine-out. All of this and more is what we experienced at the Teppan Fest with Chef Vadim Shin.
Organized at Zen, The Leela Palace, Bangalore, this interactive culinary journey was one of the many Chef Vadim has been curating since the time he moved to Bangalore from Moscow, back in 2009. Blown away by his exquisite showmanship, the beautifully plated Teppanyaki treats and the soulful singing (yes, you read that right, singing!), we couldn’t resist wanting to know more about his journey so far. And that’s exactly what we did! Say hello to our next #Forker, Chef Vadim Shin.
1. How did you decide to come to India, all the way from Moscow?
Adventures! I’ve admired Indian culture since childhood but had never thought that I’d come here. Now that I’ve been living here, I have started liking the place and feel at home here. Initially, it did take a while to settle down though.
2. Tell us how your culinary journey started? Were you always drawn to cooking?
It all started back in 2001 when I was in Moscow. I didn’t really think I’d become a chef since music was where my passion lied. But I started working in a restaurant to pay my bills and fund my studies. My first job was that of a kitchen helper in a restaurant called Kampay in Moscow. I’d spend the first half of my day studying and the second half in the kitchen. It definitely wasn’t easy; by the time I’d finish work, it would be midnight. The next day, the same routine would follow. Being so closely associated with food, cooking began to fascinate me and that’s when I decided that I wanted to make a career out of it. Today, I follow both my passions, music, and cooking, and try to give each the respect they deserve.
3. What inspired you to specialize in Japanese cuisine, especially in Teppanyaki?
Japanese cuisine is very intricate, precise, delicate and challenging. When I first came across Teppanyaki ten years ago, I was absolutely fascinated by the skill and all that it entails. It seemed almost magical to me! I decided to take it up and ever since there has been no looking back.
4. The Teppan experience conducted by you is unique and seems very challenging. How much practice did it take for you to master it?
Teppanyaki requires high levels of skills; each day is a challenge and a learning experience. I dedicated five hours of my day for five months straight practising knife-juggling. After that, I gained some confidence to perform in front of my guests. I still can’t say that I have mastered the skill to perfection. I keep learning and try to get better every day.
5. We were absolutely blown away by your singing! But, which comes first for you, music or food?
You cannot compare the two! Music and food, both are two absolutely essential elements in my life. Comparing the two would be like comparing a daughter and a son. Could I ever love one more than the other?
Music inspires me. Every time I have a difficult day at work, it acts like medicine, like a pain-killer. It provides motivation. Food, on the other hand, is also very important to me. When I cook, I feel Ying. When I sing, I feel Yang. They’re both two sides of me – Ying and Yang!
6. Tell us about that one special dish you pride yourself most on?
As far as my preparations go, I’d recommend all the dishes on my menu. I believe in keeping only the best. However, if I have to single out a dish, Peach Flambé With Fried Ice Cream would be my signature. I enjoy cooking the dish as much as my guests enjoy eating it. And they often come back for more!
7. If not Japanese, which other cuisines would you have considered?
Probably French, Italian or Russian.
8. What’s your go-to comfort food?
Home-cooked food is what I prefer the most, either cooked by me or by my lovely wife. (she cooks delicious food!)
9. Do you like Indian food? Name your top three favourite Indian dishes.
Of course, I do! I love Parathas, Mutton Biryani and Kadhai Paneer!
10. What do you think of the Japanese food served in restaurants in India? What would you like to see more of?
Well, honestly, what restaurants in India serve is not exactly authentic Japanese food. I understand that chefs try to work around the cuisine and try to create something unique to keep abreast with the latest food trends. But as a chef, maintaining the authenticity of any dish is very important to me. Restaurants in India generally serve Sushi and Sashimi; I would love to see them explore other dishes from the cuisine.
11. What has been the most difficult part about being an expat chef in India?
I’d have to say communicating in a different language. People tend to misunderstand my tone at times. My typical Russian accent tends to sound rude to a few people.
12. What’s next on the plate for Chef Shin?
I actually do have something in my mind, but it would be a surprise till you visit me next!
13. What’s the best part about being a Teppanyaki chef?
The enthusiasm, smiles and the undivided attention I receive from my guests, it simply makes my day! It also keeps me motivated to perform better and try new skills.
14. Do you have any advice for budding Teppanyaki chefs?
To all the aspiring Teppanyaki Chefs out there, don’t ever give up on what you’re doing. There will be hard times and happy ones too. If you choose to be a Teppanyaki chef, just keep working with pride and respect, because you are special.
We thank Chef Vadim for his valuable inputs and wish him all the best for all of his future endeavours!