Andriy Shevchenko, the Klitschko brothers, Oleksandr Usyk, and Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko are just a few of Ukraine’s most famous performers. And did you know that Hollywood sirens Mila Kunis and Milla Jovovich were also born in Ukraine before they chased their dreams in the USA?
A favorite Ukrainian of mine is actually DJ Dmitry whose music band DeeLite recorded the worldwide smash Groove is in the Heart, and he still remains the only Soviet-era artist to have ever made the US Top 40. The team at Vietcetera is convinced that now is the time to pen the name of Chef Kovryzhenko Yurii to this list of illustrious Ukrainian artists.
Chef Yurii is Ukraine’s most famous chef who has already opened restaurants in culinary capitals like London and Seoul, as well as appearing in the Michelin Red Guide and the globally recognized culinary CHEF magazine. Yurii has also traveled the world to speak at important culinary events and is currently the President of the prestigious Bocuse d’Or Ukraine organization.
Since the conflict with Russia began, Yurii has taken part in a series of charitable cooking events in London with world-famous chefs like Jamie Oliver, Jason Atherton, and Tom Kitchen, raising more than $500,000 for charities, including The World Central Kitchen Charity.
So Vietcetera was delighted to find out that Yurii was in the midst of a culinary tour around Asia and was scheduled to appear in Hanoi on 15th and 16th September to showcase his talents with the best national dishes of Ukraine at the Backstage Restaurant at Capella Hanoi.
The focal point of his visit was to cook for a Gala dinner for some 60 foreign diplomats, but he also served two special lunches for the general public and entertained the spouses of a variety of international diplomats with an informative, fun, and lively cooking class.
The message shared by Yurii was “Love Ukraine from the very first moment," and he shared this through his spirit of hospitality, believing that cuisine offers “the shortest path to the hearts of the guests so that they can learn more about Ukrainian culture.”
Ukrainian cuisine is very diverse and varies much by region, as one would expect from a country that remains the largest by landmass in all of Europe. Yurii’s approach is all about accentuating the natural flavors of Ukrainian food and not intervening too much with strong spices opting instead to use garlic, pepper, cumin, parsley, and sour cream to provide that uniquely Ukrainian flavor to his dishes.
We asked Ukraine’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Oleksandr Gaman, to explain to us the thought process around bringing Yurii to Hanoi. The proud Ambassador said, “I'm new to Vietnam. So, since I don't yet speak Vietnamese, I was thinking about what would be a universal language to share our love of Ukrainian culture with people in Vietnam, and the easiest and most attractive way to do this is through our cuisine!
Chef Yurii Kovryzhenko knows exactly how to make you fall in love with Ukraine with every bite you take from the delicious Ukrainian dishes he cooks.”
This approach shone through at the lunch, thoughtfully entitled “Fall in Love with Ukrainian Cuisine,” that I was invited to by Nataliya Zhynkina, the Deputy Ambassador at the Ukrainian Embassy in Hanoi.
It was appropriate that the first course focused on “beet,” known as the king of all Ukrainian vegetables, as Yurii presented this beautifully with some cheese and prunes and also cheekily served it with an aperitif of his local vodka infused with beetroot juice.
Eggplants and bell peppers followed before the “co-main events” were served. Firstly, we enjoyed Yurii’s flavourful interpretation of National Borsch Soup, which could be described as Ukraine’s answer to pho given that it takes 24 hours to cook using at least 15 ingredients and has also recently been bestowed with a world cultural heritage status recognized by UNESCO.
Next came his Chicken Kyiv, a delicious chicken fillet basted in garlic butter and served wrapped in golden breadcrumbs. Tasting this dish felt very nostalgic to me as this dish is almost as famous in the UK and is widely available at many supermarkets, and took me back to my days as a student when we used to call the dish Chicken Kiev.
A rich and luscious honey cake decorated with raspberries brought the curtain down on what had been a delightful lunch. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can offer to Yurii is that his menu was almost as good as the company's.
As mentioned, our table was hosted by Nataliya, who originally hails from Luhansk in the East of Ukraine, and whose sense of poise coupled with her energetic and positive outlook was just an inspiration to me. It just feels appropriate to offer the final word on this culinary extravaganza to Nataliya herself.
“I was excited about this opportunity for my Vietnamese friends to try Yurii’s elevated Ukrainian cuisine in Hanoi. It fits perfectly into the highest standards of guest experience that Capella Hanoi offers. I’m proud that despite the hardships that Ukraine goes through now, we still stay creative, and I was delighted to see that everything Ukrainian was received with so much love in Vietnam.”