Andrey Dellos probably felt his restaurant group had conquered Russia when it began taking catering requests from the Kremlin.
Dellos’ Café Pushkin opened in 1999 and was an immediate hit with Muscovites happy to dig into a native cuisine recently freed from Soviet-era dilution and blandness. Earlier this year Dellos brought a follow-up, Brasserie Pushkin, to midtown. Expats, businessmen and tourists alike flock to the ornate three-story restaurant fashioned after a 19th Century hôtel particulier.
Café Pushkin Moscow executive chef Andrey Makhov and chef de cuisine Jawn Chasteen translate and refine the original’s menu in an opulent space with equally decadent dishes like Foie Gras Terrine ($24) and Golden Osetra Caviar ($125) while also satisfying the demands of modern New York diners for all things fresh, local and jovially unpretentious.
Makhov told Haute Living about his background leading up to Brasserie Pushkin and how, despite certain deviations, the New York offshoot of Pushkin lost none of the original’s namesake poetry.
How did your culinary career begin?
I did not start my culinary career deliberately but rather randomly. When I was 16, I decided to take a chance, out of curiosity, and accompanied my friend to an admissions interview at a culinary institute. I enjoyed learning, I enjoyed the practice, and after a while I started to get pretty good. When in the second year I won the contest of professional skills among students, it was clear that this profession can be quite exciting, creative and can generate positive emotions.
How did you tailor your Russian cuisine to New York palates? Were there any modifications?
The biggest modification is in the fact that at Brasserie Pushkin in New York, Russian cuisine is presented in a limited assortment. Many of the dishes are international and familiar to our local guests, executed in my signature style, of course. As for the dishes of Russian cuisine, I tried to entirely preserve the original flavors and preparation techniques used in Moscow. We had to work on the presentation, select new plating and slightly adjust the recipes to American tastes. For example, the sterlet at Brasserie Pushkin is served without head and tail and the herring is only optional with the Vinaigrette Salad.
What’s your favorite drink?
My favorite non-alcoholic drinks are mors, kvas and homemade lemonade, most importantly with lots of ice. I try to avoid sodas, and as far as alcohol, sweet wine and whiskey of course; a shot of vodka is great for a Sunday brunch – especially with the right “zakuski” (snacks).
Which restaurants other than your own are you most likely to visit for a meal out?
In New York, I prefer small family restaurants with traditional cuisine, where you can feel the atmosphere of the city and the character of its locals—hole-inthe- wall places, so to say. I only visit fine dining restaurants as part of my professional activity.
What’s your favorite pastime out of the kitchen?
I love traveling, especially by car. Fishing during both summer and winter. Photography is also a favorite, as it is for many chefs—it presents that unique opportunity to capture our creations.