Chef Peño Ivanov - Ivital has been a chef all his life. He is one of the people who imposed the word chef, which means chef, in the Bulgarian space. Ivital is a pseudonym that comes from I-Ivanov and Vital. Peño Ivanov invented and for the fourth year now organizes and holds the first national culinary festival "Colorful Table". In this interview, I talk to him about the Bulgarian national cuisine, the as yet uninvented recipes and how to recognize a good restaurant.
How to know the good restaurant?
First, are there any customers inside. Second, on the toilets. The second may seem strange to you, but in a good restaurant there must be good management, and he takes care of everything. You can see the toilet the easiest, in the kitchen it will be more difficult to let you in. The toilet should be clean, fresh and tidy. That means everything else in the restaurant is like that. These are unwritten rules and laws of good restaurant business.
Can we guess the good restaurant by the menu?
Again it has to do with the customers in the salon. When the menu is good, there will be more people. You can tell by the menu how good the chef is, or at least the one who made the menu, because he might not work there anymore. On this menu, where is this chef and, respectively, where are the owners of this restaurant. Because the owner of the restaurant does not necessarily have to be a chef, but if he has a good idea for the restaurant, he has found the right chef. This applies not only to restaurants, but also to catering, to other food establishments.
Why do restaurant menus look alike? Is it demand or supply?
The offer. The menus are similar in two ways. First, restaurateurs have no imagination and copy ready-made foreign menus. Second, there are standard, classic recipes that every establishment should have. For example, salads: shop salad, country salad, calabrese, Greek.
How is portion weight determined in restaurants? Is there a prescription? Is a 500g portion normal for fries?
These are the typical neighborhood restaurants where you sit down with a group of friends, order 2 salads, large potatoes and something else and have a great time all evening.
On the other hand, it is logical for a person to be able to consume a certain amount of food at one meal. It can vary from 500-600 grams to 900-1000 grams, depending on how gluttonous the person is. Counting the first, second, third and dessert, the total food for one dish is about 1000 grams: the salad should be about 300 g, the appetizer - 200-250 g, the main course - 300-350 g, the dessert - 100-150 g.
Are you optimistic that Bulgaria will introduce a complete ban on smoking in restaurants?
Smoking is a refined form of selfishness. It is a harmful addiction and nothing gives smokers the right to force it on anyone. Globally, the smoking ban is respected and people don't grumble.
Why doesn't it happen in our country?
Everything is going hard in Bulgaria. Private initiatives are underway that have not affected anyone's specific interest, mostly financial. But the ban on smoking will also happen in our country, it is inevitable.
Let's talk about "Colorful Table". How did the festival start?
The culinary festival was born in 2008, it was held for 2 days in the village of Banya, next to Panagyurishte, immediately after that I started the organization for a national event. In 2009 - we visited 10 places all over Bulgaria. In 2010 – 14 events "A colorful table of guests of my city". This year they will be somewhere around this number again, but it may be a little more, because elections are coming and some of the municipalities may be more active.
Are you visiting the same places?
We will be somewhere for the third year - Hisar, Svishtov, Tarnovo, but there are also new settlements. This year, 2009, we had only one date in the whole of Southern Bulgaria - in the village of Chepellar, Progled. While this year in the southwestern region we have 3 events - Dupnitsa, Blagoevgrad and Sandanski.
One of the goals of the festival is to collect authentic Bulgarian recipes. Did you come across unfamiliar dishes?
There are unique Bulgarian dishes - such as purslane soup Purslane is a grass, weed, that is given to pigs. They laughed at me a lot when I filled a bag with purslane and brought it to Sofia. I cooked it with eggs and cheese. This is an example of how the modern Bulgarian does not know much about the traditions of Bulgarian cuisine. Very few people today also use bulgur, and this was one of the main products of Bulgarian cuisine in the past. In 2009, we published such a book, "Grandma's Recipes", which traces the progress of the entire festival during the year by dates.
Will Bulgarian cooking traditions be preserved in the fierce competition of foreign cuisine?
This depends primarily on us. Many Bulgarians like to eat deliciously, but they don't know how many delicious dishes we have. Through "Colorful Table" we work on this topic all year round. Already in January, we start talking about "Grandma's Recipes", about cooking and about "Colorful Table". Last year we finished with a competition for young chefs on December 9. In the absence of sponsors, what we do is heroism. The festival runs only with the help of countless friends who help with a little money, logistics and physical labor. I'm glad there are such people. In addition to the fact that "Colorful Table" has been held for the third year already, we are developing it, and in 2010 there were 4 dates more than the previous year. There are not many structures in Bulgaria that have a 30-40 percent growth in their activity. This is a great achievement for me.
Any more unimaginative recipes?
Surely there are many more recipes unimagined, just as there are songs unplayed and unsung. Culinary art is unique, just like music. With just a few notes, endless combinations are obtained. Countless recipes can be combined with several flavors and different products.