Tales from the Chef

Tales from the Chef

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Alexander Lohkin (above), chef at Mari Vanna, one of New York’s coziest Russian restaurants. Here is what he had to say on inspiration, how to design a great menu, and where to go eat when he’s off duty:

--What was your inspiration to be a chef?

Well, it's long hard hours: not for the weak. While being able to create new dishes everyday, and not have one day like the other is always a plus. It's the challenge of it. The joy of walking through the dining room during service a seeing guest enjoy what I have made for them.  It makes it all that much more rewarding.

--When designing the menu, what do you take into consideration?

Market and seasonal availability is always on my mind when creating a menu. Also price point, for the guest we cater to. I bring in the best products, same as some of the best restaurants in New York, and yet charge half as much as them. Lastly the capabilities of your kitchen is crucual (most chefs while not admit that).

--How often do you change up the menu, and why?

Menus are driven by the season and what is in the markets, of course. It's fun changing the menu, making new dishes, trying out plating styles etc. For example, I've been doing a pear and blue cheese salad for four years now and yet every year it's different, not just a tweak, but something  completely new.  

--What are you proudest of on the menu?

The Odd Couple. It's a foodie dish. I designed this dish with the notion that a person who would order snails would most likely order sweetbreads, and vice versa. So why not round the two out with bacon and garlic. Who wouldn't like that!

--Where do you like to go and eat when you are “off duty?”

When that happens, which is rare, I  find myself around my neighborhood of downtown Jersey City to a simple spot called Light Horse. It's nothing special just good food, service and ambience. It's really an easy go-to spot with quality ingredients. 

>> Mari Vanna, 41 E. 20th St., 212.777.1955