Yevhen Klopotenko

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Yevhen Klopotenko
Євген Клопотенко
Headshot of Yevhen Klopotenko wearing a chef jacket
Klopotenko in 2021
Born (1986-11-23) 23 November 1986 (age 37)[1][2]
Kyiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
EducationLe Cordon Bleu
Culinary career
Cooking styleUkrainian cuisine
Current restaurant(s)
    • 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered
    • Inshi
Websiteklopotenko.com

Yevhen Victorovich Klopotenko[a] (Ukrainian: Євген Вікторович Клопотенко; born 23 November 1986) is a Ukrainian celebrity chef and restaurateur. His work focuses on traditional Ukrainian cuisine. Since 2019, he has run the restaurant 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered [uk] in Kyiv, which features pre-Soviet Ukrainian dishes.

Klopotenko won MasterChef Ukraine in 2015 and then studied at Le Cordon Bleu. In 2017, he led the Cult Food project to improve school meals in Ukraine. He has documented Ukrainian regional styles of borscht; his work led to the dish being listed as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage for Ukraine in 2022. He has supported the Ukrainian effort in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and his restaurants have given free meals to refugees.

Klopotenko has written two cookbooks in English. He starred in a 2023 documentary about borscht, titled Borsch: The Secret Ingredient.

Early life

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Klopotenko was born in Kyiv in 1986.[3] In 1991, he spent time living with his grandmother in England, near Manchester, where he was introduced to more diverse food.[4][5] His parents taught him to cook borscht and scrambled eggs, which he credits for his early interest in recipe development.[5]

Klopotenko learned about global cuisine on the internet, and he was inspired to become a chef after watching Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares.[6][7] In his twenties, Klopotenko traveled to Italy and gained an interest in Italian cuisine. He worked at a Mexican restaurant in the United States, at a McDonald's franchise in Germany while on a university program, and at various restaurants in Kyiv.[5][3] Before becoming a professional chef, he sold homemade jam.[8]

Career

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Klopotenko experienced breakout success when he won MasterChef Ukraine in 2015. He then studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.[4] He created a TV series titled Odyssey that featured Ukraine's culinary traditions through historical figures. It ran for three seasons.[3]

Klopotenko was inspired to revive traditional Ukrainian food after realizing that, besides borscht, salo, and varenyky, people were unfamiliar with Ukrainian dishes and mostly ate food introduced during the Soviet era.[9][3]

Yevhen Klopotenko speaking to a group of children wearing hairnets and aprons at a table with cooking equipment
Klopotenko at a UNICEF healthy eating workshop in 2023

In 2017, Klopotenko began an effort to improve school meals, called the Cult Food project.[5] Ukraine's school meals had been subject to Soviet-era regulations since 1956, which forbade spices besides black pepper.[10][9] He took four years to develop a menu that was healthy and featured both Ukrainian and international dishes. It became the national standard on 1 January 2022.[10] He has collaborated with First Lady Olena Zelenska on childhood nutrition campaigns.[11][12]

Borscht

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Borscht is Klopotenko's signature dish.[13] In 2020, he created a YouTube series called The Secret Ingredient featuring people across the country making borscht.[3] He considers borscht a unifier for Ukrainians.[10][4]

Klopotenko is a proponent of recognizing borscht as a Ukrainian, rather than Russian, dish. He has described it as his "cultural frontline"[9] and said in a 2020 interview with AFP, "I don't really like to call it a war for borscht, but in fact that's what it is."[14] In 2018, he began a campaign for UNESCO to list borscht as intangible cultural heritage. The effort was partly in response to tweets by the Russian government saying borscht is "one of Russia's most famous and beloved dishes."[9][3] Along with Maryna Sobotiuk of the Ukrainian Ministry of Information Policy, he assembled a team of culinary historians and ethnographers who document recipes from 26 regions of Ukraine. In October 2020, they submitted to Ukraine's cultural ministry their findings, including five liters of borscht, and the ministry approved the listing of borscht as Ukrainian "intangible cultural inheritance."[15] On 1 July 2022, UNESCO fast-tracked a decision to list it as intangible cultural heritage in need of safeguarding.[14] A representative of Russia's foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, responded that Ukraine was xenophobically refusing to share the dish.[4][3] Ukraine's Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko posted on Telegram, "Victory in the war for borsch is ours!"[14][8] UNESCO stated that its decision "does not imply exclusivity" but that Ukraine's application was prioritized due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatening the country's tradition.[14]

Klopotenko's documentary, Borsch: The Secret Ingredient, features his travels from 2018 to 2019, where he spoke to people across Ukraine about their recipes. It was produced by Natalka Yakymovych [uk], who received $149,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development and additional funding from the Kyiv-based studio Film.UA. Its footage first aired in 2019 on 1+1 as a series of short episodes and as a documentary on the Independence Day of Ukraine of that year. Film.UA planned for a theatrical release in Ukraine, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Netflix acquired the rights and pivoted the film's focus to Ukraine's cultural identity during the Russian invasion. It was released as an 80-minute film on Netflix on 30 March 2023.[8][16]

Restaurants

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A three-story turquoise and gold building on a street corner
The exterior of 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered

In March 2019, Klopotenko opened 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered [uk] (transl. Fast Forward 100 Years), a restaurant in Kyiv's city center focusing on reviving pre-Soviet Ukrainian cuisine.[6] It was cofounded by Inna Popereshnyuk [uk], a cofounder of Nova Poshta.[5] To study historical dishes, he referred to mentions of food in Ukrainian literature, such as Ivan Kotliarevsky's Eneïda; Ukraine's first cookbook, Practical Kitchen by Olha Franko; and the 1913 book Food and Drink of Ukraine, written by multiple people under the pseudonym Zinaida Klynovetska. He then traveled to learn about Ukraine's regional cuisines.[9] The restaurant's ingredients are locally sourced.[8]

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, 100 Rokiv closed for two days, then operated as a military canteen.[6] By April, it produced 1,000 meals for the army per day.[12] The restaurant reopened in July.[13]

In March 2022, Klopotenko opened a pop-up bistro in Lviv called Inshi (transl. "Others"), which offers free meals for refugees of the war.[3][17] When Klopotenko noticed the volume of refugees passing through Lviv, he acquired a former cafe building and opened the restaurant five days later. The restaurant lists its free options as "menu two" and avoids referring to its customers as refugees. The free menu is funded by paying customers, donations, and Klopotenko's own money.[12]

In April 2022, Klopotenko began catering for diplomats and other VIPs on the national rail service, Ukrzaliznytsia, in an effort to gain their political support. The first he served was Boris Johnson, whose identity was kept secret from him; others included Olaf Scholz and Bono. In November, he hosted a series of dinners in the United Kingdom to raise money for victims of the war.[7]

Books

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In October 2021, Klopotenko released an English-language cookbook with seventy recipes, including varynyky, holubtsi, deruny, and several borscht recipes he found across the country.[8]

Klopotenko's second cookbook in English, The Authentic Ukrainian Kitchen, was released on 15 May 2024 in the United Kingdom and the United States. It is published under the imprint Voracious worldwide and Robinson in the United Kingdom.[18] He called the book a "love letter to the diverse culture and foodways of Ukraine."[19] It received reviews by Booklist[20] and Publishers Weekly[21] and a starred review from Library Journal.[22]

Awards

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In 2021, Klopotenko was included in the 50 Next ranking by The World's 50 Best Restaurants, the first Ukrainian to be listed.[10][23]

Public image

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Klopotenko is Ukraine’s most famous celebrity chef.[4][3][13] He is known for his fashion, with unruly curly hair.[4] For his enthusiastic public appearances, he has been called "Ukraine's Jamie Oliver".[3]

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaped his image as an ambassador defending Ukrainian culture.[13] He was one of the people featured in Time when it listed "Volodymyr Zelensky and the Spirit of Ukraine" as the 2022 Person of the Year.[24][25]

Notes

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  1. ^ Also transliterated as Ievgen

References

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  1. ^ "Клопотенко рассказал правду, почему до сих пор не женат в свои 36 (видео)". RBC Ukraine. Retrieved 10 July 2024.
  2. ^ "Клопотенко знайомить з традиційною кухнею Вінниччини - 20 хвилин". vn.20minut.ua (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 10 July 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Steavenson, Wendell (16 April 2022). "In war-weary Ukraine, a hunt for the real meaning of borscht". Financial Times. Retrieved 11 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Hirsch, J. M. (26 February 2023). "Borsch without a 't': Kyiv chef uses food to reclaim culture". Associated Press. Retrieved 11 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e Petrov, Volodymyr (1 September 2020). "Restaurateur tries to revolutionize Ukrainian food culture". Kyiv Post. Retrieved 11 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b c Baur, Joe (24 February 2023). "Vegetarian borsch with vushka (dumplings)". BBC Online. Retrieved 13 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ a b Freeman, Colin (14 November 2022). "'It's like a World War Two movie': The Ukrainian MasterChef feeding visiting VIPs". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b c d e Raczkiewycz, Mark (19 March 2023). "Ukraine's 'Borsch', a Movie more about Nation than Cuisine Makes it to Netflix". Kyiv Post. Retrieved 13 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b c d e Higgins, Charlotte (28 October 2022). "'It's my frontline and I won': the chef putting Ukrainian cuisine back on the map". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ a b c d Hryniuk, Liudmyla (6 December 2021). "Ievgen Klopotenko, Ukraine's star chef". Ukrinform. Retrieved 11 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "UNICEF and Ukraine's First Lady help teenagers adopt healthy eating habits" (Press release). UNICEF. 21 May 2024. Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  12. ^ a b c Steafel, Eleanor (10 April 2022). "The Ukrainian MasterChef fighting Putin from his kitchen". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ a b c d Williams, Holly (20 November 2022). "How Ukrainian chef Ievgen Klopotenko defends his country: With food". CBS News. Retrieved 11 June 2024.
  14. ^ a b c d Kassam, Ashifa (1 July 2022). "Ukrainian borscht recognised by Unesco with entry on to safeguarding list". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Stern, David L.; Dixon, Robyn (21 October 2020). "Ukraine seeks U.N. cultural status for beloved borscht. A culinary spat with Russia could be brewing". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Stall-Paquet, Caitlin (27 February 2023). "Borsch is a soup like no other: A chef travels across Ukraine to sample dozens of distinctive recipes". CBC Documentaries. Retrieved 13 June 2024.
  17. ^ Campbell, Joseph (29 March 2022). "Ukrainian celebrity chef serves up free meals for refugees". Reuters. Retrieved 13 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Fraser, Katie (12 January 2024). "Robinson serves up Klopotenko's celebration of Ukrainian food". The Bookseller. Retrieved 13 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Raczkiewycz, Mark (30 April 2024). "Ukrainian Celebrity chef Kolopotenko releases second English-language recipe book". Kyiv Post. Retrieved 13 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ Jacobs, Barbara (15 April 2024). "The Authentic Ukrainian Kitchen: Recipes from a Native Chef". Booklist. Vol. 120, no. 16. p. 4. EBSCOhost 176425526 – via EBSCOhost.
  21. ^ "The Authentic Ukrainian Kitchen: Recipes from a Native Chef". Publishers Weekly. Vol. 271, no. 22. 3 June 2024. ProQuest 3062257100 – via ProQuest.
  22. ^ Charles, John (1 April 2024). "The Authentic Ukrainian Kitchen: Recipes from a Native Chef". Library Journal. Vol. 149, no. 4. p. 34. EBSCOhost 176135952 – via EBSCOhost.
  23. ^ "50 Next - Ievgen Klopotenko - Empowering Educators 2021". The World's 50 Best Restaurants. 2021.
  24. ^ Vick, Karl; Serhan, Yasmeen (7 December 2022). "The Spirit of Ukraine". Time. Retrieved 14 June 2024.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Radford, Antoinette (7 December 2022). "Volodymyr Zelensky is Time Magazine's 2022 Person of the Year". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)