Chef of the Month: Romanian Rising Star, Chef Raul Vidican
Chef’s Pencil talked to Raul about his professional journey, Romanian cuisine, his signature dish, and his current project at Roca Bruna.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I think I always had a passion for cooking, since I was a child. I remember how I used to help my grandmother and mom in the kitchen. We used to have our own garden, and cook only with fresh ingredients. After high school, I started a cooking school and that was my start in the culinary world.
Where did you train to cook? Do you recommend a formal training for someone who wants to become a chef (i.e. culinary school)?
I trained as a cook in Romania at a school, and in germany I started my way from the bottom through the head chef position. I worked a lot, passing every position available in the kitchen.
You worked in Germany before returning home. What is the most striking difference between the restaurant industry in Romania and Germany?
I worked in Germany for six years. The biggest difference at the time between the restaurant industries was the lack of professionalism [in Romania]. They were trained better than us. But now I think that Romania has evolved a lot since I left, I really see a big improvement in Romania now.
Romanian cuisine is currently not very popular internationally. What do you think it would take to better promote traditional Romanian food?
Romanian food is starting to take shape on the international scale, we just have to promote better our fresh ingredients and our culture. We have such a beautiful land and some of the best local ingredients.
What do you regard as the quintessential Romanian ingredient and dish?
I think for me the best Romanian dish has to be our Ciorba, our sour soup. I think if you really go local, you find really good Romanian food. We also have a lot of cheese, meat, and fruits that are very tasty.
Tell us about your current project at Roca Bruna. What is the concept and what was the inspiration for the menu?
I started to work at Roca Bruna last year in August. From the first day, I really liked to work here because I have the ability to do what I want in terms of food. The concept here, because we also have a garden, is promoting our local products. I try a lot to use only fresh and local ingredients such as cheese, meat, vegetables, and fruit.
What’s the most popular item on the menu?
I think the most popular now is our Duck dish. We have a baby duck breast cooked sous vide, with some confit duck leg, which we tear apart and make into a crust with some panko. We serve it with some fresh mushrooms, almond puree, and cherry gel.
What is the most challenging part of being a Chef?
I think perseverance and determination. You really have to push yourself all the time if you want to be better every time.
You are regarded as one of the best new Romanian chefs. What sets a top chef apart from the pack?
First, thanks. If you really want to be a top chef, you really have to respect your team. For me that is the most important thing. Respect your team and you can achieve everything.
What is one common mistake you see other chefs or cooks making in the kitchen?
The biggest [mistake] I see is they don’t treat the products with respect. You really have to appreciate the products and value them.
What is your signature dish or a favorite dish that you enjoy cooking?
Maybe my signature dish right now would have to be my Sous Vide Beef tenderloin, cooked in butter with Jerusalem Artichokes puree, and cooked in dough with hay, browned onions, and onion puree for five hours, [served] with a sweet Porto wine demi glace.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a chef?
Travel, that is the biggest piece of advice I could offer to anyone. Travel a lot and learn all about different cultures and foods around the world. Keep pushing and do this only if it is your life.