Swedish Chef Andreas Leander is an innovator at Moscow's notorious club Night Flight. But Night Flight is more than just a club; it's also home to one of the city's top restaurants.
Andreas Leander, can you tell us a little about your background, where you studied and what brought you to Moscow?
I studied for about seven or eight years in France and Sweden. Officially, I studied in Sweden, but I traveled around France learning about different dishes and how to cook them. In Sweden I worked at a resort, Vorbory Statshotel, which is kind of a health spa, before coming here. I had a friend who worked [in Moscow] and he invited me to come. I've been here for five years now. I worked at El Dorado, Savoy and Scandinavia, a restaurant owned by the same company as this place. I've been here for a little over two months now.
Since you're from Sweden, can you tell me a little about Scandinavian food and how it differs from Russian cuisine?
Fish is the most important part of Scandinavian food. Overall, our food is very similar to Russian. We have similar climates and similar simple styles, lots of boiled things.
We have elk carpaccio on the menu here, which we imported from Sweden. It's served with special Scandinavian cheese made with Aquavit. You can really taste the flavor of the Scandinavian woods. The elk is the king of the woods.
Russian food needs to be made by old Russian women. Young Russian women can't do it right. I have a Russian girlfriend and her mother makes wonderful food from the market where she shops. I don't know how she does it. The most important part about cooking is the ingredients and I don't know how she finds such good ingredients there.
This restaurant has been open eight years and has remained popular ever since. What does it take to make such a successful and popular restaurant?
You need to change and change often. We update the menu four to five times a year. We'd like to change it more often, but most of our ingredients come from Sweden, which makes it difficult.
You can't just change the menu, though; you need to change everything the interior, the silverware, the plates, the bar everything. You also need to pay attention to your customers and what they want. Some people come around for the same things.
We're also Swedish-run, which helps. People like our Scandinavian quality. Our security is Swedish and they make sure the right people get in.
What sort of clientele do you target here?
Businessmen about 50 years old. People who have money and people who like to eat. I have one customer, he's French and he loves to eat. Every time he comes to Moscow, he comes here. We can spend the whole night just talking about food. One night, when we're not busy, he's going to come back in the kitchen and help me cook.
What sort of food do you offer on your menu?
Well, we offer fusion, but it's not just fusion. The food must have a body if you order a Thai soup, you need to feel like you're in Thailand while you eat it. It needs something you can connect with. We want to have something for everyone on the menu. We had some Indian customers come in here the other day and they asked [us] to make the kind of food they had back home. We made it and they loved it.