After three and a half years the hard work has finally paid off according to Chef Maris Jansons, Sommelier Ivo Orlovs and their dedicated team at Bibliotēka No1 Restaurant.The restaurant is considered to be number one in Riga andis alsothe only restaurantin the Baltics to wintheWine Spectator’s Award of Excellence two years in a row – 2013 and 2014. Going from strength to strength the restaurant’s success can be attributed to the dedication and passion that Maris holds for his native cuisine, even acting aspatron forcontemporary Latvian cuisine and board member of Latvia’s Chefs Club. He is recognised as beingamong the fewtrend setters in Latvian gastronomic culture, taking it to its new fashionable heights. Offering modern Latvian cuisine in the unique environment of a library style setting, FOUR was keen to pick his brains about Latvian food and what we can expect from Bibliotēka No1 Restaurant.
What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
I have always wanted to remember when my interest in food and cooking arose. When I was ten, I baked potatoes on the coal in a cast iron oven andadding different spices later. I liked the crispy golden-brown skin. Of course there was also waffle baking and topping them withboiled condensed milk.At the moment, we have baked apple sorbet with sugar and cinnamon on the tasting menu. Cinnamon ice cream – it’s a real childhood flavor.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
I had the opportunity to work in Latvia’s best restaurant when I started as a cook. We served for many influential and wealthy clients, accordingly we worked with an exquisite products of the highest quality. It shapes the right attitude towards the product and I really appreciate that I had this chance in my life. To be one of the team in a great restaurant is very motivating and it makes you improve continuously.
Describe how you see your own culinary style and how it has evolved over the years…
I started with culinary classics – French, English and Thai cuisine. Until I became Chef in 2006 when I started to create my own signature. Basically, my style is based on the products that are distinctive to Latvia and Baltics. However, the preparation process is based on well known culinary foundations with an innovative touch. Partially we are influenced by European cuisine, since we are a relatively new country, we also follow on Scandinavian trends as northerners ourselves. For me, creation process is the most interesting in this profession.
What excites you about Latvia’s food culture right now?
We as a country are new – only 20 years of history of independence. Still we have huge influence from Soviet times as well as old Europe. Only during last 8 years we, cooks, work on Contemporary Latvian Cuisine. And there are so many products that no one has ever used! It’s also a very exciting process – to be a part of those who create new recipes, traditions, culinary heritage. In the same time we have a huge responsibility for this process.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
It can sound funny, but salt and peppercan do wonders. If we are speaking about products, I like sour cream, rye-bread, honey, rape-oil, pearl barley, broad beans and these are just few to mention..
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at the restaurant?
We try to create awow effect for the whole experience starting from the phone conversation in order to make a reservation, until the taxi at the doors of the restaurant after the dinner. Often we give insight on the products that are used – where it comes from or how it is grown, as well as on the preparation process if it is of an interest of a guest. Also our wine list and Sommeliers are real gems.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
I’ve been traveling a lot in order to cook. There was a time when I was cooking Gala Dinner for Chaine des Rotisseurs Asia with Latvian products. That was a real adventure! Also it gives a great satisfaction to prepare food for cooks as they can really appreciate it and understand the idea behind it.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
I have always gone this route very deliberately and with a hard work. I am thankful that I can be who I am and that I’ve been given a skill to create and to delight people. Traveling is a God’s gift to cooks as you can learn new products, see all seasons and attitudes of other nationalities towards the products and culinary art. I’d love to travel more!
If you could take a plan ride to any restaurantin the world, just for one meal, where would you go?
I would definitely go to Eleven Madison Park in New York – a friend of mine is a Sous-Chef there and I haven’t seen him for a long time.
Find out more about Bibliotēka No1 Restauranthere |www.restoransbiblioteka.lv