“Since people are bored, let them drink coffee”

One book is not enough to tell the personal and professional story of the restaurant Valentin Kuzyakin. Behind him there are many gastronomic works in his hometown, Yekaterinburg, and most of them have become revolutionary. In short, thanks to Kuzyakin, two “restaurant” streets appeared in Yekaterinburg. For crabs and reptiles, we now go to Khokhryakov and March 8 is strongly associated with parties in Shalom Shanghai and dinners on Tours. But it all started with motorcycles. How Valentin came from the family motorcycle business to the restaurant business, we say in the Citizen section, which we publish with the support of the company Atomstroykompleks.

Valentin Kuzyakin Restaurant. Photo: Sasha Zubkovsky / It’s My City

“Parents traveled around the world on motorcycles”

– My family is born in Yekaterinburg. My grandfather was a mathematician and was the head of the computer center of the Academy of Sciences. Mom has dedicated her whole life to children, while she is an unrealistically creative person and she paints a lot, like my brother, the toy designer Leonid. Now my mother’s paintings hang on “Tours” and “Reptiles” (restaurant “Crabs, reptiles and wine” – ed.). Dad is a businessman, he had a big IT company.

The parents traveled a lot on a motorcycle, for example, they even traveled from Yekaterinburg to Portugal. Somehow they thought they had traveled about 500,000 kilometers together.

One of the paintings of Valentin Kuzyakin’s mother in the restaurant “Tours”. Photo: Sasha Zubkovsky / It’s My City

My father had the idea to turn his hobby into a business and open a Ducati motorcycle dealership. He suggested I do it. Of course, I agreed and worked on it until 2009. Unfortunately, we did not face the consequences of the crisis and I went to look for myself in a new business.

Food and Mussolini

– If you answer the question why I am not at all interested in food and restaurants, I can remember a few things. One of my most brilliant dining experiences was during a trip to a motorcycle show in Milan. We lived in a working-class suburb, closer to the fair, there was only one restaurant in the whole neighborhood, in my opinion, it was called Paradiso. The owner was an ardent admirer of Mussolini. In Italy, this is obviously normal. His portraits were everywhere – from wine bottles to wet wipes, military marches were sometimes played. It was, of course, creepy, but incredibly tasty, the food was the simplest – sea bass in salt, mussel soup. I loved the soup so much that I was afraid to order anything else and ate the same thing every night.

Around the same time, the local Hare Krishnaite Vitya came to our salon, already in Yekaterinburg. His servants bought Indian food, which he cooked at home. I tried it, I liked it, although it was cooked very simply. I bought spices from him and tried to cook with them at home.

And it upset me after the “Ratatouille” cartoon, more specifically, not the cartoon itself, but the film about its creation. Pixar consulted the great Thomas Keller and ratatouille in the cartoon is a dish from his French Laundry. I found a recipe on the Internet and tried to cook it. The dish is simple, but it shows perfectly that working in the kitchen is a kind of magic.

Photo: Sasha Zubkovsky / It’s My City

And in 2006, my friend Daniil “fertilized” me with the history of the restaurant, which then brought restaurant consultants to town. For a long time together we designed projects of absolutely incredible scale, for which, fortunately, we did not even dare to seek investment. Then we would just leak everything.

But with the second best friend Dima, the three of us crumpled 100 thousand rubles each and opened a cafe to go to Antey. It was named COFFEE ANNAN in honor of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Nobody knew it at all, I still consider COFFEE ANNAN the stupidest name in my life, but the cafe proved successful and paid off in a few months.

Jay is soy sauce and Engels is Engels Street

– In general, our name always starts and ends, probably stupid, but I like it that way. “Jay” – originally not a bird, but soy sauce. As a child I thought everyone called him that, but it turned out he was just in our family. I started to understand why and I discovered that almost none of my friends had soy sauce in their childhood, and in the 1980s my grandfather brought us a box of North Korean “jay” from the Far East and we ate this pasta sauce for seven years.

Photo: Sasha Zubkovsky / It’s My City

“Reptiles” in the name of the restaurant “Crabs, reptiles and wine” is not so much for seafood, but for us. It started with the fact that we decided to update the oldest pub in the Urals – “Old Dublin”. I myself loved him very much, I went there, one might say, from school, first with my parents, then alone. The idea was this: we need to make sure my grandchildren go there. It turned out that the idea was bad, because that’s why it was simply necessary to do nothing with the pub. Then he may have survived. And we changed everything and left only the name. And the old guests, of course, did not appreciate it. “The bastards killed Dublin,” they said. And the new guests did not notice anything at all. It was the most devastating thing I have ever done. But the name for the new institution was born immediately.

The name “Tour” came up with my friend Sasha. He just texted me, “Tours is the name ****.” And he went to a village that has no relationship, leaving me with him. I twisted it for three days and decided it really is.

The name for the Engels network was also born rather foolishly. I bought a small cafe in Green Park, the doors facing Engels Street (later, however, it turned out that the building was located in Rosa Luxembourg). To me, “Engels” like Grandpa Pichto is something of the collective unconscious. We hear this name all our lives, without thinking about what it means: just a park, a road, a bus stop. A trolley appears in my head with these sounds, probably because it agrees and because through this attitude they always went to kindergarten with their parents on a trolley. Well, I studied in a German school, so for me engels are also for angels. However, today most of us call ourselves “Angels”, and some even call us “Angel”, I’m quite happy with that.

“House of Printing was an incredibly exhausting project”

– All my life I want to do restaurants, but I always go to bars. They wanted to open a beach burger bar on the beach near Ramada. It kind of got so weird in my mind: The Wakers are almost surfers, and the surfers are America, the Beach Boys and the hamburgers. In fact, it turns out that the idea does not relate to reality in any way – there are few alarms, they do not want to eat and are generally + 12 ° C outside. As a result, we met Nikita Kharisov, Sasha Petruk and Anya Reshetkina and made Yalta, which many may still remember. It was an incredibly cool outdoor, which lived on for three seasons.

From “Yalta” the “House of Printing” grew somewhat organically. The work was huge by our standards at the time. I still do not understand how we did it. It was a completely dilapidated building, which my co-worker friend Dima Krysov repaired almost alone with four workers in just seven months.

I always wanted to turn House of Printing into a restaurant. In general, it was a useless project, but thanks to that I met the chef of our brand Edik Arkhipov, with whom we still work.

Print House was an incredibly exhausting project. The site is great, every week you have to devise many events for different audiences. For three years I realized that concerts and big parties are not for me. I like to do something that has its own life and help it grow. With the facts, everything is different – it is a new life every day.

Luckily for me, Oleg Kumysh (owner of Teleclub – ed.) And Katya Keilman (director of Teleclub – ed.) Proved to be close, who bought Dom Pechati and gave him a second, very bright concert life, and I was able to go further and try myself in real restaurants. Again, not for long. Under “Tours” we had an incredibly atmospheric basement, in which I did not dare for a year, but still opened the bar “Shalom Shanghai”. Today we are back to the night life, from June we will start having a party in Soyka. This, obviously, is fate.

People from the bus station said: “Thank you for thinking of us”

– We always happened to do projects based on our needs and feelings. When I once again stopped drinking and started waking up early, I realized I had nowhere to go for breakfast. For breakfast I need good food and good coffee. The good coffee was at Simple Coffee and the good food was at Rosy Jane and Choco. There were no other mornings anywhere. When they started making Engels, I had these two points. In addition, it was clear that everyone always wants some kind of coffee dough, but this is an incredibly difficult discipline.

Cafe Engels near the Opera House. Photo: Sasha Zubkovsky / It’s My City

We got a regular croissant about 6 years later, and at first the Viennese waffles came to mind – we could definitely get them. We immediately treated them as a base for dishes and started trying to make cool food and cool desserts from them. To be honest, it still surprises me a little that they are so popular.

We can say that we started some kind of tradition, because I have not seen waffle shops anywhere, at least in Russia, so successful. Maybe in 50 years it will be real Ural cuisine.

It was incredibly moving when we opened Engels at South Bus Station. For the first time in our lives, strangers really thanked us for opening the facility and said, “Thank you for thinking of us.” Then we realized that catering becomes a really important part of citizens’ lives, it’s part of the infrastructure and if it does not exist, then people naturally feel bad.

Another Engels will open at Svoboda Residence, which is being built by Atomstroykompleks on Radishchev-Sheinkman Street. This is the most densely populated part of the city, it is very crowded and it is very lively. I liked the room: high ceilings, large windows. It’s nice that the room was made by Crosby Studio. It seems to me that this is a good precedent that our developers have begun to turn to global designers. When I was at a construction site, I saw pallets of facade bricks with Engels Baksteen written on them. It seems to me that Engels bricks are a good sign.

And in the first wave of the coronavirus, the restaurant “Guests” made such an encouraging sign for the inhabitants of the city. Photo: Sasha Zubkovsky / It’s My City

I really like what is happening in the restaurant business in Yekaterinburg. We have an incredibly vibrant, vibrant and creative professional community that is comfortable to coexist with and competitively interesting.

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