This is the opinion of our talented Chef, Daniel Širota who is fond of working on himself.
It is a summer and a town is full of people. Hot pavement makes them go to cold interiors of facilities. We meet Chef Dano Širota at Hviezdoslavovo námestie. He has made great changes in his home town. He completely revised a menu of Primi in Košice, his colleagues were often surprised by changes. However, he has always been doing it motivated to move the restaurant higher.
Today we discussed his opinion on ingredients and his plans. We meet him again today – we ask what has changed during the last year.
“We regularly alter the menu in Košice, the latest one was launched two weeks ago. We have set the concept “less and more frequent, seasonally and locally” which gained considerable reactions during the last year. I have a stable team of people I can always rely on and even I am not in the kitchen with them, I know that the facility is set well and it is able to run.”
And how does he perceive the world trends?
He says he is not a fan of overly combined meals with a complicated visual. Those made for Instagram, not for a guest. He focuses on taste of particular ingredients at first, he does not hide it by adding too much spice.
It matches his philosophy “less and more frequent, seasonally and locally” – the ingredients have optimal taste and aromatic properties only during their season. During other months they are missing colour, sweetness, smell…And it is a mastery to find THE ingredients for each part of a year.
“To provide our guests with more. Added value, creativity, service…You do not need the most expensive product, we want to elevate the food to a higher level,” Dano explains.
“I prefer devoting to pairing taste of ingredients rather than inventing those small recipes. When I invent a carrot cookie or a water gel, it is an icing on a cake for such food. But 90% of cooks forget the fact that a meal should taste good, not only look good.”
He says that the world trend arrive to Slovakia slower, but they are not avoiding us. When he returned to Slovakia after ten years he could see that the news accommodated here, too. “Anyway, we need quality people to adapt meaningful trends,” he says. According to his opinion, not every trend makes sense – for example he dislikes taking pictures of beautiful foods that obviously cannot taste good for Instagram.
Dano understands that the younger a cook is the more he wants to experiment. “He wants to come up with a combination no one has seen so far, never experienced….But then he grows up and realized what the point of cooking is. I was at that point, too – a fresh ingredient, home-grown, no additives…To be able to prepare it so it is tasty just the way it is.”
He thinks that food should be elegant. It relates to table service, not only to visual – thus a waiter decorates or finishes the food in front of you. Dano explains us what he means: he thinks of a dessert where he puts dry ice into chocolate. You just pour it a little in front of a guest and here you have a wow effect.
However, mathematics is the other side of the business.
“I know many skilled cooks who started concepts that were super modern and attractive, however, many of them are not running now. They just couldn´t make their living. As chefs we need to find a balance – we have our dignity, we want to cook with quality but at the same time, we need people to enjoy our food and food to be of the appropriate price. No chef is good if unable to calculate his food.”
We ask for his opinion on a key characteristics without which a cook cannot be a good one. Without any hesitation, Dano replies: “Humility and respect.” He describes stories of cooks who believed in their exceptionality so much that no one wanted to work with them.
Their ego was just too big. Dano learned how to tame his ego when he was working abroad at low positions and could encounter how complex the entire kitchen mechanism is. If all wheels are not running, the entire machine stops. And honest cooking work is challenging, often reflected in privacy as well.
“You sacrifice all your life and your family can feel it, too. But they understand that I have to go to work. It is not easy, but once you love your job you can´t say no.”
He has been in the business for more than 20 years, but still wants to progress – to get know national cuisines, new technologies, new ingredients… He is going to participate in internships and pick up new know-how. He feels that it´s time to go to the world and learn again.
“Considering the fact how many restaurant we have here, there is not enough initiative people. Cooks invest little time, energy and money into their education. This is the only way how we can shift the culinary sector forward.”
He says he does not want to copy recipes. He likes inventing his own ones – and learns from his own mistakes. “It is never perfect for the first time,” he says, “however, I try on and eventually the result is great.”