“Have you seen the pictures of Boutcha? It’s terrible… ”These are the first words of Anastasiia Vorger, sitting at her table in an apartment overlooking the Eaux-Vives district of Geneva. We had to talk about borscht or fermented cucumbers, but with the international innovations, gastronomy has also become a serious topic. Much of her family still lives in Ukraine. Her grandmother is in Kiev, where she also comes from. The rest of her relatives live in Cherkassy, a town about three hours’ drive from the capital along the Dnieper.
At the same time, her 15-year-old brother walks through the living room door. He arrived a month ago. He first took refuge in the west of the country, but the fighting got closer. He ended up escaping a daily life of sirens and curfews to join his sister. In addition to lessons in French and mathematics, he now helps her in the kitchen, to the delight of the eldest daughter: “Cooking with the family is one of the most beautiful things in the world. And he’s also typically Ukrainian, ”she smiles, surrounded by her cookbooks.
The click of the pancakes
As far as I can remember, his mother always cooked delicious recipes. “In Kiev, where I spent my childhood, every time a new restaurant opened we would hurry to go there,” says Anastasiia Vorger. But the gastronomic bug took hold of the future chef only much later. At the age of 15 she moves to Lugano, where her father goes to work, then she settles alone in Lausanne to attend the HEC. And who says independence, she says first improvisations behind the pots.
It all really begins during a Maslyana during which she decides to invite her friends. This Slavic folk festival marks the beginning of the great Orthodox Lent with many pancakes. His guests enjoy themselves. The young woman will thus be involved in the game and will introduce new flavors to the people who will have the opportunity to sit at her table. Five years of economics studies and a master’s degree from her do not convince her to give up on her cooking. On the contrary, she heads for the capital of world gastronomy: Paris. “I had some money to save and I decided to give up everything to do what I really loved. I enrolled in the Ferrandi hotel school where I was able to acquire a real professional experience”.
Stars on Instagram
The City of Light doesn’t hold it back for long. Her future husband is sent to Singapore for work reasons. It doesn’t matter, Anastasiia Vorger crosses the globe with him to find France better. It is in Odette’s kitchens, the sign of the three-star French chef Julien Royer, who finishes perfecting her knowledge. An extremely rewarding but demanding end-of-course internship: “I liked it a lot. It was an incredible opportunity to work for one of the greatest restaurants in the world. But it was a crazy pace, with marathon days.
She ended up returning to Paris, before moving to Geneva, with this certainty in her luggage: gastronomy was made for her, but not like that. “I remembered the conviviality that reigned during my meals with friends, the time I dedicated to preparing a dish, making it simmer and transforming food into a moment of sharing”. The covid gives him the boost he needs to launch himself on Instagram. First day of confinement, while apprentice chefs from all over the world raid pasta and flour, Anastasiia Vorger publishes her first recipe: a focaccia. And the mayonnaise takes.
A simple bite of radish, cucumber and spring onion salad takes me back to childhood
A Napoleon under the bombs
He starts with French, Italian or Asian dishes, cultures he knows well. Then the war broke out: “I thought maybe I should do the opposite: teach Westerners to cook in Ukrainian and pass on my culture. It also reminded me how delicious this food is ”.
At the end of February, when the bombs began to rain on the capital, his grandmother called. At the end of the line, the grandmother dictated the recipe for Napoleon, a sort of large round millefeuille, the sweet of her childhood: “This pasta has accompanied us during all the holidays, on New Year’s Eve or for our birthdays … one hour , an hour during which I managed to forget the war when I heard the explosions in the receiver and was not sure if I would ever see my grandmother alive again.
The kitchen then acts on Anastasiia as a remedy against a nostalgia tinged with helplessness in the face of the destiny that is passing through her country. The scent of her dishes makes him relive his holidays in Odessa or reminds him of the countryside of Tcherkassy and the large “somewhat chaotic” family tables: “The kitchen has the power to transport you. A simple bite of radish, cucumber and spring onion salad brings me back to childhood. “
This return to the sources confirms the idea of transmitting these Slavic flavors still largely unknown. Say goodbye to vodka and potato clichés! Off to Kiev chicken, sour cherry ravioli – his favorites – or the famous borscht and its purple color stained with fresh cream, as a nod to the colors of rouchnyk, these traditional Ukrainian embroideries.
Read also: In the refugee kitchen
Cuisine is also geography, history and folklore of a country, insists the gastronome, delicately depositing the dill on the stuffed cabbage he prepared the day before. “In Ukraine we always cook in large quantities. Nobody prepares a borscht for two, he laughs heartily. Then we invite our friends and we all eat together. In its freezer, kilos of varenyky (Ukrainian dumplings) are waiting to go into the pan. Ready in two minutes, “they’re perfect when you have a teenager to feed at home,” he smiles.
As good as they are, his dishes still retain the bitter aftertaste of the war that is ravaging his country. Anastasiia Vorger therefore decided to donate almost all of the income from her online course to a Ukrainian association that helps Ukrainian hospitals. So that cooking is a story of sharing, again and again.
Salad of radishes, cucumbers and eggs
“Sour cream makes a perfect sauce because it balances the bitterness of radishes. I would recommend using spring vegetables as they are juicier. To be served preferably as an accompaniment.
– 250 g of radish
– 250 g of cucumbers
– 2 eggs
– 200 g of sour cream
– 1 bunch of spring onions (only the green part)
– a little dill and parsley
– salt and pepper
1. Boil the eggs for eight minutes. Meanwhile wash and finely chop the radishes. Put them in a large bowl and add a little salt. This will help reduce their bitterness. Peel and chop the eggs. Add them to the radishes.
2. Wash and thinly slice the cucumbers (if their skin is thick, that’s better
to peel). Pour them into the bowl with the radishes and eggs. Then pour sour cream. Chop the herbs and add them to the salad. Season with salt and pepper and mix everything.
Anastasiia Vorger is cooking on Instagram or her website.