Ukrainian celebrity chef cooks charity dinner in Dumfries

Tomorrow there will be a very special guest cooking at Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries.

Ievgen Klopotenko, 36, who has been described as Ukraine’s most famous chef, has arrived in Scotland from Lviv to whip up a six-course feast as part of an event organised by craft beer project Beer Without Borders. All proceeds from the dinner will provide humanitarian aid in the war-torn country.

The meal will showcase the cuisine and ingredients of Klopotenko’s homeland, and he will be introducing each of the courses to the 120 diners. There will also be an accompanying ceilidh, art performances and charity auction. However, until Friday, the dishes remain a surprise, apart from one, which it would probably be remiss not to include.

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“Borshch, of course,” says the chef, who campaigned to have the Ukrainian version of this soup recognised by Unesco and succeeded, as the organisation added it to their list of dishes with intangible cultural heritage in need of safeguarding.

Andrew Pearson in his taproom
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“I created the other dishes to show what Ukrainian cuisine would look like if it wasn’t for the Soviet Union,” he said. “I invite you to come and try it”.

Klopotenko won MasterChef Ukraine back in 2015, has a YouTube channel demonstrating Ukrainian cuisine, is the author of several cookbooks and boasts 756,000 followers on Instagram.

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His eponymous website features traditional recipes for creations, including oyster mushroom banosh and zinkiv sausage.

He is also the co-owner of two restaurants, Lviv’s Inshi Bistro, which, over the past few months, has been feeding refugees for free. There’s also 100 Rokiv in Kyiv, where they usually serve contemporary twists on historic Ukrainian dishes, but have more recently been offering meals to volunteers and soldiers.

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Klopotenko in his kitchen

“Before February 24, I was on a mission to revive centuries-old Ukrainian recipes, modernise them, and show our rich heritage through food,” the chef says. “Today I am eager to show the world that we are Ukrainians, not Russians. To show the beauty of our culture and our cuisine.”

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His passion for food has helped him stay hopeful during the conflict.

“You can be dead any minute, because rockets can fly in every second,” he says. “So, you have to live your life.

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“Trust in the Ukrainian army and do the best that you can. And food is part of our identity, so it always strengthens our bonds.”

Klopotenko serving customers
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This chef’s trip was arranged by the owner of Beer Without Borders, Andrew Pearson, who also owns the two-year-old taproom and bottle shop, Riverside Tap, and has plans for a Dumfries microbrewery.

To serve, along with other beers and wines, at the event, he’s been brewing a Red Ale using a recipe supplied by Pravda Brewery in Lviv. This collaborative drink was originally created for an Ukrainian Beer & Food event, scheduled to celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day back on August 16. They’d originally hoped to get Klopotenko over for that, but obtaining the necessary permission took longer than anticipated.

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It was Pearson’s friend who had the idea to contact the chef.

“We have a large Ukrainian community here in Dumfries & Galloway and I was asking around for help in preparing food for this event when I was introduced to a lovely lady, Oleksandra Novatska, a professional artist from Lviv, who came over to Dumfries with her daughter, Anna,” he says.

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"She is well connected back home and, to cut a lengthy story short, she contacted Ievgen's assistant, Maryna, who discussed things with Ievgen and they agreed almost immediately to come over.

“Due to logistics we had to delay the date, but the sentiment is still firmly there. Obviously I was not going to bring him over to do an event in our modest beer garden, so we spoke with The Crichton who have given us wonderful support with Easterbrook Hall."

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They hope that, as well as taking part in the event, Klopotenko won’t only be working, but will also get a chance to immerse himself in Scottish culture.

“The plan is to take him out for lunch in Dumfries on arrival, then to buy a kilt as he wants to take one home to Ukraine,” says Person. “He is very prolific on YouTube and Instagram and I'm sure he will make some appearances wearing it.

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“In addition to his six Ukrainian courses, he wants to create a further two courses with a Scottish flavour, so we will go to D&G Seafoods in Annan and then Loch Arthur Community Farm Shop in Beeswing.”

This will be the chef’s first time in this country, though he has been to the UK before.

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“This is my first time in Scotland but I already love it,” he says.

“When I was a little boy I visited my grandmother, who moved to the UK in 1991 – she lived near Manchester. That trip opened my eyes to an entirely different food culture.

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"It helped me realise that the time had come for Ukrainians to change their relationships with food. I have big plans for this trip. To showcase our cuisine is the main thing, but I am also a huge fan of fishing so I will definitely go for it. And, of course, I’m looking forward to tasting the Ukrainian Red Ale created by Pravda in Lviv, but brewed in Scotland”.

Tickets for the Ievgen Klopotenko dinner at Easterbrook Hall, The Crichton, Dumfries, on Friday November 25 from 6.30pm until midnight, are £85pp from www.beerwithoutborders.co.uk

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