A dream that has been with me for a long time, a vision I will never stop fighting for: To open a restaurant with only deaf chefs, in London. A vision that gives the guests the chance to experience a different kind of world, where silence is golden.
An experience where you can rest your hearing, and focus on the senses actually involved in tasting the food. An experience where you'll only communicate with sign language or text.
So while you're enjoying your meal, I want to share the feeling of just what silence may bring you.
Your taste, your smell, your sight, and yes, even all your other senses get heightened.
This will allow you to get a chance to understand our gift, a deaf chef's unique sense of taste. As we lost our ability to hear, our other senses, taste, smell, and sight, have improved.
Less talk, more work done - My life has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of deaf chefs over the years.
One thing strikes me. There are so many deaf young chefs in the world who want nothing more to pursue their dreams of going professional, but the barriers we have to cross are usually far too great.
This restaurant is an opportunity for the younger generation who have dreamt of working at a restaurant. It will be an environment adapted to the reality they live in, instead of forcing them to adapt to their surroundings. But there's a lot of work left to do for me to accomplish this.
So in the meantime, I want you to share my experience in your home.
My first designed Damascus steel knives are the Seijaku Fusion Series. Seijaku is a Japanese word that means silence and calm.
Every time you pick a knife up, you'll remember why you bought it. To experience my serenity, and to share it with others.
You’re in your home, you're secure, you’re making food for yourself and the people you love, and so, when you enter that most sacred of spaces, the kitchen, to make the very thing keeping you alive, I want you to remember the word “Seijaku”.
Not only will you have a knife for a lifetime, but you also support a greater mission, to create something unique.
"Master Chef Igor's success in the restaurant industry has probably not escaped you, but how much do we really know about the person behind it all?"
ot so much, I think, as Igor Sapega is pretty secretive about himself, not showing much of his profession on social media. I am also sure that you are also very curious, so we booked a meeting with Igor.
I expected us to meet at some café in town but no, we were instead welcomed to the kitchen where he is Sous chef, at Moderna Museet. Yes, you read right, the very Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen that 80% of your Stockholmers (including me) have never visited.
Well, photographer Michelle Malchow and I are waiting at the museum's reception when we see Igor walking towards us from the restaurant, looking like a chef at a Michelin restaurant. Even the smile made me weak, I must admit.
We greeted Igor who enthusiastically showed us around the restaurant and inside the kitchen where the magic happens.
Igor Sapega was born in St. Petersburg. At the age of two, Igor got pneumonia and was treated with antibiotics an antibiotic that caused his hearing loss. His mother discovered this as Igor no longer responded to sounds.
Igor Sapega - World Culinary 2015
Igor went to a pre-school for deaf children far away from his home, spending a couple of nights a week at the pre-school in a dormitory shared with the other children. His mother quickly realized that this situation was not sustainable for Igor, and decided to move to Sweden for a better living situation for her son.
In Sweden, Igor attended a hearing school in Heberg, Falkenberg, with hearing-impaired classmates. He did not have many deaf friends there, but everything changed quickly when Igor moved to Stockholm and began to play in the football team IK Hephata.
Out of nowhere, the Russian bear struck like a flash within the deaf world with awards in the World Culinary Cup for the Deaf Chefs
and as the goalkeeper football for the Swedish deaf national football team.
Igor Sapega had just finished his shift and showed us around the kitchen while greeting the staff who were starting the next shift. It was immediately apparent that he is very popular in the kitchen.
“Although I am hearing impaired, communication here works without any major problems. The most important thing is to explain from the beginning how you want. For example, my colleagues know that you should hit me on the back if you want to walk past behind me instead of shouting a warning, ”says Igor. "They also know that you should be near me if you talk to me, otherwise I do not answer." Hearing damage has not been a problem in the kitchen, rather the contrary.
“I have been told that my sense of taste is something special and that it must be because when the hearing mind disappears, other senses like the taste and sight are enhanced. My arrangements of food, too, tend to be more visual than others."
Igor absolutely wanted to offer us his signature dish which consisted of, among other things… fish and lobster sauce. If you know me, you know that since late childhood I do not eat anything that comes from the sea. I kindly told Igor about it and got the answer "It doesn't taste like fish!" The large kitchen table was cleared and the colorful ingredients for the signature dish were presented. Igor explained that the colors are part of his cooking: "it is important to me that you also eat with your eyes, not just with your mouth".
Igor's interest in cooking began as a child. His mother worked as a teacher in the daytime and as a nurse in the evenings to be able to provide for her children, so Igor cooked for his little brother. “I used to come home from school and open the fridge and cook based on what was in the fridge. Once, I tried to just mince minced meat, eating only salt and pepper. It actually didn't taste so stupid. Over time I developed the cooking and now I am here".
As both the business manager and the as photographer Michelle tasted the signature dish, I broke my 20 years of no-fish and tasted it. Of course, it did taste of fish, but it was an exciting combination of different flavors, and I can imagine that it is a delicacy for the fish lover.
We proceed to the large dining room where we sit down to get to know Igor.
“Being a chef is not like in the cooking shows you see on TV, it's much harder in reality."
Igor Sapega with Frantzén Group - 2015
I had a camera with me to document the interview, which was lucky because we sat and talked for over an hour as if we had known one another for years. Igor feels very genuine as a person and has a big heart, and here I am talking about humanity and not about cooking. “That's right, I think it's important for people in my presence to be happy and feel good. Unfortunately, the cooking church is very stressful and it can affect one's mood, but I always try not to let it affect me. We have to show respect for each other, we all have different personalities, ”Igor replied.
We are almost done with the interview and could not help but ask the obvious question was there something Igor would not like to have on a plate? "Fungi kingdom. All kinds of mushrooms. I ate a lot of mushrooms as a child but with age, my hatred for mushrooms has grown. I can cook mushrooms without any problems but to eat tehm ... the consistency ... no ”. Nice to know, master chef, and you are not alone in your opinion.
I end the interview by asking Igor if he has any tips for our members who are curious about the chef profession or any other profession that you think you cannot do just because you are deaf.
"Use common sense...
Do not give up & believe in yourself,
all the way"
I and photographer Michelle wished Igor good luck with the move and thanked him for his time and he replied that the pleasure was completely on his side. We say goodbye to each other and on the bus back home I could not help but think of the interview and of Igor himself.
It is amazing what success Igor has made at such a young age while having the heart in the right place it is such a unique and fantastic trait. Imagine if more people could be like Igor.
Editor and layout:
Michelle Malchow and Florian Tirnovan
Publisher: Florian Tirnovan
"First you work on cutting vegetables until the manager sees that you are fast enough with the knife, then you have to advance upwards,” says Igor. It makes me wonder whether, throughout his career, Igor had ever thought about giving up. “Yes, a lot of times. But I've always thought that you should never give up on your dreams, even if the road is tough"
We talk further and I find out, among other things, that Igor worked in the United States, more specifically Texas where he cooked for children at a summer camp. Igor also told me of one time when he happened to forget about ordering chicken for a serving for 400 people - "I then had to knock down to the nearest ICA store and buy chicken for 3000 SEK from my own pocket". I had to ask what he meant by his own pocket, he got paid late back afterward? “No… I was only 20 years old so I was a young and inexperienced chef, but you learn from your mistakes. The ICA staff had to get more chicken from the store for me while I waited outside in chef clothes. I didn't want the manager to know I happened to forget so he never found out, ”says Igor laughing.
In fact, at the time of the interview, it was Igor's last days of working in the kitchen at Moderna Museet before embarking on to new challenges in London, where he had been given a new job at The Ritz. It is hard not to be impressed by the success of the star chef. Igor nods: “I had made myself a name in the chef world, so they contacted me and offered me a job which was fantastic. This was a chance that you couldn't possibly refuse so it was just to pack the bag and start a new life with my wife ”.
Is Igor stuck in London for good or what do his plans for the future look like? In response to the question, I could see Igor getting excited, and his answer explained this excitement. “I had been thinking of living in London for a while, and I gained experience and not least ideas and inspiration for my own restaurant. I absolutely want my own restaurant with deaf chefs and staff. The restaurant Fredrik Gourmet & Bar in Örebro is a good development for deaf people in the restaurant industry with their own language. I treat them to every success! After all, I'm still only 28 years old and have a lot to learn. " Yes, exactly. Igor is as old as me, something I completely forgot about given the successes the gentleman has already reaped at such a young age.
"Too much talk in the hearing world"
Igor Sapega has self-confidence at the top but is also self-aware and grateful to Sweden and everyone who helped him against the first race successes; The teacher at the education in Varberg who saw him and supported. The Swedish Culinary team not least. - Without them I would never have finished my bronze in World Culinary Cup. As my teachers saw my drive in high school and I became a favorite.
Until 8 years ago he describes it as if he lived in the hearing world, but through football he came into he came into contact with deaf culture and he thinks that world is more open. I felt immensely welcome, it was a big embrace, says Igor.
I live in two worlds and that is positive. The deaf culture does not judge anyone, it´s welcoming, it´s nice people there not as in the hearing world, there is too much talk.
He had the desire to compete via television, when he became fascinated that food could be both beautiful and good under time pressure. - I understand that I am a born chef.
- My senses, my taste, my vision, my sense of smell so developed. I think it's because my hearing is impaired, imagination is also incredible and I´m artistic, he says.
Igor Sapega is 25 years old and was born in St. Petersburg, he was hearing impaired as a two-year-old and moved to Sweden when he was four years old. He was study in Culinary school in Varberg 2009 and booked a train ticket to Stockholm the day after exam. Once in the capital, he walked around with his CV and applied for jobs. Pretty soon he had two full-time jobs as a chef de partie.
He didn´t knew no one in Stockholm and lived in the hostel for the first 2 weeks.
When interviewing him, it is hard to believe he is deaf. Hearing aids and reading on the lips make his obstacles barely noticeable. But if someone turns away, it's harder. He explains that it is easier to be a manager and to give instructions than to receive, because it is best for him to lead the communication. He knew early on that he wanted to become a chef and he got his first manager job two years ago.
When asked why he wants to compete and also wants to tell his story, he answers:
-I want to show that nothing is impossible, it is not just about deaf people, I think of everyone in the kitchen, for example, the trainees many are so scared, but you should not be, you should use your imagination and solve the problems.
He always works with talented chefs like the former workplaces such as the well-known Le Rouge, Hilton Hotel, and now at Restaurant Arken as Head Chef. Before he arrived, they had about 30 guests a day, now between 70-100 for lunches. The kitchen at "Arken" makes it possible to test ideas, where he can also work and train before and after work.
Addition to the World Cup in Copenhagen, Igor appointed as one of Scandinavia's ten young talented chefs by the Italian San pellegrino. 4000 from all over the world had applied for the competition.
Despite an exciting job offer in both Denmark and Moscow, he has decided to stay in Sweden for a few more years.
The reason Igor Sapega started competing was because he wanted to move on. He thought he was standing still and wanted to develop constantly. he wanted to compete already in high school but found no one at school to compete with Young Cooks. Of the two parallel classes that went to restaurant training, only he and one other continued in the profession. The fault in the education that he sees is that you do not work as you do in a restaurant, you cook according to recipes, the teaching is old-fashioned. There are no routines. It is enough to cook mayonnaise once, you have to do it a hundred times. He also points out that he never learned to make bread in high school.
"You have to be able to hold many balls in the air, many think it will be like home and you stand and stir in a saucepan"
Nordic Flavours by Igor Sapega
A film about gentle boy with his emotion and dreams to be a chef. Follow his footsteps into professional kitchen which became a true story.
A journey that led him meet many inspiring people. Well-known chefs have crossed path and thanks to their passion to craft exceptional food, has made Igor more encouraged to elevate his own cooking to the next level.
Inspiration and passion to cook food led him to the best chef’s around at a young age. It’s been a long way to success, while there is still barriers to overcome
The last episode. with secret of success and the key to being regarded as honorable. There is need to use common sense, and there will be the difference