Category Archives: MADE IN ROMANIA

Tricks of the trade. Stolen in Romania.

One of the roots of the deprofessionalization phenomenon happening in today’s Romania can be traced in the country’s history, way back when the saying “The tricks of the trade are stolen, not learned!” Was discovered, adopted and implemented on a large scale. Romanians turned out to be an incredibly at this, too proud to beg, too dumb to steal properly (this is from one of Sting’s songs, which obviously, is not about  my rant, but it seems to come in handy). The saying “The tricks of the tradeare stolen”, which can still be heard way too often, reflects our failure to provide and to demand education. Mentoring is as good as non-existent and graduates are, exactly as I was twenty years ago, perfectly unprepared to produce any added value whatsoever. We’ve all been stealing the tricks of the trade until the trade is almost gone. Anything that could be salvaged seems to come at a high price nowadays. Most likely because it is. Unfortunately we can’t mass-produce professionals, cheaper by the dozen. Or mentors, by the same token.

No breaking news from Crete

No breaking news from Crete. Yes, we enjoy thriller stories, cliffhangers  or stories whose  beginnings hold more surprises than the end ( if told by Tarantino), but lately we seem to be chasing cheap thrills and drama. Instead ,today I  would like to present you with a story lacking drama, but filled with innocence. While in Crete, I’ve met a  young Romanian who works there and who offered me ten minutes from his life. Check out my conversation with Florin Fotache, student from Iasi, in the new  episode from  Out of the kitchen.

Untold seen from outside

I was out and about in Cluj  for two and a half out of the four days the Untold festival lasted . I didn’t have time for concerts, but I plan to make some next year. So that I can write about the experience itself, not about how I think it should have been, or to compare a festival I haven’t attended with other festivals I haven’t attended. Otherwise, I like it that people who came to Cluj for the festival spent several million euros in four days, money which has entered the city’s financial circuit. And that Transylvania and Cluj are widely and well-spoken of. Peace!

Photo: Marian Hurducaș. Thanks.

Why should we feature in the Michelin guide?

Contrary to popular belief, the Michelin guide is not a list of restaurants where one can eat well (for sure, it has this role as well, which is apparently more important for chefs than for the rest of the world), but a guide for people who travel, who are on the move. Romania is not a very tourist-friendly country, tourists who, in order to move from one place to another, must be at rest. And resting they do, in dirty trains, in fifteen-kilometer long traffic jams, in airports. It is true that rest is another motion state, but what should be the lifespan of a human to offset the time spent on the road? Assuming that by 22:00 today we solved all of Romania’s hospitality industry and everybody would learn about  it by midnight, the Michelin guide would still not pay us a visit because they wouldn’t be able to exit or enter the car line. Which makes me feel quite optimistic about the success of a foreign invasion. Troubles all around us, I know. What I don’t know is why, since the State willy-nilly and without notice collects taxes ,  our infrastructure remains so backward. I’m thinking that if there are no roads, no schools, no healthcare, no agriculture, no industry, no investments, maybe we should say no to subsidizing other people’s PhDs.

The country where work stinks

I found this topic discussed by Lucian Mândruță in Ziarul Financiar, about some entrepreneur’s drama that he wants to work, but he has nobody to work with. It’s the same drama every services or production entrepreneur has, and I think  it’s only partly because the social security provided by the State encourages idleness or encourages the ‘I’ll take this from the state and make that on the black market and everything will be fine’ type of thinking. I realize in my own entrepreneurial shoes that work isn’t what it used to be. Somehow, my mother’s generation, who is exhausted after 40 years of work, is capable to work for minimum wage, without protesting, but also lacking the efficiency from 20 years ago (please excuse my lack of sensitivity, but let’s face it, the body has its limitations). At the same time, the 20-30 year-old generations seem to not find any motivation in the salary, or in the work environment, or professional evolution. I already encountered that dozens of times. I bitterly concluded that the person asking ‘how much does it pay?’ before even sending in the resume will not stick with you until the end of the season. I bitterly concluded that when dealing with employees, doing good will get you in trouble, or worse, I came to believe that the way my bosses treated me from 17 to 30, when I was an employee, was the right way to go. All those years, nobody wanted my opinion, nobody explained to me HOW to do, but WHAT to do, the salary was fixed and sometimes it didn’t come, taxes were paid in a similar way in many cases, and lack of performance was punished by being taken out. The phrase ‘there’s 10 like you waiting at the door’ was as common as ‘good morning’. I feel frustrated because although I told myself for the past 10 years that I would not treat my employees the way my employers or direct bosses treated me, I came around to missing them. Today, I feel that the odds of starting a business that I can share with my employees are close to nil.

Transylvania through the grapevine

I hereby launch the #transylvaniathroughthegrapevine hashtag, that can be used by whoever, if they had any type of experience with Transylvanian wine or grapevine. Because it seems to me that Transylvania is resurrecting the genie in the bottle, the ancient and slumbering spirit of noble wine. Small and large press houses start rising up and are getting ready to pour rivers of gold and green or blood red. I am fond of what is happening to the grapevine and wine in Transylvania, so i would really like to share #transylvaniathroughthegrapevine with you. Starting this fall, on the pages you already know.

Magical Moldova

Since 2007, I keep coming back to Chisinau, on some business. I observe the transformations the city is going through and I rejoice. Certainly, if we think that in Romania, progress travels by horse and carriage on the national highway, in Moldova, it seems to be walking. Somehow, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I don’t pretend to understand the social and economic particularities of the Republic, I don’t understand those in Romania either, but I can’t ignore the growth potential. Then, I can’t ignore the huge difference between hospitality services here and those in Romania. Moldova is a few levels above. They don’t beat us at wines, but they compete neck to neck with the Romanian ones (well, it’s possible they beat us on the bubbly range), but things are different when it comes to food. Simple, clean food is what it should be. Local cuisine provides variety and is similar to Romania only up to the point that Romanians in the countryside decided it is enough to live on ‘homemade’ neck of pork and fries. I’m not gonna keep from you that this latest visit brought to me the temptation of opening a restaurant here. I’m seriously considering, but I am still doing some research.

I enjoy flying

Today I flew twice. Once, according to reality, from Bucharest to Chisinau, where I am busy looking after myself until I go back home. The second time, I got kicked off and flew from ProTV, on grounds of lack of discipline, according to Libertatea, who writes that I got fired for not abiding by my contract. Of course, tabloids don’t owe me anything, no to me, not to the truth, but they could have at least called in advance. Or at least call ProTV for an official stance. It is true that Libertatea does not employ Tolontan or CTP, actually, it may not employ any former journalists, so perhaps I shouldn’t have any expectations. There are no unsettled debts between ProTV and myself, after my taking part in Masterchef, show which I think came to my life at the right time and which I believe will leave me exactly when it is needed. I have no other announcements or comments to make, not here or elsewhere. Maybe it’s because for the past two months I’ve kept hearing I’d quit Masterchef, either because I’m less popular than my colleagues, or because there’s allegedly no chemistry between us, or because, there, I’m a rebel (which would actually be cool, but I’m not). I wish you all well, and for Libertatea #24centimeters

On consultancy

I worked as a consultant chef a lot, in charge of creating menus and training chefs. I still do it today, well, a bit less, partly because I have less time, partly because life taught me to be more selective about my work. I only do the work that brings me maximum joy, mainly because life is really short. How do I select my clients? Easy. firstly, i don’t go looking for them. I don’t scout the market, i don’t send out offers. I have no reason to. The work performed for the client today must persuade tomorrow’s client to look me up. Of those looking for me, very few can become my clients. It’s a pretentious area, each client has particular and unique needs, and requires a lot of attention, a lot of time. If they show sincerity and seriosity, we have the first step. Then, I make the financial offer according to the requested service pack. This is where things sort themselves out the quickest, because I can’t work cheap. Fees are calculated according to the client’s true needs and expectations. This way of negotiating helps me only take on clients who need my skill first and my name second (I really prefer that not to be part of the conversation), clients that understand that I do not sell recipes (the world is full of recipes and recipes salesmen, i prefer not to waste anyone’s time, especially mine), but ways of thinking, perspectives, approaches, and fresh and efficient ways to operate. Besides, I am selling something difficult to quantify because it cannot be put in a spreadsheet: a state of mind that is transmitted to the owner and to the personnel. I started getting good at it only after I realized anybody can pass on a spreadsheet, well, that’s not me. I can’t stand spreadsheets anyway.

Airplane etiquette

How do you go about enjoying a nice flight, not troubling others and being an overall decent passenger? It’s simple. You don’t cram in the boarding or unboarding area. You don’t smoke before going on the plane, or if you do, you take a piece of gum after. You don’t smoke on the plane. You don’t make wide cross signs while taking off, during turbulences and upon landing. You don’t fart, you don’t burp. You don’t clap upon landing. You don’t put your seat back, you don’t push your knees against the back of the front seat. That would be a start. Airplanes are already narrow places and it’s important, since we are placed so close to each other, to make the involuntary trespassing of personal space as little traumatising as possible. It has been concluded that nearly each goof, indiscretion or awkwardness is looked over easier if it is accompanied or followed by a smile. I have no idea why that is.
And another one for the airplane companies: tuna or any other canned fish sandwiches are not a good idea. Not at all.
What troubles you when you fly? What do you do about it?