Vihula Manor Country Club & SPA has a new head chef – Fred Ruubel – who despite his young age has a lot of experience in various head chef positions in Estonia. Vihula Manor Country Club & SPA former head chef Lauri Tomingas has new challenges to face. Lauri’s dedication and great contribution raised highly the quality of our Vihula Manor Restaurant and we are grateful for the tastes that Lauri offered for Vihula Manor Country Club & SPA and wish all the best for him. Fred Ruubel talks about his thoughts and plans with Vihula Manor kitchen and how he discovered cooking.
How did you become a chef? What fascinates you about that? I had no plans for the future until I woke up one morning, I had just turned 18, and I was 100% sure that I have to become a chef. I managed to get an internship with one of the top chefs in Estonia to work as an assistant chef and started an immediate and very tough learning path under his leadership.
Most fascinating for me is the process - how the food is cooked, who came up with the idea for this certain dish, who cooks it, who designed the plate and thought about the presentation that the client sees. For me, it is all about ultimate teamwork and discipline. People stand on their feet 10 to 16 hours a day, running up and down from the stairs carrying heavy boxes and preparing delicious food with precision. For observers, this can seem as a total chaos but actually, there are no unreasoned moves and everybody knows where they have to be and what they have to do, also what others are doing in that exact moment. As a result, perfectly orchestrated dishes will exit the kitchen one after another.
On my first day in the kitchen, this is exactly what I saw and realized immediately that this is the place for me. I understood that I want to know how this chaos works and how such mess can turn into something so beautiful and tasty. How these people by my side can withstand this highly stressful everyday life and still find the energy to create something so magical, coming up with new flavours and dishes. I still find answers to my questions and will surely discover new approaches every day. That is what fascinates me the most about cooking and being a chef.
What is the brightest food-related memory from your childhood and what is your favourite food? I had a regular childhood and can't really remember any food-related bright memories. We ate typical Estonian food but I remember that sugar was pricey during that time so sauerkraut with sugar or bread with butter and sugar were my favourite treats. I also loved kama (traditional Estonian food, finely milled flour mixture), bread soup, semolina mousse and fresh rhubarb cake that my mother made. From salty dishes, I liked fried cabbage, pork meat and salmon. In addition, I enjoyed buckwheat and smoked fish. We had our own little garden where we grew green onion, peas and gooseberries which were constantly eaten by the people who passed by.
What is your background? I was born and grew up in Tallinn, also went to school there. I have worked in various restaurants, pubs and lounges, but the best practices include working under the leadership of Michael Bhoola (Restaurant Pegasus and Restaurant Lucca) and Emmanuel Wille (Restaurant Clazz). I have had plans to go and work abroad but always at the same time I have gotten interesting opportunities in Estonia and canceled my plans. However, I have worked with foreign chefs in Estonia and had very colourful experiences from there.
Has traveling inspired you in some way? Initially, when I started working as an assistant chef, I was fascinated by Italian cuisine and Italian trips were one of the reasons why I began to see food in a different light than just a filling meal. I started to appreciate the produce ant its origin, also how the produce has been handled. I discovered that there is a big difference between a tomato and tomato.
What cuisine do you like the most or feel close with? I personally love eating Asian and Mexican foods. Chilli has a very important place in my kitchen, the same goes for lime, different herbs and spices. I can't stand boring flavours, the food has to be an experience with character and purpose. It's not possible to see a bigger smile on my face than after eating a big bowl of spicy and tasty curry.
What is your vision about Vihula Manor Restaurant? Vihula Manor Country Club & SPA is definitely an inspirational experience for me. In Tallinn, you have to really look for the fresh produce but here it just grows everywhere. There is a lot of good raw produce available in the manor and nearby. Since the manor is in the middle of nature, I want to honor the local produce and natural tastes in my kitchen. In that way, the guests of the manor will get the best food experience and the notion that there is a big difference between local and fresh produce and imported produce.
What kind of leadership style do you prefer in the kitchen? Autocratic guidance or teamwork? The leadership style changes according to the situation but most of the time I'm a so-called militaristic teamwork person. The kitchen must work as a whole, stronger persons have to help others to get better and all the chefs have to know what is going on in the kitchen. At the same time, there must be an authoritative person who runs everything and the knowledge that an order is an order and needs to be followed.
What inspires you when cooking and creating a new menu? Everything around me inspires me. It can be different smells, the weather, beautiful plates that I see in the store, nature and much more. When creating a menu, I use all my senses and I try to pass on the emotions that I'm feeling through the food I cook.