On February 7, 2022, prominent Ukrainian chefs and government officials announced the Ukrainian Cuisine Manifesto, which aims at promoting Ukrainian dishes in the global gastronomic community, creating new formulas for ancient dishes, and developing gastronomic tourism.
The idea of the manifesto arose to unite the efforts of the state and representatives of the restaurant industry, “to promote Ukrainian ethnic cuisine and shape the culture of Ukrainian gastronomy,” Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko wrote in his Telegram channel.
He also called Ukrainian cuisine one of the elements of consolidation and called the signed manifesto favorable, in particular, for “strengthening the Ukrainian application for the inclusion of borscht in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage,” to which Ukraine had nominated the beetroot soup amid a spat with Russia regarding the origin of the dish.
Maryana Oleskiv, head of the State Agency for Tourism Development, noted that Ukrainian gastronomy is now perceived as more home cuisine, and in restaurants, people mostly order foreign dishes. According to her, Ukrainian cuisine needs to be “rethought.”
Among the chief signatories of the manifesto are more than 20 Ukrainian chefs, including Yaroslav Artyukh, Eleonora Baranova, Vitaliy Guralevich, Mirali Dilbazi, and Yevhen Klopotenko.
Since 2014, Ukraine has gone through some dramatic political, socio-economic, and cultural changes. There is no doubt that the rising Ukrainian national identity and patriotic sentiments generated by Russian aggression in the Donbas and Moscow’s occupation of Crimea have changed the Ukrainian mindset, not only in the political and cultural field but also in the culinary and food community.
“Ukrainian cuisine is still little-studied but has great potential to be among the best cuisines in the world,” states the Manifesto, noting that Ukrainian cuisine is “an integral part of national identity, a component of Ukrainian culture and life.”
“We appreciate Ukrainian products and we are sure that they are worthy of attention. This is the foundation on which we build national gastronomy. That’s why we take Ukrainian products and create dishes based on fine dining, comfort, and street food. We work with our own fermentation, produce unique drinks, cook cheeses and bake bread according to our own technologies, experiment with plant varieties,” the chefs stated.
The chefs noted that the Soviet era had taken a heavy toll on Ukrainian cuisine, and proclaimed their desire to separate Ukrainian food per se from dishes of the Soviet Union, in order to “get a full-fledged and original, independent gastronomic culture in the future” and “create a new, unique Ukrainian gastronomic path.” In this quest for separating the Soviet influence, with its standardized products and perpetual deficit, the chefs state they will rely on recipes published in old recipe books and works of literature.
Particularly, the chefs stressed that each of Ukraine’s regions has its own original food culture based on local products, such as berries, game, and mushrooms in the northern Polissya region; cheeses, corn and mushrooms in the Carpathians; fish, seafood, wine, fruit, vegetables of the Black Sea region, grains of the Steppes; fermented kvas drinks of the Central region, etc. As well, they noted that the cuisines of the different nationalities and ethnicities living in Ukraine are an integral part of Ukrainian cuisine.
“We propose identifying priority regions and tourist destinations, work on developing tourist infrastructure and promoting Ukrainian products abroad, involving international experts in disseminating information about Ukrainian gastronomy.
We believe that on the basis of traditions, modern techniques, and local products it is possible to restore the identity of Ukrainian cuisine so that in 10 years it will have a clear original concept that will distinguish it from other cuisines in the world. Today we are developing Ukrainian cuisine inside the country to teach the nation to understand it, preserve and diversify knowledge about it.”
The following steps were proposed to achieve the goals:
- Revival and preservation of recipes, techniques, technologies of Ukrainian cuisine for future generations;
- Training of a new generation of chefs and passing on the knowledge of Ukrainian cuisine to them;
- Promotion of Ukrainian cuisine among restaurateurs and investors;
- Support for local farmers and assistance in their development;
- Adherence to the principles of sustainability and no waste approach;
- Promoting the creation of an effective strategy for the development of domestic and inbound gastrotourism;
- Participation in international gastropods and collaborations with world chefs to promote Ukraine in the world.
The ceremony also included a presentation of the culinary book Ukraine. Food and history, published by їzhakultura. It contains recipes by chefs from different regions, who present both popular and little-known dishes. And, you can find out more about the history and traditions of Ukrainian cuisine and culinary diplomacy.
Euromaidan and the war with Russia triggered a surge in patriotism among many Ukrainians. This patriotism led to the re-discovery of national traditions and the popularization of folk culture. Traditional foods – a key element of folk culture – have become very popular among Ukrainian consumers and producers, but with a new twist, and with the emergence of talented and creative young chefs.
One might even say that this transformation has led to an emergence of a popular food movement in Ukraine.
In fact, the new Food Revolution has impacted all areas of Ukrainian society, including the restaurant business, catering, markets, food fairs, and even schools.