– Magda Gegenava –
TODAY • Magda will hold a pop up restaurant in the Grand marché Stalingrad at La Rotonde from April until october 2019 ! She was also chef of the restaurant La Résidence du Refugee Food Festival from June until December 2018)
AIM • Open her own Georgian restaurant in Paris
SPECIALTY • Khinkali, traditional Georgian raviolis
Having four children, Magda has the sense of responsibilities. Back in Georgia, she used to run a dental office and help her mother manage the family restaurant. “But in France, it was difficult for me to find a job in the medical field, coming from abroad”. But Magda is not one to let anything stop her: her other calling, cooking, is the second card up her sleeve, she explains cheerfully with great gestures.
“The first time I cooked, I was on my own. I got married when I was 17. Before that, I lived with my grandmother and my mother and they were the ones cooking. Everything was always ready to eat, the kitchen was their territory!”. But Magda’s epiphany happened when she tasted the first meal she made: “To be honest, even if it may seem presumptuous, the first time I cooked it was delicious! “.
Her talent is first confirmed with some authentic Georgian dishes that she makes: the extremely popular Khachapuri (traditional cheesy bread, which varies from region to region) or the Chaxoxbili (chicken in tomato broth with oregano), which she prepares according to her very own secret recipe.
Her long blond hair ripples, following the rhythm of her hands moving as she speaks. “In the 21st century it’s easy to learn on your own, because you have the internet. Here is my teacher: Youtube!”, she says, showing her smartphone with a smile. “You can prepare your dishes with any chef you like. I learned that way”.
Very organized, Magda follows many chefs online to widen her culinary horizons, according to their specialties and her own tastes. “If I have to make lasagna, for example, I watch four or five videos from experts and I use what I like: his way of making the dough, the way she makes the stuffing, and I put things together. It’s like being an artist!”.
She tells me she has a lot of fun composing recipes when she is missing some ingredients: being constrained is just an opportunity to “find new ways”.
Magda participated in the project “Engage with Refugees”, and in the Refugee Food Festival. She remembers her collaboration with Romain Roudeau at the Juveniles Wine Bar fondly. The mix of Georgian and French cuisines is of great interest to her, especially when it reveals the differences in food culture: “I told my mother that I was going to make red beans. She jumped to the ceiling and told me that it was not “restaurant food”, but something that we cook in our everyday life, in Georgia. In Paris everyone loved it and even asked for more! “.
Magda now masters all sorts of Eastern dishes (Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian …) that her mother and grandmother taught her. She is determined to open her own restaurant in Paris, in spite of the expensive rents.
Eastern and French cuisines could meet in an atmosphere that she wants intimate and classy. With her dual experience as a chef and in management, topped with her strong spirit, there is no doubt she will make this dream come true.
With the Refugee Food Festival
Before being the chef of La Residence, Magda participated in two editions of the Refugee Food Festival in Paris. In 2017, she cooked at Juveniles (Paris 1st) with Romain Rouleau. In 2018, she was at L’Ami Jean (Paris 7th), with Stéphane Jégo and then at Solina for the closing party of the Parisian festival in Ground Control (Paris 12th), with Ricardo Ferrante.
As part of her training at La Résidence, Magda also cooked for many events in which the Refugee Food Festival participated, such as “La Fête de l’Humanité” or the “Food Temple”.