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Michelin star chef: I accustom Kyrgyzstanis to exquisite table setting

Frenchman Philippe Laforge came to Kyrgyzstan in 2017. He runs a restaurant and enjoys life.

— Philippe, tell us about yourself and how did you get to Kyrgyzstan.

— I am 62 years old. I am from Provence. I gave up my study at a university in my young days and began to learn culinary art from a familiar chef. I opened a restaurant at 21. My father was unhappy. He said: «My son will not be a seller of a soup!». But later he had a change of heart. I got a Michelin star at 24, becoming its youngest holder in France. In the late 1980s, the chef left and the restaurant was closed. I founded a fireworks production company. It quickly entered the top 5 in the country in its industry.

In 2003, I set off fireworks in Pakistan. The locals liked it so much that they offered me to become the main fireworks person in their country. I was going to spend a couple of years there, but I had lived 12 years in the country. In 2007, Taliban became active there, and sales of fireworks fell. Then I opened a restaurant of French cuisine in Islamabad. The business was looking well, but then problems began with the supply of wine and pork. They are banned in Pakistan, and our cuisine is unthinkable without them. I began to look for another country. A friend of mine from the UN advised your country — brought photos, brandy and ak kalpak. So, I am here.

— What surprises you in Kyrgyzstan?

— It is wild, pristine nature. The mountains are only 25 minutes away from the capital! And it is the climate. Unlike Pakistan, where it’s either hot or humid, the weather here meets its seasonal characteristics. It’s good for my health.

— What in Kyrgyzstan reminds you of your homeland?

— The atmosphere of the city and behavior of the people are like in old France. People hold on to family, honor traditional values. In my homeland, this is lost due to globalization.

— Do you miss something here?

— No, I do not. I visit France twice a year. The trip takes me only seven hours. I can order everything I need from there. Friends from France come to visit me — in October, I arranged a tour with them around Issyk-Kul lake. I also made friends here.

I enjoy what I do. I’m thinking of staying in Kyrgyzstan forever. I want to open a resort on the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake and settle there.

— Do you have a favorite place in Kyrgyzstan?

— It is Karakol city and its suburbs, Ala-Archa, Issyk-Ata, Kochkor.

My hobbies are hiking, skiing, swimming and tennis.

— What do you like about the local population?

— It is their mobility. They are easy outgoing. People enjoy life, go to cafes.

— And what disappointed you?

— Some people spit on the asphalt.

— What national Kyrgyz dishes do you like and what are you afraid to try?

— I like kuurdak, I do not like kurut and smoked dace.

— Is there any similarity between French and Kyrgyz cuisines?

— No, there is not. We use lot of cream and butter, and you — sunflower oil and meat.

You cannot find real French cheese and, for example, foie gras in Kyrgyzstan. I take them from abroad. But I can not complain about the quality of the available products.

Food in Kyrgyzstan is not expensive, and there is no shortage of it. There are many cafes. However, people are not used to exquisite table setting. Serving of dishes in French and Kyrgyz cuisine is different. In ours, it has several stages.

— Would you like to change something in Kyrgyzstan?

— I would like to see more agreement among people.

The number of tourists is growing in Kyrgyzstan. Some come to my restaurant and share their impressions. They like a lot. But they want more comfort. It will be great if the country begins to invest more actively in infrastructure and road construction.

In 2020, on the Independence Day of Kyrgyzstan, I plan to hold an international fireworks tournament in Cholpon-Ata. Such events take place only in 18 cities of the world. I will invite participants from China, Russia, Malaysia and France. We will arrange a grand show that will attract many tourists.