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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Culinary Victory For Russian Chefs

What words come to mind when conjuring up images of Russian food? Bland, fatty and tasteless? How about delectable, sumptuous and elegant.

That's what judges of the recent Culinary Olympics deemed when they awarded the Russian team a coveted gold medal for all-around participation in the Frankfurt contest.

"When they heard a Russian team was coming they didn't believe we would show up", said Wolfgang Jetschgo, the six-man team's captain and only non-Russian member. "In the beginning they were all laughing. But in the end it was we who were laughing".

Chefe from 32 nations competing in the four-day contest entered dishes in four categories: pastries, show platters, hot competition and a seven-course menu.

The six chefs on the Russian team who work for Marco Polo hotels in Moscow, Novgorod and Tbilisi spent nine months flexing their culinary muscles before world-class judges. All the chefs, except for Jetschgo, were trained at state-run cooking schools.

"We researched old recipes from cookbooks from the Czar's times and upgraded them into international standards", said Jetschgo.

That meant taking an old-time favorite like chicken stolichnaya -- heavily breaded chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms -- and recreating it. The new version was stuffed with a souffle-style mixture of morel and chanterelle mushrooms and rolled in a lighter coating using potato and bread. and Voila.

The ubiquitous beet also took on a whole new meaning. A beetroot pudding with a lemon cream-cheese filling and topped with an anise-vodka sauce was one of the dessert entries.

"To be frank, Russian cuisine is not known abroad except for chicken Kiev, beef stroganoff and borscht", Jetschgo said.

When it came to competing against other nationalities, the odds were stacked against the Russians. The American team, for example, invested more than $2 million to compete and included a 54-person support staff.

"It was tough", said Jetschgo. "We had only six people. Our budget was tight so we didnt have money to sleep in hotels in the center. We had to travel back and forth 60 kilometers and work around the clock".