He searches the perfect team with whom to share the same perspective of Romanian cuisine.
Carefully overlooking a plate in his well lit kitchen, like an artist on a stage, concentrated, just barely breathing and blinking while placing the sauce over a piece of fish, Alex Petricean strikes you immediately as an unusual chef. He is a character. His messy, rather long hair, always tied up, is one of the things that shows his creative personality. He is always surrounded by young people, the sous-chef, chefs, and the front of house staff.
“I want to make Romanians fall in love with our cuisine again and then we take over the entire world! Romanian food is cool, healthy, tasty, beautiful. But we’ve forgotten this, we’ve become addicted to pizzas, pasta, shaorma and burgers”.
This is Alex Petricean’s vision and is currently working on making it happen as the owner and head-chef of „NOUA. Bucătărie românească”. The young chef is only 32 years old, but already one of the most well-known and respected professionals in the field. He believes great culinary experiences are a sum of ambient, food and service. The chef is constantly helped and inspired by his family, friends and team. As a business owner, he is now facing multiple tasks: selecting, employing and maintaining the relations with the staff, the providers, the client service, and all this is the side dish of his main occupation, creating the menus and cooking.
“I haven’t had a day off for months, until just recently, I admit, but I loved every second of it. I think I am handling the business management pretty well and I can still focus in the kitchen, my favourite part of this project. As I expected, the Human Resources management takes a lot of work, too”, says the energetic Romanian chef.
He is constantly struggling to find and train people for NOUA, kitchen and front of house, and is recruiting new members this summer.
“We were in a place where we needed to travel abroad to have wonderful fine-dining experiences and also to learn the art of cooking and serving. I am willing to dedicate o lot of time to develop NOUA as a training and learning center, not only as a unique successful restaurant.
We have 3 trainees in the kitchen right now and we are searching for talents in the front of house area. When I say `talents` I mean exactly that. It takes a lot of skills to be a good host in a restaurant, to be polite, patient, respectful, well informed, to speak foreign languages. We are still facing a preconception about this very important role: many believe that the waiter is the least important person in the team, but I believe the contrary, this is the interface with the clients and influences the final impression as much as the food we serve”.
Alex was acclaimed Best Romanian Chef of 2018 by Gault&Millau Guide and he recently had the opportunity to cook alongside Ana Ros (Best Lady Chef of 2017) in a 4 hands collaborative dinner, being a first for the culinary Romanian scene, and also Emmanuel Perrodin (world renowned chef).
He traveled the world and worked on 3 continents studying taste, form and mostly the specifics of each society in gastronomy. He could have stayed at the Michelin-star restaurants who were happy to have him in their kitchen, in Denmark at Geranium (no. 5 W50Best 2019) or Noma 2.0 (no. 2 W50Best 2019), or in South America at Central (no. 6 W50Best 2019) or Quintonil (no. 24 W50Best 2019), but he wanted to come home and raise to the highest international standards right here, in Romania. His childhood memories of family meals and his present fulfilling personal and professional life are the reasons he is here to stay and change the way we think about traditional food. He invested 120.000 euros and all his energy in making NOUA his dream place.
Petricean’s unique style and the menu changing every month focusing each time on the season are the things that attract and fascinate the clients. A key element of offering this kind of experience to the clients is having good quality fresh ingredients.
„We work with 30 different providers, the herbs are from farms close to Bucharest, the beef is from Botoșani, the duck from Timișoara and the pork from Maramureș. We have a very good relationship with them and they started having initiative and calling us about new ingredients from them or other farmers in the area,” proudly says Petricean about the secrets of his delicious food.
Alex and his team spend 5 days a week in an early 20th century house in the historical center, on Popa Nan street, in Bucharest. NOUA is their playground and it also feels like their home. On a monthly basis, the team pays a special visit, they went to a coffee processing factory and are now planning to see a craft brewery. They explore, they learn, they have fun. It’s a different way of making business, it is more that that. Alex seems to be much more than a chef for them and his restaurant is much more than that.