Acclaimed Michelin chef Michael Deane has recently changed the spelling of the traditional Chicken Kiev on his menu to show his solidarity for the Ukraine and his staff from the embattled nation that’s taking a courageous stand against invasion by Russia.
Michael this week listed Chicken Kyiv, the Ukrainian spelling of the dish, on the menu in his popular Meatlocker upmarket restaurant at Howard Street in Belfast.
“While we’ve only a few staff from the Ukraine. I wanted to show my support for them and also to a much larger group from eastern Europe,” Michael explains. “My head chef, Henris, in the adjoining Love Fish restaurant, comes from Lithuania and has a lot of friends from the Ukraine. We’ve also had donation cards to support humanitarian aid in the Ukraine on tables across all our seven restaurants in Belfast for the past week and have raised over £10,000 so far. We’ll be adding to this.
“Our customers have been very keen to support the initiative for people there. While not entirely sure about the history of the dish, I believe it has a strong heritage beyond the Soviet Union era in places like the Ukraine. We’ve created our own ‘take’ on the classic which hasn’t featured on our menus for many years.”
Committed to locally sourced ingredients and a role model for many chefs, Michael has helped to revolutionise the eating out scene in Belfast over the past 25 years.
He has held a Michelin Star for over 15 years, the longest ever in Ireland and last year retained this coveted recognition for his acclaimed EIPIC restaurant in Belfast. His restaurants have also won impressive plaudits from many of the world’s most influential food writers.
He also emerged as a very persuasive and much respected advocate for the industry during the recent pandemic lockdowns which threatened the viability of the vitally important hospitality sector and the many smaller food and drink suppliers he has championed consistently over his distinguished career.
The traditional dish is made from chicken fillet rolled in cold garlic butter and breadcrumbs, and either baked or fried, then coated with egg. It became widely popular in Western countries in the 1970s and was even served at a May 1990 dinner at the Soviet embassy in Washington DC to then leader Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet Union collapsed.
It is said to have originated in the old Russian empire by a chef from Kiev and was subsequently reimagined by French chefs such as Marie-Antoine
Careme and Urbain Dubois, who had been hired by Russian nobility, as a rich chicken cutlet in the 19th century. Another Ukrainian oral tradition claims the Continental Hotel in central Kyiv invented the modern version of the dish in the early 20th century.
But the spelling ‘Kiev’ is linked with the old USSR due to its widespread use by the British and Americans while the city was under Soviet rule. This continued after independence in 1991, until ‘Kyiv’ was legally approved by the Ukrainian government. Young Ukrainians see ‘Kiev’ as a relic of the Soviet past, and this view is now shared by the government, which launched a ‘KyivNotKiev’ campaign in 2018.
The successful Belfast restaurateur’s decision to rename and adapt the dish follows a rebranding by Finnebrogue Artisan in Downpatrick and fund raising for the Ukraine.
Finnebrogue, which owns the market leading Better Naked brand, renamed its plant-based Chicken Kiev to Kyiv in solidarity with the Ukrainian people as they continue to defend against Russian President Putin’s invasion.
Finnebrogue has also pledged 50 percent of its profits from sales of the Better Naked Kyiv in 2022 to the humanitarian relief effort in Ukraine, starting with an initial £10,000 donation to UNICEF and the Red Cross for humanitarian relief.
Jago Pearson, the company’s chief strategy officer, explains: “The world is appalled by the disgraceful events being perpetrated by the Putin regime in Ukraine. All our hearts go out to the Ukrainian people as they defend their homeland and stand up for the principles of self-determination and free, liberal democracy.
“So many of us in the UK feel utterly helpless, but still determined to do what little we can. That’s why at Finnebrogue we are donating to the humanitarian effort and renaming our Better Naked Chicken Kyiv in recognition of the Ukrainian people’s brave defence of their proud nation.”
The Better Naked plant-based Chicken Kyiv is made instead using pea protein for chicken and is already on sale in several UK supermarkets,
including Waitrose and Ocado.