A year ago, PepsiCo attempted to bridge a gap between populist and elite cuisine by tapping elBulli chef Ferran Adrià to assist the corporation’s research and development team on products like Alvalle chilled soups and Frito-Lay artisanal chips. The global soda and snacks giant’s interest in molecular gastronomy apparently hasn’t waned over the months, either – it has just announced the opening of PepsiCo Café, an “elegant pop-up café” now open at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2012 and built on the cuisine of Adrià and former elBulli intern Ivan Berezutsky.
Not to reduce Berezutsky’s career to a single internship – since his time spent at elBulli, Berezutsky has served as head chef at Grand Cru in St. Petersburg and took first place at the annual Taste of Spain haute cuisine competition in Barcelona last year. But even though the brunchy soup and sandwich-centric menu is much more simple – and, on account of the sponsor, he’s cooking with Pepsi-owned products like Alvalle soups and Quaker oats – there are nods to both modernist and traditional Russian cuisine in items like red caviar (served with Lay’s red caviar-flavored potato chips*), Kvass okroshka with beef tongue and sour cream, and an Alvalle gazpacho designed by Adrià himself. Speaking of Adrià, he’s also scheduled to give a talk and Q-and-A session at the café on Friday about brand innovations.
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In addition to the partnership with Berezutsky, PepsiCo also brought on Bar-Street co-founders Maxim Pleshkov and Sergei Nasonovsky to put together a cocktail menu for PepsiCo Café. Tasked with creating innovative cocktails using Pepsi ingredients, chief bartender Nasonovsky whipped up creations like Russkiy Dar Kvass with cranberry, rosemary, and crushed ice and frothy “oxygen cocktails” with fruit juices.
Just as its interest in modern cuisine is well-documented, PepsiCo’s interest in Russia is also no surprise – the country is PepsiCo’s second largest global market, leading the pack in sectors like beverages and snacks, and those ties were only strengthened by its acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann in 2010. Insiders expect that PepsiCo’s next billion-dollar global brand could hail from Russia. In the meantime, the corporation isn’t hesitating to get consumers excited about its brands – in short, it’s all advertising when you get down to it. But it’s advertising that fosters creativity and encourages looking at products in new ways, and that’s both rare and welcome.
If you find yourself in St. Petersburg this weekend, check out the full PepsiCo Café menu – and if you decide to give it a try, don’t forget to report back and let us know what you think.
*Caviar chips?! Why can’t we have nice things like this here?