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Russian delegation learning of American restaurant business

By Rebecca Burk Ellis / L’Observateur / June 17, 1998

LAPLACE – Igor Tashkinov, a visitor to the River Parishes from Ekaterinburg, Russia, hopes to learn the American way of running a restaurant during his month-long stay.

Back home in Ekaterinburg, Tashkinov owns a cafeteria-style restaurant called Edelweis. He hopes learning how business is run in another countrywill help him improve his own.

Through a translator he said, “I am interested in many different things, such as technology, design and, of course, business management. And howthe whole supply system works and personnel management.”On just his fourth full day in the country Tashkinov is already impressed.

“The program looks good and covers a wide range of issues that interest me,” he said.

Marina Chepeleva directs Russian Troika, a restaurant very popular among tourists located in Voronezh, Russia, which is in the central part of the country and in the famous black soil region.

She said her business is also growing since it opened in 1993.

“At first we had the capacity to serve 60 people, and now we can serve about 100,” Chepeleva said. “We have special banquet facilities and anopen street cafe that serves about 30, which is very popular in the summer.”Ruzhena Vorobyeva also hopes her experiences will help her improve her restaurant and beer bar called Irish Courtyard, which is also in Ekaterinburg. The bar really does serve Irish beer and is also very popularamong tourists and locals.

“It is one of the most popular beer bars in the city,” she said, proudly. “Wehave about 100 different dishes on the menu.”Vorobyeva hopes to check out similar bars in the area and take in some jazz and blues. She said she is about to open a nightclub and that will giveher some ideas.

Tashkinov, Chepeleva and Vorobyeva are here with eight other Russians who own or manage restaurants and are looking to improve their already growing businesses by studying what is done in America.

The LaPlace Rotary Club is hosting their stay through July 10.

The organization the foreign visitors are affiliated with is the Productive Enhancement Program, which is part of the Center for Citizen Initiatives.

Owen Sand, Rotarian coordinator, said PEP is similar to the old Marshall Plan, which gave citizens from foreign countries the opportunity to come to America and learn business methods to strengthen post-war countries.

Democracy has only been in Russia for about six years, but business is already improving and Russians want to improve it even more, Sands said.

They began their learning experience at River Parishes Hospital’s cafeteria, where food services manager Suzanne Schexnayder told them how a cafeteria runs things. She gave them nutrition guidelines, explainedhow often food deliveries are made and explained the cost to pay an employee. And eager to learn anything they could, they peppered her withquestions.

Also on the itinerary for the Russian guests are tours and training at local restaurants such as Bull’s Corner, Lafitte’s Landing and Hymel’s Restaurant. They will also tour the Zapp’s potato chip factory, Bailey’sAndouille and the Jambalaya Shoppe.

Restaurants in Jefferson and Orleans parishes they plan to go to for training are Praline Connection, Arnaud’s, Andrea’s and Piccadilly Cafeteria.

The Russians will also get to take advantage of some of the local schools’ courses on cooking and restaurant operation. They will have classes atNicholls State University, Jefferson Parish Technical College and Frank Scaffanti School of Cooking. They will also receive training at the Boardof Health, Board of Labor and Louisiana Restaurant Association.

Other places they will go to learn about the American way of life is a St.

John Council meeting and the St. John Sheriff’s Office. They will also takea look at new cars and visit an accounting firm in Metairie.

Their itinerary is not only chock full of learning opportunity, but it’s fun as well. They plan to go to the IMAX Theater, Aquarium of the Americas,Audubon Zoo, French Quarter, Jackson Brewery, Superdome and the Riverwalk.

The Russians are also getting a feel for American culture by staying with local families. “They want to stay in homes because they are curiousabout how we live,” Sand said.

Tashkinov said he has already seen the differences in cultures by staying with his local family.

“The people are great,” Tashkinov said. “Very hospitable and warm. I amalso very impressed by American homes. The level of comfort here is muchhigher than in Europe. And people know how to really have fun. They playhard.”During the first weekend of their stay, the Rotary Club treated the Russian guests to a barbecue, picnic and crawfish boil, Sand said. Crawfish arerarely eaten in Russia because they are a delicacy. But Sand said they”devoured them.””I think they were surprised,” Sand said. “They expected us to be morerigid.””The people here are so warm and friendly,” Irina Zelenoukhina of Voronezh said. “I am really grateful to the Rotary Club for this programand the opportunity to come here.”

Photo: Marina Chepeleva of Voronezh, Russia, tries her hand at making roux during training at the cafeteria at River Parishes Hospital. She is here with eightother Russians who own or manage restaurants to learn about the American way to do business. (Staff Photo by Rebecca Burk Ellis)

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