Кухня

Kitchen (Кухня) is Russia’s favorite recent sitcom. Spanning six seasons and a movie (!), it aired between 2012 and 2016 and has since led to a spin-off, Hotel Eleon (Отель Элеон), about some of the favorite secondary characters. A second movie should appear in 2017.

The show takes part mostly in the eponymous kitchen, in one of the fanciest French restaurants in Paris. The main characters are Maksim Lavrov (Максим Лавров), an aspiring cook who worms his way into a job at the restaurant; Vika (Вика), his on-again-off-again girlfriend and the restaurant’s designer/director; Viktor Petrovich (Виктор Петрович), the restaurant’s abusive, alcoholic, well-beloved chef; and a small cast of delightful supporting characters, including Fedya and Senya (Федя и Сеня), two other cooks; Louie, the gay pastry chef (Луи); Lyova (Лёва), the stuttering sous chef and the only truly nice person on the show; Kostya and Nastya (Костя и Настя), a barman-and-waitress couple (spoiler alert!); and Dmitriy Nagiev (Дмитрий Нагиев), the restaurant’s actor-owner who is basically played by himself. The plot involves Maks’s efforts to get into the chef’s good graces and get back together with and/or maintain his relationship with Vika.

The show is almost like a meaner-spirited version of Friends: it has its set cast of characters and their everyday lives and jokes, but their problems are bigger, including cheating, alcoholism, firings, and even the threat of deportation. There is also the odd racist joke, usually at the expense of Aynura (Айнура), a Kyrgyz woman who works as the kitchen’s custodian. The gender politics are generally horrifying, particularly with regard to Max and Vika’s relationship, and the show treats this as normal, or just a punchline. But if you’re still willing to give it a try after all that—you can consider it a good education about issues in Russia today, maybe—Kitchen is definitely worth a watch. The humor is often genuine, many of the characters are charming, the soundtrack is really good, and the inside jokes that span the series are legitimately funny. You sometimes feel, watching it, that you’ve found your way and been accepted into real Russian life.

 

Creator: Vitaliy Shlyappo (Виталий Шляппо) and others
Stars: Mark Bogatyryov (Марк Богатырёв), Dmitriy Nazarov (Дмитрий Назаров), Yelena Podkaminskaya (Елена Подкаминская), Viktor Khorinyak (Виктор Хориняк), Olga Kuzmina (Ольга Кузьмина), Sergey Yepishev (Сергей Епишев), Sergey Lavygin (Сергей Лавыгин), Mikhail Tarabukin (Михаил Тарабукин), Nikita Tarasov (Никита Тарасов), Zhanyl Asanbekova (Жаныл Асанбекова)
Production company: Keystone Production and Yellow, Black and White
TV channel: STS (СТС)

 

The show’s official site on STS.

 

The first-ever episode of the show:

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.