Walk into the kitchens at and the wall of heat hits you as if you’ve stepped off a plane in a tropical country. It’s the hour before lunch service begins, and large pots of water are simmering on industrial hobs, while staff are eating their own lunch before the chaos begins.
Andrey Andreev, however, wants to cook. He’s in a borrowed chef jacket, and he’s keen to show off his cooking skills. The chefs say the kitchen isn’t ready yet, so we walk upstairs to where the restaurant has displayed a collection of freshly caught sea creatures.
Andreev taps some of the creatures, which causes them to alarmingly spring to life. It’s a strange sight, watching this Russian dating app billionaire impatiently tapping on sea creatures while he waits for the kitchen to be cleaned.
For many technology CEOs, food is often an afterthought, something to order from an app when they get home after a long day in the office.
But for Andreev, food is perhaps his biggest passion. In fact, it’s so important to him that he visits some of the most expensive restaurants in London nearly every day, and has introduced his own recipes at many of them.
He doesn’t like to spend over 30 minutes in a restaurant during lunchtime
Andrey Andreev doesn’t eat in restaurants in the way that most people do. He doesn’t arrive, read the menu, order some food and wine, and then relax. Instead, he prefers to call ahead so that his food is ready for the moment he walks in the door.
“The Robuchon restaurant, L’Atelier, is right next door to the office,” Andreev said. “I used to come every day for lunch.”
“Before I came I would call, I’d be like ‘I’m five minutes [away],’ so they already did some preparation. It’s a gastronomic restaurant and you have a five, six, seven, eight-course menu. I ate so fast that one day I made the world record: 12 minutes. The ladies on reception were laughing about it: Faster than McDonald’s!”
Andreev’s regular weekday lunch is at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and he takes no longer than 30 minutes. “You spend 20 minutes, 30 minutes maximum,” he said. “You get the best, the best, the best thing, and you’re done.”
That makes sense: Andreev runs a global dating app empire. There’s the core app, Badoo, but it also owns a controlling stake in Bumble, and has revenue share deals with apps including Chappy and Blendr. So he doesn’t have too much time for long working lunches.
“Even when I’m [with my] closest friends, and we come to any of the gastronomic places, I normally say ‘sorry guys, we have 40 minutes.’ They never do 40 minutes, they usually do one hour. With this one hour you can have basically the same type of things, just faster. Then you save time for something else.”
Andreev likes to experiment with food – and has created custom dishes for Michelin-starred restaurants
Andreev may not spend much time actually eating in restaurants, but it’s clearly his favourite hobby. He likes to experiment with the menus in Michelin-starred restaurants and introduce some of his own ideas.
The Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Covent Garden charges ?65 for a five-course lunch, and is the restaurant close to Badoo’s office where Andreev used to eat daily. Andreev said that the restaurant’s menu includes an onion soup that he created. He said that it came about when he was bored one weekend.
“I used to come to L’Atelier every day,” Andreev said, “and Saturdays it’s boring. Nothing to do. Office is closed, people do not work. I just started to spend a little bit more time [there].”
At Novikov, Andreev has designed a series of seafood dishes, including sushi with a reduced amount of rice. “I’m trying to be fit, I’m trying to avoid any carbs,” Andreev said.
There’s also the Bloody Andrey, his twist on the Bloody Mary cocktail. It has a cherry tomato juice base, and a tweaked mixture of spices. “I said ‘OK, how about we change the base?'” Andreev said, “A few weeks later they said ‘OK, let’s call it Bloody Andrey because you just piss off everyone here by changing things.'”
“Raymond Blanc was here in Novikov a couple of years ago,” Andreev said. “I invited him here just to have a meal and I introduced him to Arkady Novikov, the guy who owns this place. And Raymond spent an hour and a half with me here at the table trying my gastronomic things.”
“For the whole evening, he thought that this was my restaurant. I said to him, ‘Raymond, it’s not mine.’ He said ‘it looks like your restaurant.'”
We joined Andreev in the kitchens at Novikov in London
Once the kitchen downstairs at Novikov is clean, it’s time for Andreev to cook some pasta and seafood. His chef jacket sits on top of his daily uniform of a white T-shirt and jeans. Chefs look on as Andreev takes command of a section of the kitchen and sets about cooking some clams.
Eventually, it’s time to plate up. The seafood doesn’t take much cooking, and Andreev leads us up the stairs and out of the heat.
Andreev started cooking at an unusually early age
“I was five or six and it was a time when my parents left me alone at home,” Andreev said. “My parents [were] busy somewhere and something happened. I’m staying alone and I understand that I need to eat and I don’t know what to do. So I called the emergency services.”
“I told the lady ‘sorry, I’m staying alone. I don’t know what to do.’ Three ladies from emergency services assisted me [with] what to do and how to make things. They told me, ‘OK, do you know how to make this? Do you know how to? Do you have porridge? Do you have this?’ So I opened the fridge, I’m just walking around the kitchen.”
Another childhood food experience that has stayed with Andreev is visiting his grandmother and her vegetable garden. “When I was a kid, my parents in the summertime always sent me to a little country house, to my grandma, who like every single grandma, produced some vegetables in a little garden. So in Russia, typically it’s all sorts of cucumbers and tomatoes and other vegetables.”
Business Insider asked Andreev whether he’d like to own his own restaurant. Interestingly, the tech CEO likens his experimentation with food to how he runs his company.
“I love to contribute, I don’t really like to personally run things. I love to contribute where things are there and there’s some part missing to contribute.”
“It’s the same with Badoo. When you have an amazing team of, let’s say amazing designers, who are doing beautiful, beautiful, beautiful mockups. [The] guys always listen to my opinion if this is nice or not nice, if we can tweak something. I’m not a designer myself, but with my direction people do a great job. So with a restaurant, [it’s the] same thing.”