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Portrait: Martins Rittins and Restaurant Vincents in Riga / Latvia

article Tesi Martins
On Friday July 31st, I visited the restaurant Vincents in Riga, Latvia and met Chef Martins Rittins for the first time. I have heard much about Chef Martins, so I was very much looking forward to spending an evening with him and seeing his restaurant.
The atmosphere of Vincents is welcoming with modern design elements and a well-assembled and slightly dimmed-light concept. The staff is very friendly and professional, which made me feel comfortable from the moment I entered the restaurant.
Chef Martins is truly a character. He welcomed us with a lively and positive personality. He presented the Wagyu cut, and we had a good chat about the menu. My wife ordered foie gras ravioli to be followed by chicken. I asked for the Japanese purebred black Wagyu beef tartar only and skipped the main course because I planned to steal from my wife’s plate during the evening. 
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All food came prepared with great attention to detail. Only, my Wagyu tartar could not be served. Chef Martins came to the table and apologised for not being able to serve me. Instead, he took a tin out of a plastic bag and explained that he bought me some old but original Russian herring from the supermarket around the corner. I looked at him quite confused, but opened the cheap looking tin and… found the Wagyu tartar I had ordered!
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We had a good laugh about the presentation, and Chef Martins proceeded to tell me how he was born in the UK, then ran a business in Canada for a long time, but finally moved to Latvia where his parents came from because he feels at home here. He is living outside of Riga and has a walk in the forest every morning and most evenings. He tends his own garden, growing many ingredients for his dishes there.
I have rarely seen a chef like Martins. He is expanding the presentation of his food creations so far beyond the edge of the plate to include the atmosphere, how he welcomes and talks to his guests, little presentation ideas, and the entire restaurant experience.
At the end of the evening, he showed me the other rooms of the restaurant I hadn’t seen. We stopped at a gallery of pictures with world politicians and royalty for whom he has cooked. I asked him which president left the deepest impact for him. He told me the story of how he had a chat with George Bush, Jr. once, and he was impressed how down to earth and honest he came across. Boris Yeltsin also impressed him, and Martins remembers how he had a good laugh with Angela Merkel and Tony Blair when he – as a British chef – cooked a German goose for them. 
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For me, Chef Martins Rittins reminded me that a good host understands that an evening starts and ends with food, but there is so much in-between to experience, enjoy, and remember.
If you want to experience the Latvian art of cooking and hospitality, the Vincents is a restaurant that cannot be missed.
Tesi Baur

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