This is the last week of the world’s major food exhibition – Expo Milano 2015, which means that the queue for each pavilion lasts multiple hours. But everyone waits in line calmly, already having paid a 50-euro entrance fee. Those who came to the Mabius Food Startup Centre food tasting were dedicated people who spent a few hours in line at the Russian Pavilion. Their destiny to participate was eased by an overhang with a mirrored ceiling – a brilliant solution by architect Sergey Choban. It was a very narcissistic queue: looking at yourself above, taking a selfie, entirely entertaining oneself, having time to study what is going on in social networks and to Instagram it.

Four Mabius members made up the Milan delegation: Andrey Ryvkin (known for sauces and canned crab at United Kitchen), Marianna Orlinkova and Alexander Denisov (executive chef and creator of the project ‘Our Porridge’), and Valeria Opanasyuk (creator of the homemade cheese kits CheeseBox). Mabius is Russia’s first business accelerator in the food industry, and is a project of the NMGK Group. The center helps entrepreneurs start a business or scale an already-established project. As part of the incubation, entrepreneurs receive training in skills they lack, such as marketing, branding, business planning, recipes and production technology, and help with access to mass retail markets in Russia and Asia.

“We arrived to Milan at the Expo not only to test if our product is as tasty as we thought on the sophisticated Italians, although their opinion is important to us, of course,” said Andrey Rvykin. “We also wanted to discuss our international plans. Over the next three years, we plan to open several Mabius centers: Riga, London, and Shenzhen will join the Moscow one.”

Mabius delegation at the Expo Milan 2015: Valeria Opanasyuk, CheeseBox, Andrey Rvykin, Mabius Director and chef at United Kitchen, Marianna Orlinkova, executive chef at the ‘Our Porridge’ project.

“You can joke about import substitution,” said Andrey Ryvkin, who is also the Director of Mabius Food Startup Centre. “However, it is possible if applied to individual dishes, if you try to make fresh chevre cheese yourself, using a set of homemade CheeseBox kits. At Mabius, we really believe in Valeria Opanasyuk’s project: the cheese turns actually turns out really well if you carefully follow the instructions. In the era of sanctions, the project seems even more relevant.”

Andrey Ryvkin, Director of Mabius Food Startup Centre and chef of United Kitchen.

Ryvkin himself brought king crab from the Barents Sea to Milan, which went well with the CheeseBox chevre. One month ago, Ryvkin launched the shop Do You Crab, a themed street food project in England that is open on the weekends in London markets. The chef and entrepreneur believes that crabs – a Russian delicacy, like black caviar, have serious commercial potential, not only in Russia but abroad. As part of Mabius, he plans to launch the United Kitchen canned crab in mass production, a line of sauces, mayonnaises, and ketchup.

And now onto porridge, a typical Russian product that has long been overdue to become a main brand of Russian cuisine – porridge that is no less worthy than borscht. Due to the active request for healthy food (both in Russia and Italy), it is time to remember all of the grain cereals as a functional morning food, Mabius believes. On this occasion, Marianna Orlinkova cooked millet porridge with anise oil and pumpkin, sprinkled with gingerbread crumbs. “Bellissima porridge!” the crowd said, and asked for more.