Кейси 15:48 23 Oct 2023

Shevchenko's favorite cottage cheese pancakes and bear-shaped pizza: how 11-year-old Microchef fundraises for Ukraine and conquers the culinary world

The family of Marc Dzialak, who is called Microchef in the family, lives in Switzerland. After the start of the full-scale invasion, the boy, thanks to his hobby, collected more than ₴150 thousand, which he handed over to help Ukraine. The child's parents, Anna and Yakub, are professional musicians who have their own school and give charity concerts, from which they were able to send $200,000 to support Ukraine.

Read about how an 11-year-old boy learns the Ukrainian language from scratch and prepares to help Ukraine in Rubryka's text.

How Microchef was born

An 11-year-old boy is dressed in a white coat in front of the camera, which is used to communicate with the Dzialak-Savytskyi family. This, as he says, is his favorite outfit because he creates his dishes in it.

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Marc Dzialak is wearing one of his chef jackets. Photo from the family archive

"Each jacket has its own name. My flags are depicted on each of them: I was born in Switzerland, my mother is from Ukraine, and my father is from Poland. That's why these are my flags," says the little chef.

All jackets are Ukrainian-made. The first one Dzialak tried on a few years ago. The boy's passion for cooking appeared when he was five years old. The child was captivated by the cartoon "Ratatouille," about a rat who created his culinary masterpieces.

"As a child, he liked to climb into the kitchen and play with pans. But it was just a childhood hobby. After "Ratatouille," he became interested in "Mr. Bean," where they cooked pizza. Then he created his own pizza recipe named after himself — it was a dish in the shape of a teddy bear," says mother Anna Savytska.

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Marc Dzialak while cooking. Photo from the family archive

Since then, cooking has become the center of gravity of the boy's world. Through Instagram, he found the account of the famous Ukrainian chef Yevhen Klopotenko, whom he called "Teacher Yevhen Klopotenko," after a meeting in Switzerland after the chef held meetings abroad.

According to Dzialak's mother, Marc begged for the first online course in cooking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The family hesitated whether to buy it or not for a long time but then understood that the son should be supported in his desire to develop.

"It is important for children to understand that they are not ignored. It was a serious adult course, and my son cut a kilogram of onions or carrots on the same level as everyone else. He took exams and recorded his every step on video. Because he could not write by hand, the answers had to be given in text," says the mother.

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Marc Dzialak, together with Yevhen Klopotenko. Photo from the family archive

Since then, Dzialak has taken several courses on various topics, from large dishes to sauces and kinds of pasta. Now, the boy is mastering the loaf. His culinary portfolio includes many Ukrainian recipes and culinary tricks.

"I have a secret about how to make the perfect shape of cottage cheese pancakes. We take the cheese, make a ball, flatten it a little, then take a cup and twist it like this (Dzialak shows how he presses a lump of cheese with a cup). Then we twist it from one side and from the other," says an 11-year-old Microchef. Sharing recipes is not new to the boy since several years ago, the family created his own YouTube channel.

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Dzialak with easter cakes he made himself. Photo from the family archive

"This is our modest contribution to Ukrainian-language children's YouTube. Our son speaks children's language — he records culinary videos and reports, conducts interviews with famous Ukrainian stars," says the chef's mother.

Own restaurant

Nowadays, the kitchen of the family's house is called "Marc's" because the other family members hardly cook. The boy wants to open his own restaurant in the future, but he cannot say exactly what it will be. 

"One option is a Christmas-themed restaurant so that I can bake cookies and holiday bread there. I love Christmas very much. I also once imagined how my restaurants would work in Europe to serve Marc's Pizza. For it to be a large establishment, so that you could see me cooking. Or you can do something in the mountains so people could eat while resting," shares the young cook.

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Marc's signature pizza. Photo from the family archive

We asked the young chef what recipe he was most proud of. "I am proud of many. Marc's pizza is special because it is my first dish. I realized I wanted to be a chef when I made that pizza. I think I am proud of this dish even though it is easy to make. All you need is dough, tomato sauce, regular cheese, salami, and olives for the bear's eyes," says Dzialak.

"Indeed, my son cooks delicious borscht, cottage cheese pancakes, and crepes. In general, the tendency now is to work well with the dough. Once, on Shevchenko Day, he used to make Shevchenko's favorite varenyky from buckwheat flour, with cheese, slightly toasted," shares mother Savytska.

The study of Ukrainian, which began with cooking

At some point, "Teacher Yevhen Klopotenko" switched to the Ukrainian language, and the boy, who used to communicate at home in Russian, Polish or other languages, stopped understanding his idol.

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Anna Savytska, Yakub Dzialak, their son Marc and Yevhen Klopotenko. Photo from the family archive

My son asked me: "Mom, will you teach me to speak Ukrainian so I understand?" Although I am from Lviv, I used to speak Russian in everyday life. We tried to put Marc into a Ukrainian school, but it didn't work for him," says Savytska.

The family managed to find a teacher from Ukraine who works with the boy remotely. Ukrainian was added to the five languages that Marc could speak.

"Now I know Ukrainian, Polish, German, Swiss German, English, Russian. And British English, too? Marc looks at his mother. But he smiles and says no. "Then six."

"Marc is good with languages, and we had no particular difficulties here. The only thing is that Ukrainian was taught from scratch. I really made an effort there. I chose Tuesday as Ukrainian day, which started with 'Good morning' and continued all day in Ukrainian. It was difficult for Yakub: my husband speaks a [perfect mix of Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian — he sometimes mixes everything, and it turns out to be an elegant surzhyk, our family one," says the young chef's mother.

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A dish cooked by Marc. Photo from the family archive

Yakub, who joined the conversation, explained: "I understand everything 100%. It's just that I mix languages in conversation."

Out of respect for other languages, Polish Day was also introduced. "My son has a clear independent position — to speak Ukrainian. This is not imposed by us, as is often thought in the network," says the mother.

The history of the Dzialak-Savytskyi family

Anna left Ukraine in 1995, and Yakub left Poland in 1996. She went to Austria, and he went to Switzerland. They met at summer master classes in Austria and started a family.

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Anna Savytska and Yakub Dzialak with their musical instruments. Photo from the family archive

"We are professional musicians, and we have been doing it all our lives. Over time, we opened their own private music school and held lessons for talented young people. I aim to teach as many Ukrainians as possible to play the violin and make the activity less Soviet. Unfortunately, the musical profession is strongly connected with the Soviet education system, and we still have books in Russian. The musicians play notes from Moscow," Savytska shares.

The eldest son, Vladyslav, and Marc are more than ten years apart. Anna says that by then, she and her husband were already used to the fact that the family consists of three family members.

"We planned to have more children, but it didn't work out. We lived with one child for a long time and even adjusted that a family with one child suits us. And years later, when we accepted this fact, Marc was born," Savytska shares.

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Parents with Marc. Photo from the family archive

Anna and Yakub had no relatives who could stay home with Marc while the parents were at work. That is why the youngest son was present during all musical events. He was in Ukraine several times in different cities.

"My mother was the head of the conservatory department, and my grandfather was a trumpeter. Yakub's relatives are also musicians. But our children decided that they would break this chain. We tried to practice both the violin and the piano with both of them. It didn't work. I am against clichés, against prejudices that if there is a musical family, then the children will be musicians," Savytska shared with Rubryka.

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Anna Savytska and Yakub Dzialak. Photo from the family archive

25-year-old Vladyslav already lives separately from his parents. He opened his coffee shop not so long ago. Currently, Anna and Yakub fit their youngest son's hobby into their busy schedule, but sometimes it's difficult. Because cooking takes a lot of time.

"There are moments when we also say 'No.' We have work to do, and we have to manage our own time. But we almost always try to meet and find opportunities," adds the mother of the young chef.

After February 24, 2022

"I suspected that it might be bad. We followed Ukrainian news from Switzerland but couldn't imagine how bad it was," says Savytska about the full-scale invasion. The family's relatives remained to live in Lviv and Dnipro.

From the first days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Anna and Yakub started holding charity concerts, the money from which was given to help Ukraine. Marc was sad he couldn't play as well as his parents to raise funds.

"Then he said: 'I will cook because I do it better.'"

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Marc on the streets of Switzerland during a fundraiser. Photo from the family archive

Marc boiled two pots of 5 liters of borscht, baked a lot of donuts and a honey cake, and brewed a compote. With all this, he went to the streets of Switzerland. They managed to get ₴36,000  per day for the food sold, which the parents later transferred to help Ukraine.

"Then there was a fair, and Marc also went to all the culinary events in Switzerland. He asked to cater at our concerts. Next to what he had prepared himself, he put a basket for donations for Ukraine, with a red card: 'Stop the war. Stop Putin.' He drew it himself."

Subsequently, Marc created his first culinary marathon. The boy's friends tried to cook according to homemade recipes available for subscription. Forty-five thousand hryvnias were collected for this marathon, which were also donated.

"He did the second Invincible Varenyk marathon with other young cooks. Eight children from different cities made dumplings and sold them for a donation. Then they bought a drone for the Black Zaporizhzhia brigade," Microchef's mother says.

Anna and Yakub themselves continue to give charity concerts. To date, about $200,000 has been sent from them to Ukraine. This is more than 30 performances.

"Switzerland is like a cocoon. There was never a war here. But we are very connected with Ukraine. We also feel the consequences of the strikes, and we feel bad. There were several strikes in Lviv, not far from my father. Marc can't call his family, which is stressful for him," Savytska shares.

Meanwhile, Marc continues to master new recipes and the Ukrainian language and, of course, come up with new ideas for fundraisers.


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