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Jennifer Schemke et al. standing in front of a building

In BOP faces we talk to local legends: the people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition: Nikolas Mantrov on managing the first studio with cooking classes in Punta Cana and accepting that you cannot control life.

Black and yellow balloons, show that there was a party going on in the kitchen space with tall windows. Nikolas Mantrov (32) shows all the details in the place. Pots, pans, stirring spoons and other cooking equipment are neatly stored underneath cooking tops.

“We had our official opening yesterday!” Nikolas proudly says.

Taino Gourmet

On the 13th of April creator Olga Luzhyna and Project Manager Nikolas Mantrov opened the doors of the first studio for cooking classes in Punta Cana. Taino Gourmet.

“It was so good. We had around 50 people here. We even had a standup comedian Raphael. That was something people did not expect. It was so funny!” a laughing Nikolas describes.

“With this concept we are bringing something new. Look, everything is of good quality and safe.” Nikolas shows the induction cooktops. “We give cooking classes to children too, with these ones, you do not have to worry about them being burned.”

Sharing is caring

Taino Gourmet’s mission is to share Dominican culture, food and love with everyone. They want to introduce the healthy and tasty cuisine of the Dominican Republic to twenty thousand guests a year. From tourists, food lovers, companies that want to organize corporate team building events to kids. They call it a new foodie experience. It is here that people can learn how to cook traditional Dominican food, like sankocho, a soup with 7 different types of meat, but also sushi and pasta. Under the supervision from an experienced Dominican chef, people can cook these foods with fresh ingredients and enjoy it afterwards.

To emphasize Dominican culture, part of the studio is built to resemble a typical Dominican wooden house. The rooftop is present with a wooden pointed structure. The look of the outside of the house is made with blue and white paint to really get the feeling of the Dominican Republic. But also, the wooden fruit boxes, with guanabana, zapote, mangos and sweet potatoes, show the richness of the nature of the island.

The name Taino stems from the indigenous people of the Dominican Republic. The first inhabitants in the pre-Columbian era.

“These past weeks we had some try outs with a few groups. We had couples cooking together, kids and our friends.  Because we also believe in charity we gave a Christmas party for orphans in Higuey. We cooked with them. Part of our profit goes to this foundation. It is so important to give back. The humanity part.”

Introduction to Punta Cana

Nikolas himself was born in Moscow Russia. He came to the Dominican Republic for the first time in 2010 to work for Hard Rock Café. After 4 months he left, because he had the opportunity to work in different countries for Hard Rock.

“I came in 2010 for the first time. Oh, I loved the meat here. I ate filete de res almost every day. The Dominican Republic has such good meat, you just have to know where to get it. I worked in San Francisco in the United States, Mallorca in Spain, Egypt and in Thailand. It is good to work all over the world, because you learn so much about working with different cultures.”

After working in different countries Nikolas returned to Russia.

“I actually have two finance degrees as a Financial Manager. When I went back to Moscow, I worked as a Broker. Because the situation in Russia was changing a close friend of mine gave me the advice to live abroad for seven years. I decided to go back to Punta Cana in 2014, because I had a job opportunity to work on a new project. I asked my girlfriend Margaret to come with me to Punta Cana forever. And she said yes. You just feel it that you have the connection with someone. We got married here in February.”

Nikolas takes out his phone and shows the pictures of a beach view wedding at La Mona in Cap Cana. He smiles widely when he recalls the day of the ceremony, when he could not memorize his vows, his friend who gave him the advice to go abroad acted as the priest and all the other funny things that happened that day.

Living in Punta Cana

“I enjoy the life of living close to the ocean, having fresh air, fresh food, fresh fruit. It is also about acceptance. Things go differently here. You can’t control life.”

Favorite spot

“That is a difficult question. I did not have a free day in the last 4 months,” Nikolas says laughing out loud. “But I would say the Caribbean Sea is my favorite spot in Punta Cana. All the beaches on that side. Playa Blanca, Juanillo. Also, the Caleton.

Future of Taino Gourmet

“Our motto is to eat and share fresh organic food. Giving classes to more people inspiring and teaching others. Even calling Gordon Ramsey to give a class here!

Want to experience Taino Gourmet’s cooking classes in Punta Cana?

Visit them on to make a reservation.