I reaped the dividends of my time in Kazichene prison. This is what Andre Tokev said in an interview for “120 minutes” on bTV. He called the prison a “sanatorium.”
“I had prepared myself mentally even before I was going in. I wanted to go in so I could feel the punishment and be able to change. I think I was quite prepared mentally and I wanted as much as possible to get the positive and not the negative out of the stay I was in prison, and that’s why I had a completely different attitude. My attitude was to change, to reap the dividends of this stint, and that’s what I did,” said Chief Tokev.
He also told how his days were spent there. “You have to get up at 6 for an inspection, at 8 there’s another inspection. The next one is at 8 p.m. Then they lock the floor. I get up at 6. I have breakfast. Breakfast was always the same. Oat bran with a banana. If I’m not at work , I used to get ready. I read books, I went to gym for 2-3 hours. When I was at work, I had to start at 6.30 to serve the breakfast. It was my initiative.
Time goes by faster when you’re doing what you enjoy. I wanted to cook for the boys well so they could feel good. After I started cooking, 80 to 100% of the prisoners came to eat in the canteen. Another cook came along who was doing very well. And he was sentenced for the same as me,” said Tokev.
He added that on his own initiative he started cooking in the prison and 80 to 100 percent of the prisoners started eating in the canteen against 30 percent before. He said that a Serb there thought he was the head of a large Bulgarian group, because they called him “Chief Tokev”.
There we perceive ourselves as normal people, there is no talk of who did what, Andre Tokev said.
“Most people there are quite adequate and you can talk to each other quite normally about different topics. However, once you understand what they are about, it becomes a bit strange, you don’t back away, but you look for meaning and parallel, and sometimes you can’t find it” , he added.
“I’m not going back to the past, because nothing happened. I went to prison, I changed and that’s what’s important,” he said categorically.
Tokev added that he first had to change regarding alcohol.
“I rarely drink and I can’t stand alcohol. Then and with the fatigue I was in a blackout and I don’t remember most of the things that happened. And that’s why I drastically said that I won’t drink alcohol anymore as long as my body can’t tolerate it. I I am happy because many of my acquaintances and friends no longer drink and drive. I have motivated many people not to drink and drive,” he said.
Tokev said that he does not drink alcohol and cannot tolerate it.
“I like to smell certain drinks that I cook with or wine, but I don’t need to drink alcohol and I don’t feel like drinking.”
He also shared one of his most interesting incidents from his time in prison.
“When I went to Kazichene, I started going to the gym. There was a Serbian boy who was in charge of the gym. He was a triathlon champion. On the second or third day he came to me and in Serbian-Bulgarian language asked me what kind of boss I was because everyone called me boss Tokev.
I told him I was the head of the kitchen and he was taken aback. I explained to him that chef means chef in French and chef in English. He thought I was the boss of some big group. Since then we became friends. He showed me interesting exercises,” the chef said, adding that in Kazichene, it is not usually discussed who lies for what.
“I played a lot of sports and met a lot of people in the gym. At first, most of them are quite adequate. People are adequate. You can talk to each other quite adequately about various topics. Once you understand what they are in for, however, it becomes strange. They have done very hard crime, the next moment you’re playing cards,” he added.
One has to go through difficult things in order to improve and become better, the famous chef added. The master chef shared that the hardest conversation was with his daughter.
“I have one view on life – one learns from mistakes and one becomes better by being able to realize one’s mistakes and plan a better future. Maybe what happened had to happen so that I could do the next one page in my life to experience it in a different way,” he added.
According to him, prison plays a good role in realizing your mistake. He said that it was during this period that he realized who his friends were.
“I saw who the friends were, there were people who withdrew, but really close friends constantly supported my family, cared about how I was, what was happening. In extreme situations, you see who is behind you,” noted the chef.