Interview with the 1st legend of Hookah Battle
Egor Chigridov became the First Legend of the Hall of Fame Hookah Battle.
As you know, Hookah Battle is almost 8 years old, our competitions took place in various cities and countries and, during our activity, we had several hundred teams of hookah masters from more than 30 countries. A year ago, we thought about the idea of creating a global ranking of hookah masters, who managed to take part in some of our competitions. We have been working on this system for a long time.
We have developed our own rating, which takes into account the activity (participation, victory, etc.) in the scores of each team. Rating changes dynamically from event to event. We also did a great job in our archives, we added most of the old participants. The functionality of the system also implies markings on a geographic map (where you can smoke hookahs from champions), available sponsorship offers for top teams (at the launch stage), forms for sending messages / offers to teams. Under the link you can get acquainted with the system:
Today we have summed up the results and it turned out that of the innumerable number of teams – EgorChigridov took the top of the rating.
Over the past 8 years, Egor took part in 6 major league competitions in 3 countries, earning many achievements and awards. Any participant for the first time being on top of this rating receives the highest award – “Legend of the Hall of Fame Hookah Battle“. Numbering is also assumed (1st Legend, 2nd Legend and so on). Thus, Egor became the very first and honorary member of this title, with which we congratulate him!
Interview with Egor Chigridov
HB: Tell me a few words about yourself and how you started doing hookah.
Egor: Hello, guys. My name is Egor Chigridov, many of you could see me in their city at a presentation or a workshop. (Egorregulary travel and do hookah masterclasses).
I had my first encounter with hookah in 2005 when I first smoked it in some place in Tula. I believe it was tobacco Baya that was sold in chic fabric bags. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with this business and have been developing myself in this field for many years.
HB: What hookah projects did you manage to participate in so far; where did you work?
Egor: I started to work as a hookah maker in lounge-cafe Chaihona Izum in Tula. Just a month after I became a senior worker and was training the newcomers. Then I took part in the first HB (ed. Hookah Battle), which became a powerful catalyst for further career development. Since 2012 I have started an outsourcing network in Tula under the company Nargilia, which operates to this day.
I opened my own places like The OFFICE and The LOFT, which started off quite successfully. At the moment they are not functioning because of my permanent occupation and proper attention I could not provide them with anymore.
HB: Why did you decide to participate in the very first Hookah Battle in 2011? The theme was incomprehensible and unspecified while it was necessary to go to another city.
Egor: Having been working as a senior hookah maker, I saw that Hookah Battle would take place in St. Petersburg. I was extremely interested in this topic, although, as you said ‘the theme was incomprehensible and unspecified’. But since I was very confident in my abilities (probably even more than now) I asked for some time off at work and used the tips, which I managed to save from work, to go to Peter (ed. short for Saint Petersburg). I don’t regret it not even a bit, because, as I said earlier, the participation in that battle gave me a powerful impetus to development.
And of course, I met many hookah figures whose names are still around. I think if I had gotten frightened at that moment and decided to wait, I wouldn’t have become who I am now. By the way, in my opinion, August 2011 can be considered as the starting point in the creation of the hookah community in its modern form.
HB: In 2012, you were the first one to make a hookah from the samovar and participated with this work in the competition in the winter of 2012. However, you didn’t get the prize. Why do you think that happened?
Egor: After the participation in the first HB in 2011 (I think, the points made it the 5th place) it became clear that this is just the beginning and I will not rest until I win it. At the time of preparation for the second championship, I had a partner with whom we started to work on the idea of hookah for the next competition. We did not have to think long – we are from Tula, and the symbol of the city in addition to the famous Tula pryanik (ed. flat honey cake, traditional Russian delight), is Tula Samovar! After that, we had to figure out the technical part because the task was to make our hookah multifunctional. In other words, our hookah would have to be used to smoke but also to drink tea from (samovar after all). As a result, it turned out the way we wanted. Well, of course, it was half-baked(?) but the judges obviously fancied such a machine, considering that we also served pryaniks to the referee’s table
Why didn’t we win the prize? I think it was meant to happen that way (we were 0.2 points short for the third place) to make us angry and literally ‘go off’ at the next battle. Of course, I don’t want to belittle the merits of our rivals. Like the hookah-winner in the shape of a candlestick from OlyaArutyunova. At that time, it was the highest grade.
HB: Tell me about your first victory in 2012. What was the hookah? How long did the preparation take you, the story with the carriage, impressions from the first victory?
Egor: Ooh, that was epic. After we returned with 4th place, the next step for us was to at least get into the top three. Also since HB had already been announced for the summer we started to prepare. So, we have already used pryaniks and samovars, and we thought what else is our city known for. Right – the guns. The hookah from the TT pistol couldn’t work, it was only possible to make such a cigarette holder. My girlfriend at that moment (now my wife) Anya has offered to make a hookah-cannon. She designed it with amendments to our ‘fillers’. We found a master who agreed to undertake this work in a short time as we had a little more than a month. Initially, the form for casting was ordered from masters in Krasnodar, later it has been moved to Tula. It should be noted that the form weighed 250 kg. After that followed the casts, firing, etc. The material was – chamotte clay, they used to use it for the monuments. In the end, the gun itself weighed 100 kg without a device inside.
We planned to transport it to Peter by car. So we had to leave early in the morning, we came at 11pm the day before to pick up the ready cannon. However, as it turned out the master was a little confused and did not specify some detail: he made all the holes we needed in millimetres although the drawings said centimetres. We had to leave the next morning. What should I do? The master told us to go search the city for a diamond drill because as I said the material from which the cannon was made was extremely firm and the usual drill would not help. All night he worked on these holes. I think he cursed the day he agreed to have anything to do with us. In the end, we left to Peter with a 6-hour delay but we still did. It is worth saying that with all these problems we had we hadn’t prepared a hookah in the cannon and decided to leave it to the night before the battle. In St. Petersburg we had put it together (the gun itself consisted of 2 parts) and tried to smoke it. Overall, everything was fine. It was at the battle only when we faced other problems. First, we didn’t take into account the sand (HB was held on the beach), so we had to remove the wheels from the trolley that held the cannon. Then we were slightly let down by the guys who promised us to deliver dry ice as we originally planned that the barrel of the cannon would let out the smoke. So we just glued the fireworks-fountains to it but it looked not as epic as we imagined. And last, there was the water ribbed hose inserted in that cannon instead of a hookah shaft. The liquid would get into the ribs of the hose while purging which made smoking uncomfortable.
The only way to solve the problem was to pick up the perfect quantity of water in the base so it would not happen. And we did it. I still remember the mix we had: Romman Blackberry, Nakhla Mizo Blueberry and StarbuzzWildberry Mint. In the base – mors (ed. non-carbonated Russian fruit drink). Great fragrance. When we pulled this ‘miracle’ onto the stage, everyone was in a slight shock. Hookahs of that scale have never been presented at HB before. We confidently came first beating even the robot which was made by Serega Zaghumenov.
We were given the highest points from the judges (before they started using the Schulze method) and Ilya Bychkov (Voskurimsya) even gave us a maximum of 40 out of 40. That’s how we finally won the HB.
HB: In 2013th you were the only participant from Russia who went abroad to our first Hookah Battle in Cairo, Egypt. Tell me, how was it?
Egor: It was an interesting experience. After learning about HB in Cairo, I decided to try to take part there as well. I didn’t try to invent some special hookah, decided to go with a proven samovar instead, as well as make a small show taking valenki (ed. traditional winter footwear) with me, tulup (ed. sheepskin coat) and ushanka-hat (ed. Russian fur cap). Russian flavour. VovaBorisov flew with me from Samara Hookah Place, so to speak, to support. Travel to Cairo cost us about $1000 per person (with exchange rate $1 = ₽30, of course). The HB was supposed to be held for two days at some exhibition. It was very hot, about 35-40°C and the venue was outdoors.
As I understood, they cancelled the first day due to the heat. But the second day began with surprises. Arrived at the venue, we saw literally a tumbleweed. There were hookah stands on the streets but they were empty.
Jacob, the president of SB Las Vegas, passed by us and only in the conversation with him I learned that the Minister of Health of Egypt came and almost under the threat of closing the whole exhibition ordered to remove all hookahs. Yes, apparently, even in Cairo they are fighting with smoking hookahs. Our mood was so-so.
But Amro, the chief referee, offered us to move to his place called Vella (in Cairo it means, roughly, “Add the Heat”) and there I was able to make a hookah-samovar although without the planned performance.
In general, the trip to Cairo was extremely interesting. We saw the pyramids in the Giza area, rode camels (do not sit on them, the local ‘businessmen’ always try to take advantage of Russians there, Borya and Stas should remember).
Then we visited one of the largest markets in the world, where you could see and buy for nothing authentic hookah things. Yes, we had a lot of fun, actually. The trip to the jewellery shops was worth it: someone sat next to Borya on the front seat – a conductor, who then moved to the back and from there was giving directions. When we were flying back, they tried to take away my samovar, explaining in a very broken English that it was antiques and I had no declaration. We almost had a fight, I think then we would have been definitely shut down. This is how our trip to Cairo ended. By the way, I just recently learned that I was given first place in absentia at that battle because Amro tried hookahs of all participants and he liked mine the most. As they say, ‘I even have a certificate’ (ed. quote from a Soviet movie Beware of the Car).
HB: Why did you lose your interest to participate in Hookah Battle after 2014?
Egor: It’s not a very nice story, but it’s worth shedding light on. At the beginning of the 2014th, the HB was held in Minsk. For that battle, I prepared a great hookah together WithVovaShapobov. Vova was engaged in the technical side and I worked with the shisha.
The battle’s theme was the 80s, respectively all hookahs and performance had to be in that style. We had a hookah-vacuum cleaner that smoked itself. ‘Inside’ was one of my signature shisha – Ginger.
Before the beginning of the event there was a replacement of the judge: instead of the German judge was presented local one from Minsk. Buttle came to an end, everyone who tried our hookah in one voice stated that it is the best hookah on HB. We were ready to accept congratulations but when announcing the results we learned that we came third. It was a big disappointment.
After that, I looked through the sheets of judges (they immediately appeared in the open access) and having counted the final scores of each of the judges we should have come first. I counted again – the same. But then I started to add not the general points but each criterion and have noticed, that at one of the judges had our initial points crossed and lowered by one. But the final point the judge has forgotten to correct. I had a rather unpleasant conversation with the organizers who indirectly confirmed my assumptions. Then one of the judges dispelled all my doubts at the after-party: “Yegor, don’t you get it”. By the way, no wonder, the first two places were taken by local teams. To put the cards on the table, organizers did not want the team under their brand to take first place so there would be no rumours. But I still believe that in Minsk, Vova and I were way ahead of everyone, the guys will forgive me. So I said that as a participant I would no longer perform at HB but I could become a judge without any problems so that such situations would not happen in the future.
HB: You also managed to be a judge for Hookah Battle several times, what do you say about your impressions?
Egor: Yes, indeed, after that incident (in Minsk) I participated only as a judge on HB.
I judged from regional competitions (I will never forget Angarsk – it is a different story in general), the championship in Uzbekistan (Olezhka, it’s hard to forget, isn’t it?) to the world cups in Moscow.
Even had a chance to judge at the women’s championship in St. Petersburg. I can say that this is a completely different story: I used to look at the judges as some sort of gods who make our destinies (with many of them, by the way, I became friends), and now I have become one of them. I can say that I definitely like the judge’s position. There is no more fuss, nerves before a battle when you’re afraid that suddenly something will go wrong, suddenly something will break, etc. Everything is quiet, calm, you sit on the other side, smoking participants’ hookahs and evaluate them. However, now the responsibility is much bigger because by some decision you can chop the enthusiasm of young guys. Therefore, I always try to approach the guys after the end of the battle and explain this or that decision, to motivate the overall assessment, to point out the weaknesses so that the next time they eliminate them and participate again instead of stopping half way. Often, such conversations help a lot.
HB:What do you think about Hall Of Fame and the award you got?
Egor: Clearly, this is a very interesting idea. I think many would like to be part of this Hall of Fame, not to mention becoming its Legend.
But in addition to all the regalia, I would add something that can be worn, be it a small badge, or a high-quality T-shirt/sweatshirt, which one wouldn’t be ashamed to wear. How did I learn about my award? It was funny: StasMedkov (one of the founders of HB) wrote to me and asked to register a team on the site to count my points. In three hours he texted me again, and it is necessary to notice that at that moment I was in Vladivostok, it was 3:30 am. He told me that, having counted points, I unexpectedly took first place. Accordingly, became the first legend of HB. Frankly, it was very pleasant, because once I was young and inexperienced and started my way from these competitions. Now I became the first Legend. Cool! It turned out there was something else. A small bonus of 100 USD. Not a big thing, of course, but it was again very unexpected and damn nice!
HB: What do you do now: what kind of work, what projects? Is it possible that you’ll appear as a member of Hookah Battle anywhere else?
Egor: At the moment, as I said, I am still developing myself in the hookah sphere. Now together with the Meg-Holding company started Turbo Tour around Russia and abroad. This is a completely new project in which at presentations I introduce people with a product such as Qoco Turbo coal and most importantly how it is produced and what problems arise with hookah coal in Russia. In fact, the topic is very interesting, especially given that we people know absolutely nothing (in most cases) about coal. I like to tell you something new. By the way, speaking about HB, ZhenyaMatveyev (founder of The company Meg-Holding) judged that very same battle when I won. Now we are friends and work together. How’s this not an incentive for development?
To follow my schedule of movement and news from the regions see my social networks:
Telegram (Hookah Travel)
HB: What do you like to smoke yourself/at home? What brands do you respect? What hookah are you using?
Egor: Actually, I basically don’t smoke at home. From the moment when my son was born. And I tell you I don’t regret it. In order to keep myself together, I sometimes take shifts in some venues across Russia. But, of course, at home, I have a warehouse with quite rare or withdrawn from circulation tobacco. Such as Nahla Earl Grey (250 g), Tangirs Sea Buckthorn or Ginger Pryanik by Fantasia. These, if I may say so, the gold of my collection. Though I remain a Guava’s fan. The best that I have tried at the moment – Guava from the German brand Kismet which I was introduced with by ZhenyaFedotov from the company Point-Art. We also had a joint project called CheTour – the biggest tour over the industry’s history, in which I gave workshops in more than 70 cities in Russia. By the way, Zhenya is also an old guest at HB. For example, he judged the first championship in 2011. So everything is connected.
HB: What would you like to wish the new participants at Hookah Battle who want to succeed?
Egor: I guess I will say nothing new but guys, nothing is impossible. Your limitations and fears are only in your head! Do not be very upset if you don’t take the prize-winning place. I won HB only at the third trial! Try, experiment, have fantasies and one day you may feel an inexpressible emotion, lifting the HB cup over your head!
It was Egor Chigridov. Smoke only good hookahs and see you in your city!