I was born in Poland in 1983 and moved to Australian with my mother in 1989 where I grew up in Balmoral, before moving to Manly. After finishing high school, I went to the Australian Catholic University in North Sydney to study a Bachelor of Business, however, my attempts at applying myself repeatedly failed in favour for my passion of cooking. I deferred my degree to qualify as a Chef.
My grandmother played a large role in my passion for good food from an early age. Having grown up in Eastern Europe, where it was the norm for the whole family to convene every Sunday for a family lunch; I found myself in the kitchen on a weekly basis with my grandmother. Before helping to prepare the lunch, we would pick all our own fruit and vegetables from the family farm, this is a childhood memory that I cherish to this day. I still have photos from kindergarten attending fancy dress days as a cook with a painted on mustache and a wooden spoon in hand.
The person to whom I owe the most for kick starting my career was my first primary mentor and friend Steven Lloyd. Hailing from Newquay, England, Steve worked in some of Britain’s top restaurants before moving to Australia and setting up the food operations at the now closed Pier26 bar in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. With Steve taking me under his wing in late 2001, I was extremely fortunate to be exposed to an array of cooking techniques and culinary influences from cuisines around the world. Most apprentices will choose a nationality of cuisine or cooking style, whether that be French, Italian, Asian, café, brasserie, fine dining or molecular gastronomy – to my fortune, I got a taste of it all!
Having been given the foundations to tackle most food styles in their basic forms, I wanted to refine my skills and thus in 2004, I went to work at Sydney’s iconic Bathers Pavilion at Balmoral Beach under world-renowned chef Serge Dansereau. It was here that I took my foundations from Pier26 to an elevated level where they culminated into having one of my recipes published in Serge’s cookbook “The Bathers Pavilion:” John Dory with boudin rose beetroot consommé, horseradish and onion puree.
In 2005 an opportunity arose to gain managerial experience in one of Manly’s brand new high-end restaurants, Whitewater. Leaving Bathers Pavilion, I worked at Whitewater in a Sous Chef role until 2009 with chef and friend Luke Cesare (The Newcastle Club). Seeking to acquire “the full package,” my next challenge was catering to high volume, consistently and at an exceptional standard, which lead me to the eternally busy and successful Hugo’s Manly, with chefs Massimo Mele and Pete Evans. Working for Massimo from 2010 taught me organizational, planning and managerial skills that I will use for the rest of my career and above all I was taught to value of consistency: where flavor and value for money is preferred over well written menus that disappoint on delivery with poorly executed “wow factors.”
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
No. I have always loved eating, but never saw myself doing the cooking for a living. I decided I wanted to be a chef only later in life and it was only through a chance occurrence that I was thrust into a commercial kitchen one night due to a staff member being ill. I used to port part-time behind a bar in a wood-fired pizza restaurant while at university when the chef asked me if I could don white jacket and assist in basic food preparation and cold larder on one evening. I accepted his offer with trepidation and was instantly hooked to the comradery, passion and adrenaline rush of service. Needless to say, I never worked front of house again.
How would you define your style?
“Refined rustic” – with emphasis on flavour and consistency.
What is your feature flavour these days?
Spices, richness, decadence and boldness.
Obsessive compulsive about?
Consistency, tasting (seasoning), labelling (kitchen tape), food storage (organisation), portion control, tidy bench space and generally most things.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
Gordon Ramsay for technique and philosophy, and Jamie Oliver for food styling and flavour.
What do you love about this business?
I enjoy passionate people, customer satisfaction, staff training, growth and education as well as the comradery that comes with this.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
Octopus tentacle, morcilla, burnt capsaicin, brassica “couscous” and crustacean consommé.
Tequila and lime cured Kingfish, sweet and sour eshallot, avocado, pomegranate, guindillas, cucumber and agave.