Marcin Popielarz is the young chef from Poland with a dream of elevating the profile of his national cuisine.
Together with his home country mentor chef for the competition, Wojciech Modest Amaro, the duo will represent East Europe with his signature dish of ‘Smoked Halibut with Cucumber and Dill’.
We managed to find out more about the busy young food ambassador in between cooking at the White Rabbit restaurant in Gdansk, Poland and running around after a young son. Here’s what he had to say:
Describe your signature dish…
My dish is not too complicated, this may be the reason why it appealed to the jurors. Its primary flavour – halibut – is cooked for 25 minutes at 52 degrees Celsius and then smoked over in the hay collected on the banks of my native river (wild coriander, water mint, wild caraway, 5 types of riverside grasses). Other ingredients merely emphasize the taste of the fish: cucumbers compressed in their own peel, crème fraiche made from whole-milk cream, ewes’ milk cheese with horseradish and dill with plenty of herbs.
I chose this dish because this way of serving white fish – with cucumbers, cream and dill – is a traditional recipe from my home region. It is simple and uncomplicated, and it tastes good.
What made you become a chef?
This occupation is often chosen by pure chance or due to the lack of a better alternative. At some point, however, you can see that something makes you stand out from the group, it is your creativity and logical thinking. This is when I realized that this can be quite a nice profession.
Who has influenced you in your career?
At the beginning of my career, I gained a lot from the Head Chefs of the Sheraton Hotel in Sopot. Thanks to them, I got exposed to haute cuisine as a young man (Tomasz Borucki, Krystian Szidel). This experience gave me an impulse to travel abroad where I had an opportunity to learn a lot from the Head Chef of the Social Eating House – Paul Hood, and Sous Chef – Danny Birk. My vision of Polish cuisine also evolved due to Esben Holmboe Bang’s Nordic cuisine. The Nordic ability of concentrating flavour and combining it with one’s own ideology is fantastic.
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 year’s time?
My dream is for Michelin to issue a guide which would include the whole Poland and then I see myself as the first Michelin-star Chef in the region of Northern Poland😊
How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor, Wojciech Modest Amaro, in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
Wojciech Amaro is the greatest Polish Chef of all times. It is an honour and a great pleasure to be learning by his side. We are focusing on a greater concentration of flavours and a better presentation of the dish. We still have 4 meetings left and I hope that everything will go as planned.
What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
The thing I am most excited about is the possibility of meeting young chefs from all around the world, chefs who think similarly to me and have the same goals 😊 Additionally, the competition which will be judged by the top Head Chefs from S.Pellegrino The Best 50 Restaurants is exceptionally inspiring and motivating.
Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
I think, it would crown a wonderful decade of the renaissance of the Polish cuisine during which we managed to obtain our first Michelin stars and raise the gastronomy level as high as we didn’t think was possible just a few years ago. This is the time of Polish cuisine and we will present our country’s sublime taste and the richness of our land.
If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
Right now, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else, but I think that my occupation wouldn’t be as fascinating, so that I could play my beloved soccer 😊
What’s your most memorable food experience?
The taste of the pickled beetroot soup cooked by my Mom at Christmas. Before I had any gastronomic knowledge, I was astonished by its rich flavour. Now, the whole world is using pickling as a means of gastronomic expression, and Poland played a great role in this due to the Cook It Raw event organized in Poland in 2012 on the initiative of my mentor.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Unfortunately, my free time is very limited 😊 I hope that this situation will last as long as possible, as these are the signs of being on the top. On the other hand my son brings me down to earth when we spend time playing football or Hot Wheels…