National Chef of the Year finalist- Kuba Winkowsi
From a young age, Kuba enjoyed eating although he says, “probably a little too much as I was a chubby child”. However, he was always looking for more than his mum's traditional cooking and from 9 years old, loved experimenting by adding herbs and spices to traditional Polish recipes. He still owns some of these handwritten recipes.
As he grew-up he took control of the home kitchen more, but at the time being a chef in Poland wasn't regarded as a career and there was no proper culinary education in place or even a real eating out culture. Mainly to keep his family happy, Kuba achieved a bachelor’s degree in financial management at the University of Management in Gdansk, Poland. However, the aspirations of being a chef didn’t go away and his drive and determination allowed him to find a way to make his dream come true. He arrived in the UK in 2004 and his culinary journey properly began when he enrolled on an NVQ Professional Cookery course at Thanet College in Broadstairs (now known as East Kent College).
Kuba achieved the NVQ Level 3 in both Kitchen and Pastry and Level 2 in Restaurant Service. He did regular work at Buckingham Place and Windsor Castle, as well as a one-month stint at The British Embassy in Paris. After college, he was offered a commis chef position at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and worked there for two and half years under the guidance of Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones. Keen to develop his skills and widen his knowledge he has also completed stages in Le Gavroche, Rhodes 24 and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Kuba describes his early career at Le Manoir as being the biggest inspiration. Being around such a passionate person as Raymond Blanc, soaking up his ethos, style, attitude to nature, environment and ingredients. These days Kuba is heavily inspired by old craft and craftsmen and loves to explore old techniques such as preserving, curing and smoking. His amazing suppliers also inspire him by coming up with new products and ingredients. Kuba loves to explore social media which is packed full of ideas and creativity that spark new dishes.
Kuba sees The National Chef of the Year as an amazing challenge with the possibility to push yourself, learn more about the craft and to see how you compare to other chefs. Reaching the final last year opened his eyes and taught him a lot so he wanted to give it another go. When his name was announced as a finalist, he felt a huge sense of relief. Having reached the final the year before there was a lot of pressure on his shoulders to do it again. The first person he called to share the news was his biggest fan and supporter, his loving wife. There weren’t any big celebrations on getting through though, as Kuba sees this simply as the first step and needs to stay focused.
Three ways you could describe Kuba’s style of cooking are seasonal, tasty and ‘based on classics’.