A day in a restaurant kitchen.

I started food blogging a bit more than a year ago as a hobby. Since then I cooked a lot of dishes and tested a lot of recipes. I started to watch more cooking shows, bought some cookbooks, and learned a lot about different cuisines. Slowly but surely, gastronomy became my real passion and a huge part of my life. Also, I was daydreaming a lot about cooking in a real restaurant. I imagined myself that I am standing in the big kitchen, cooking (creating) nice dishes, and serving them to customers. It might sound silly but somehow I wanted to do it 🙂

So I decided to contact a restaurant (recently I was doing a food photography shoot for them) with a request if I could come and join their chef for several hours in the kitchen. Luckily for me, they said yes 🙂 You should see my happy face when I was reading their reply 🙂 OMG! The s*** is real. I am going to cook in a restaurant. My dream will come true 🙂 Amazing 🙂 I got super excited to do that 🙂 To get into the right mood I watched a cooking tv show the night before. And then, when the big day came, I packed my notebook, pencil, and my camera and went to experience something new and really cool 🙂

So how was it? What was I doing and cooking? What have I learned during those several hours in the restaurant kitchen? Besides my findings, you can also read an interview with the executive chef. You will find out what you have to do in order to work in the restaurant. What are the key factors you have to follow if you want to be successful in gastronomy? And also you will get some inspiration. Are you ready?

A day in a restaurant kitchen.

After my arrival at Sissi Restaurant & Wine in Krakow city center, I was welcomed by the manager on duty and the chef, Maciej. I put down my stuff and discussed the plan for the day. My first task was to peel and grate some apples for the apple pie. For some of you it might sound boring, but trust me it is different when you do that at home and when you have a professional chef standing next to you 🙂 Once I was done with the apples (and the chef approved my work 🙂 ) we moved to prepare another dish, which was a focaccia. We kneed the dough and let it rest for some time. Meanwhile, the dough was growing we started to make the third dish already. This time it was a very traditional Polish cheesecake.

Here I want to point out that everything happened very quickly and we had to multitask a lot 🙂 In a restaurant, you have to be well organized as everything happens really fast. There are 5 minutes less time for everything, so no rest my friends 🙂 Besides cooking, we also had some time to speak about the dishes we were preparing. I learned a lot about the ingredients which Maciej is using and about the history of the dishes. Also, he gave me some tips on how to improve my cooking 🙂

Time for the interview.

When our cakes and focaccia were in the oven we finally had some time to do the interview. I asked Maciej a lot of questions about his job, his history, some tips for amateur chefs and food bloggers, and about gastronomy in general. Also, he gave me one of his recipes which you can prepare at home 🙂 (you can find it here)

Maciej Leonkiewicz

Maciej Leonkiewicz, the executive chef at SISSI Restaurant & Wine / Kraków, Poland

Maciej, for how long have you been working in the kitchen? 

I am working in restaurants since September 2013.

When did you discover your passion for cooking?

I was cooking at home for a long time. Think that I went to the kitchen for the first time when I was 7-8 years old. I started with baking and baked my first cake (lime pie) at the age of 15. Later I started to cook other dishes as well. Also, I was very determined to work in the restaurant one day.

What is your favorite dish, or drink? 

I am a fan of meats and my very favorite dishes are beef and elk tartare. My favorite drink is gin.

Why do you like cooking?

I like to create dishes, adrenaline, and emotions in the kitchen. This environment is unpredictable and every day is different. Also, I like to learn new things all the time.

How did you learn to cook? 

TV shows, books, and the internet (Youtube videos for example)

What is your goal in gastronomy? 

To open my own restaurant.

What cooking technique do you like the most? 

I like to slow-roast some meat. Like ribs for example.

What are the 3 key things you would like to say to amateur chefs and food bloggers?

First of all, cooking in a restaurant is a hard job and you have to work hard every single day. You also have to work a lot after you finish your job. Be open to seeing new places, tasting new dishes, and learning a lot of new things. As a second thing, I would say to strive for perfection. If you really want to improve your cooking you have to be critical. Last but not least, ask for feedback, otherwise, you will never improve.

What kind of chef are you?

I would say that I am a teacher. It makes me satisfied when I pass my knowledge to others and see that they improve their skills. Also, I am very patient and calm. I learned this throughout my career 🙂

What do you think about gastronomy? 

I see many differences between French and Italian cuisine and the rest of the world. In both countries, cooking is part of everyday life. Gastronomy in Eastern Europe is slowly rebuilding itself after the post-communist era. In Krakow, gastronomy is killed by tourists. The quality of the food is lower than in other cities in Poland. For example, Poznan or Wroclaw have much better food than places in Krakow as they have to satisfy mostly locals, and not so many tourists.

Which cooking TV show/cookbook / person do you like the most? 

I like Chefs Table from Netflix, and Jamie Oliver shows. Regards the cookbooks, I prefer British ones. They are more professional, and specific and the recipes are well-written. You know, sometimes I have a feeling that Polish cookbooks are about everything and nothing at the same time.

My favorite people from gastronomy are executive chef Adam Chrząstowski from Ed Red restaurant in Krakow, Polish chef Karol Okrasa and if I should name one from abroad it would be Adeline Grattard.

Why should people visit the SISSI Restaurant & Wine?

We cook authentic Central European dishes. Also, we are keeping our cooking simple and we do not use a lot of techniques in the kitchen. In this, we are real traditionalists.

Now back to the kitchen.

So meanwhile we did the interview our cakes and focaccia got ready. Also, the sous chef made several dishes for the customers and amazing aromas started to spread in the kitchen. And I got very hungry 🙂 But it was not the end yet. We started to prepare a dish for the upcoming Restaurant week in Poland. SISSI Restaurant & Wine is also taking part in it so if you fancy a good dish in Krakow then you should definitely check it out.

SISSI Restaurant & Wine

Starter for the Restaurant Week. Paté from roasted hazelnuts and Portobello mushrooms with fermented cranberries and tarragon.

Let’s sum it up now.

Once we finished the dish for Restaurant week (it is the one in the photo above) I slowly started to pack my stuff. I did not realize that it has been already 5 hours since I came and it was time to go home. The time went very fast 🙂 But it was definitely worth and I really enjoyed it. Cooking with a professional chef taught me a lot and gave me a lot of answers to my questions. Now I know for sure that I will stay with gastronomy for a bit longer 🙂 Also, you can be sure that my recipes will get better and better 🙂 So get ready 🙂

My TOP 5 learnings from the day in the restaurant kitchen.

  1. Cook, cook, and cook. This is the only way how to get good at it.
  2. Recreate as many recipes as you can.
  3. Learn the basic cooking techniques before you move to more professional ones.
  4. Taste as many dishes as you can.
  5. Enjoy and have fun in the kitchen. Once you do so, your dishes will taste way better 🙂

PS: Seems that this was not my last visit there 🙂

In case you have any kind of questions friends, let me know in a comment below or contact me via my social media channels. I will be happy to answer them 🙂 Ciao 🙂

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