Feature Friday: Mike Paradowski
Mike is the first Eataway cook in the USA. Check out his profile and book a place: http://www.eataway.com/profile/5517339.
What does food mean to you?
For me food is an expression of the cook’s personality and creativity and a reflection of the culture.
How did you learn to cook? Was cooking always a part of your life?
I was first experimenting at home, and subsequently trained in the kitchens of several five-star hotels and culinary schools including Kurt Scheller’s Academy, Le Cordon Bleu and l’École Ritz Escoffier.
What do you like the most about hosting?
I enjoy the good atmosphere over sharing food, a meaningful conversation, and meeting new people. Before joining Eataway I had hosted over 30 guests at my place through CouchSurfing, and was always trying to have some hot food for them, often showcasing our culinary tradition. It is also very rewarding to see people enjoying the food and returning.
What is the most unforgettable meal you have ever had?
There are a multitude of factors that make a meal memorable – the company, food, venue, occasion, amount of time spent at the place… So there is no one time that I would single out. But if you really pressed me, I liked an evening at the Atelier Amaro where I was able to take my girlfriend after winning a Michelin contest, even though I did not necessarily agree with the concept of all the dishes.
What is one ingredient you always have in your house?
There are many: organic eggs, whipping cream, extra virgin olive oil, lemon or lime, avocado, olives, garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, aceto balsamico di Modena, bay leaf, hazelnuts or cashews, sea salt with Mallorcan herbs, butter, blue cheese, wild cold-smoked salmon, arborio and Thai jasmine rice, durum pasta.
What is something interesting about your country's food culture?
The variety and richness of fish, meats and produce and the rich culinary heritage, which was partly stifled during the socialist food shortages, but remains preserved in the cookbooks of e.g. Ćwierczakiewiczowa or Monatowa, on whose pages you can find parmesan, quail eggs, ris de veau and several other ingredients you may not have thought of. Remember that the two best-stocked delicatessen in Europe before the Great War were in St. Petersburg and Warsaw. Also characteristic are the acquired salty-sour tastes of pickles (salty dill pickles, sauerkraut…), fish (salted herring) and dairy produce (kefir, soured milk), poppy seed-based desserts, the multitude of potato dishes (with all its regional variation, especially in the east of the country), the gamut of nourishing soups, wild mushrooms, specialties such as smoke-dried kabanos sausages or smoked ewe’s milk oscypek cheese, among the plenitude of others… I also appreciate the fact that mass industrialisation took a bit longer to come to Poland than in the west, meaning that finding uncontaminated or organic produce is not that difficult, and even the regular vegetables and fruits are on average much more flavourful than e.g. in the US.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
It would have to be something tasty, healthy and containing all the necessary nutrients – probably a tender medium-to-rare grass-fed meat or fresh-caught wild fish, a creamy potato purée, and savoury crisp glazed veggies. A salty dill pickle on the side would do no harm.
If you could invite 3 people in the universe to one of your meals, who would you choose?
If it were only once, Steven Hawking, The Dalai Lama, and whoever else happens to inspire me at the time, possess life wisdom and modesty. If it were on a regular basis, it would always be the people close and dear to me.
Your table is full of travelers, what 3 things do you suggest they do in Warsaw?
It depends on what you are interested in, but I usually recommend the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the backyards of Próżna St., the Royal Route with detours to the Saski Gardens and the main campus of the university, Warsaw University Library and (the view from) its rooftop gardens, crossing the river to see Praga with the brown bear enclosure, the homemade-style ‘bar mleczny’ eateries, the pre-war brick tenement houses and their backyard Saint Mary shrines, and the nightly view of downtown from the Panorama Bar at the Marriott.
What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Apart from cooking I enjoy hiking in the countryside and the mountains, books, theatre, good journalism and music.
What is your cooking style like? Do you listen to music, plan ahead, make a mess, etc…
Since I usually attempt to introduce variety and serve a full 3-course meal, often with an amuse-bouche, I plan ahead to ensure that all the ingredients are there. I usually do not follow recipes to the letter, but instead try to be more creative and experiment with what good-quality and seasonal ingredients there are at the butcher’s and farmers’ market. I need space and order in the kitchen. Sometimes I may put on some energising music, but usually I will prefer the sounds of nature through the open window.
What is your favorite food?
My favourite cuisines are Polish, Russian, French, Italian, Thai and fusion, but there are plenty of other dishes that I enjoy as well.
-Mike; Bloomington, Indiana / Warsaw, Poland