One of the few restaurants with an ever-changing monthly menu, Milk&Co, located in Krakow’s Radisson Hotel, serves up everything from Mexican to Italian to Thai, all meticulously prepared by Executive Chef Piotr Pabisiak. With 20 years of experience as a chef and 13 years at the Radisson, Mr. Pabisiak has explored a variety of cuisines throughout his career. The Krakow Post caught up with him to enquire about the challenges of preparing such a diverse variety of dishes.
Krakow Post: Why did you become a chef?
Piotr Pabisiak: As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a car mechanic. However, when I was applying for mechanic school, I decided that it wasn’t the right career for me after all for several reasons: first, it’s cold in those workshops in the winter. Secondly, there was the thought of washing my hands to get the grease off every day… I decided I should try something more pleasant. And so I applied to a culinary school.
KP: Well, I suppose cooking has its fair amount of assemblage and grease…
PP: It’s also a difficult profession, but every day is different. Every day there’s a different type of client, different palates; in other words, a lot of variety. Every day I’m also learning new things, because I like to get feedback from our guests, to get ideas from them. Sometimes I then use their ideas in the restaurant, and sometimes I save them for the future. I love it when guests tell me about the different types of food they’ve encountered on their travels.
KP: Is there anything a client suggested that you’ve incorporated here?
PP: One suggestion I’ve taken to heart is to try to introduce oriental elements into the various dishes. There was a trend in Poland, which still exists, for Mediterranean cuisine, and now the trend is for Asian foods – Thai, good Chinese, good Korean, Japanese. You can see how quickly new places are popping up right now all over Poland. These are foreign tastes for us, which makes them interesting. It’s an original style of cooking, and it’s complicated, because each cuisine has its own special ingredients, which cannot be substituted. If the recipe requires ginger, it has to have ginger, if it needs a Thai dwarf eggplant, I cannot use a normal eggplant because it tastes completely different.
KP: I know that it’s still hard to find much Asian or other “exotic” cuisines in Poland. Have you had difficulties in convincing people to try something different?
PP: Maybe some 15 years ago I had difficulties. But today, in general the guests are open to anything. I’ve noticed specifically that more and more clients will ask for and trust my recommendations. In the past, if a client had never heard of a dish or a cuisine, he would never try it – even my own daughter was like this!
In general, it brings me pleasure to bring others pleasure through my cooking. A client’s satisfied, smiling face is the best reward a chef can receive. But I’m also open to a guest’s criticisms if they crop up, because it’s a good way to learn and improve my skills. I want to listen to what the client has to say, because sometimes it’s just a matter of culinary misunderstanding. Sometimes what the guest imagines based on the menu and how the dish comes out is completely different, so by talking we can clarify our expectations.
KP: And what have you been serving here at the Radisson lately?
PP: We have some “standard” dishes that are recognised anywhere, such as tomatoes with mozzarella, except that the mozzarella is the original kind made from water buffalo milk. There is a large selection of oriental dishes, but not necessarily specific regional cuisines, but rather my own original recipes, which is more like fusion cuisine – a mixture of the Orient with Mediterranean tastes. I’m a fan of fresh fish, and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday we have a kind of “fish market”, where I can exchange ideas with our guests and vice versa. It’s a very popular event called the “Surf & Turf Buffet”. We try to show the clients that seafood is not just about fish sticks, that there are many different kinds of fish. I’m always trying to import new varieties. Of course, fish are very healthy as well.
KP: So what is your favourite meal?
PP: For sure the turbot fish, steamed with a bit of sea salt and served with olive oil. In general, I prefer the simplest dishes. I can eat this dish twice a week, and I still haven’t gotten bored with it even though I’ve been eating it for five years now!
You can try Mr. Pabisiak’s dishes for yourself daily at the Radisson in Krakow.