This month’s featured member is Chef Pawel. A culinary school graduate with a love of spice, Chef Pawel keeps it interesting in the kitchen by experimenting with strange ingredients and the spiciest of foods.
Where did you grow up, and how did the area influence your cooking?
I was born in Poland, but my family moved to Chicago shortly after. It’s hard not to develop a love for food when living in such a diverse city. While I grew up eating Polish food, my friends grew up eating stuff like Filipino, Mexican, Italian and Indian food. Trying their cuisines became a hobby of mine.
What is the most valuable skill you learned while attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts?
Although my school focused on French cooking, we were encouraged to master cooking basics. For example, we were taught how to cook a perfect omelet, an amazing risotto and a basic stock. The most-informative class that I took during college was about safe food handling. Everyone who cooks should know at what temperature meat is safe to eat, how-to store food properly and when it’s time to throw food away.
What is your favorite global food to prepare?
I love Indian and Pakistani cuisines because of their masterful use of spices and their great vegetarian dishes. I eat meat, but I’ve always liked vegetarian food more than the average omnivore. I really love any food that’s spicy and aromatic. Currently, I’ve been cooking a lot of authentic Mexican food because it’s the perfect type of food to eat when it starts to get a little warmer outside.
You claim to love weird foods. What are the strangest foods you’ve tried?
I’ve eaten chapulines, which are Mexican crickets. Once you get past the socially-ingrained “ick” factor, insects are a great source of protein and are actually leaner than any meat. More importantly, they taste YUMMY. I like to experiment by combining different ingredients that aren’t usually used together. This doesn’t always go well; one time I made pasta sauce with orange juice, basil and habanero peppers. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds!
Do you think more time is essential to good cooking?
I don’t know if taking time is essential to cooking well, but it definitely helps with some types of cuisines. A slowly-stewed curry is definitely going to taste better than one that is prepared in an hour. Around the holidays I spend a couple of days preparing food beforehand. Everyone thinks it’s crazy and a big pain, but I love it. It’s fun to watch a meal slowly come together over time.
You are a healthy eater. How do you incorporate raw fruit and veggies into your diet without getting bored?
I always have a bowl filled with fruit sitting on my dining-room table. I fill it with whatever is on sale at my local grocery store or farmer’s market. I’ve always liked raw fruit and vegetables, so it has never been a chore to eat them! However, having a variety available does help.
What hobbies do you have outside of the kitchen?
I’m kind of a big geek. I love video games, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. I also like anything science-related; I’m currently hooked on the new Cosmos show.
What other fun/interesting facts should we know about you?
My love for cooking is probably the most interesting and fun thing about me. I’d love to have my own food truck someday. I would sell different kinds of curries all over Chicago. Now, that would be awesome.
Learn more about our community, by visiting these recently featured members:
Know a good cook that should be our next Member of the Month? Or do you yourself want to be featured? Contact us!