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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » November 30, 2010
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Fresh Air
November 30, 2010   
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Karol Okrasa, one of Poland’s most popular chefs and a TV personality, talks to Ewa Hancock about Polish cuisine.

When people hear “Polish cuisine,” they usually think of bigos and pierogi. How would you like to promote Polish cuisine?
I believe Polish cuisine is about the beauty that hides in the ingredients rather than dishes. Dishes are about rigid norms that prevent you from noticing this inner beauty. For that reason, whenever I get the chance to promote Polish cuisine, I show it from the angle of groats, smoked meats, pickled vegetables, dried mushrooms, game and buffalo grass. I want to demonstrate that the possibilities are unlimited when it comes to creating new dishes and adjusting traditional ones to changing times. I thus translate traditional recipes into new and modern styles. I believe that this way, we can let in some fresh air while our national and culinary identity remain intact.

In a program sponsored by the foreign ministry, you teach the wives of ambassadors to Poland to prepare Polish dishes. What have they learned so far?
We have been on a tour of Poland already in the culinary sense. We have had pierogi from the east, we have had buckwheat, different kinds of cheese from Podlasie in the northeast and Podhale in the south of Poland, game dishes from Wielkopolska in the west, potatoes from Poznań, sour żur soup from the northern regions and pikeperch from the Mazuria Lake District. I want to show the ladies that Polish dishes are attractive and, contrary to what some might think, easy to prepare. I want my students to know that they can easily prepare the dishes in their own homes. Cottage cheese dumplings, pierogi and smoked saddle of venison have already been served at many ambassadorial residences. I have this dream for my students to become ambassadors of Polish cuisine around the world. We will soon join forces in preparing a Polish Christmas Eve dinner.

What will the Christmas menu be like at the Platter by Karol Okrasa restaurant?
It will be precisely what I used to eat at home, but of course the setting and preparation will be slightly different. Every guest will get to recall flavors from his or her childhood, but the form of the dishes might be somewhat different. There will be traditional dishes like carp, poppy-seed desserts and kompot, a drink made from dried fruit, but you will also find sturgeon served with buckwheat groats and turbot with goulash of sauerkraut. I will work hard to make this Christmas Eve dinner a very special event with a special ambiance, complete with a traditional Christmas wafer and hay under the table cloth.
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