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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » May 31, 2012
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Talking About Chefs
May 31, 2012   
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Piotr Grajewski, co-owner of Blue Cactus Restaurant in Warsaw, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

No self-respecting restaurant can afford to pinch pennies when it comes to hiring staff. This especially applies to chefs. Just what kind of chefs are there in Warsaw in terms of their professional level?
There is the five-star or international level and these chefs have international experience and excellent training and attitude. That’s the most professional level. Then there are private restaurateurs who are trying to organize their business on their budgets and assumptions, which do not always correspond with the remuneration expectations of the professional chefs, who are usually foreigners. Finally, there are Polish chefs who work for five-star hotels and international chains. For restaurateurs, these people are the most desirable, because they have the international experience and local understanding of the market, suppliers, etc.

The food and beverage (F&B) sector in the U.S., UK and Europe is much more developed than in Poland. Although we are improving, we are still quite provincial here.

Where do these chefs train?
When Poland joined the EU, many ambitious young people went to work in the UK.

It is a paradox. It was a tough but excellent training ground for them, and very helpful to our industry. It taught them service standards and client expectations. Now many have come back and are doing a great job here.

We have a few private colleges, which specialize in the hotel and restaurant business, but we don’t have culinary colleges dedicated to the F&B sector like in the U.S. In Poland young people may finish a technical high school and then gain experience on the job.

How do the wages of the top chefs in Poland compare with those elsewhere?
Because I have American partners, I tend to compare this business with what happens in the U.S. We are close to the U.S. pay levels. It is a bit tricky with top chefs. When comparing just the base salary we are one to one with the U.S. But then if you have a phenomenal chef in the U.S. then he is a millionaire there, while he wouldn’t be here. There is a completely different way of being involved in the business there, where these chefs may be offered shares in the business, etc. In the U.S., investors find celebrity or top chefs to open a business. We don’t have that in Poland. Here we usually hire chefs and have bonus schemes. For example, in my restaurant what we pay is very close to what chefs are paid in Chicago, but the bonus scheme is lower here.

People don’t understand that this is a hard industry, that you have to understand the restaurant business and hire the best if you want to succeed. The failure ratio in our sector in Warsaw and in the U.S. is close to 60 percent where restaurants don’t survive more than three years.
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