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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 28, 2012
Polska... tastes good!
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Top Chefs Descend on Poland
September 28, 2012   
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The best chefs from the Cook It Raw organization came to Poland from all over the world in August to learn about Polish regional cuisine. During the four days they spent in the Suwałki region, they made dishes based on traditional products from this region in northeastern Poland.

Cook It Raw is about a culinary return to the basics, a program that promotes cooking with natural ingredients and with as little newfangled technology as possible. It is also an opportunity to discover new local flavors in different countries.

Cook It Raw was launched in 2009 when Rene Redzepi (pictured), head chef at the Noma restaurant in Denmark, invited several other chefs to a cooking session, asking them to prepare a meal using only ingredients they could get from a nearby forest. These sessions developed over time, but the idea is still much the same: cooking together with fresh products gathered, fished or hunted. Only the best chefs and a handful of trade journalists get invitations. Cook It Raw is held in different places around the world. The last three meetings were in Italy, Lapland and Japan.

The aim of the Cook It Raw project in Poland was getting maximally close to nature and showing the chefs and accompanying foreign journalists the extensive range of Polish organic, regional and traditional products. The guests fished and then smoked the fish, and learned how to hunt and dress ducks and how to gather different fruits of the forest. After that, they used these products to cook their culinary masterpieces. The Polish partners of the project were the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The event was held under the auspices of Poland’s First Lady, Anna Komorowska.

Speaking at a press conference opening the project, Poland’s deputy agriculture and rural development minister, Tadeusz Nalewajk, said, “Hundreds of unique farm products and foodstuffs are produced in Poland, a country with extremely diverse climatic conditions, unusually rich traditions and cultures in different regions, and boasting one of Europe’s last surviving genuinely rural landscapes. These products represent a unique and special quality that they owe to their place of origin, non-industrial crop growing and animal breeding methods as well as traditional production methods.”

Nalewajk added that the Suwałki region had been chosen for the international chefs’ meeting because the culinary traditions of past generations are cultivated there. The region also abounds in all kinds of fish, game, birds and products that could inspire the culinary masters. Before they started cooking, the chefs were offered a presentation of the Suwałki region’s culinary heritage. At a special banquet they were served sękacz cake, kindziuk sausage, deer tripe, borscht with eggs, stewed boar, bigos (sauerkraut and meat dish), smoked vendace fish, potato cake, bread on acorus calamus leaves, and many other delicacies.

The 15 chefs taking part in this Cook It Raw contest included Denmark’s Redzepi, whose restaurant has been voted best in the world several times; Australian culinary virtuoso Ben Szewry; head chef Pascal Barbot from L’Atrance in Paris, a restaurant that has the maximum three stars in the Michelin guide; and Poland’s Modest Amaro, whose restaurant was the first in Poland to win the “Rising Star” title from Michelin.

The August meeting of the Cook It Raw chefs in the Suwałki region was an opportunity to promote Polish cuisine around the world but also to promote natural Polish regional products. With this event, Polish products such as game, fresh fish, honey and mushrooms could receive even more attention worldwide and appear on the menus of the world’s best restaurants.
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