Food champ does it again! Damian Wawrzyniak named one of world’s most influential chefs SECOND time in a row
For the second year running, chef Damian Wawrzyniak has been named one the planet’s ten most influential chefs in the food service industry.
Rubbing shoulders with household names such as Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson, as well as global superstars such as José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern, the Polish chef was ranked in an international study conducted by Just Food magazine using Twitter statistics gathered from the GlobalData Influencer platform.
“This accolade is very important for me,” he tells TFN, “especially given the current times.”
His latest triumph caps a remarkable career that saw the Pole start out by scrubbing kitchen floors in France. Moving to the UK in 2005, his star has continued to soar; becoming the first Polish chef to ever be awarded The Knight’s Cross by the President, Wawrzyniak has also cooked for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and been named by BBC’s Good Food magazine as one of the country’s Top 10 Food Pioneers.
However, just as he was plotting an aggressive expansion of his Pierogi Kiosk concept, covid-19 hit and left the global gastronomy industry reeling. His response to the pandemic became one of the key reasons for his latest award.
Harnessing the power of social media to the maximum, Wawrzyniak sought to present answers to the crisis rather than wallowing in defeat.
“Social media is vital,” he says. “It’s the way forward. I wanted to show people that, yes, we have issues, but here’s a way out. I don’t think it’s the right medium for negativity, so instead I wanted to use it to demonstrate positivity and solutions.”
With daily takings in his House of Feasts restaurant sinking to just 32 GBP at one stage, Wawrzyniak rose to the challenge by changing his restaurant model to include a delicatessen and by reaching out to connect to the local community.
“I remember posting one video online showing our dark and empty restaurant,” he recalls. “But in the space of twelve hours we had completely transformed it into a shop serving the village of Eye where the restaurant is located.”
Taking a hands on approach, Wawrzyniak personally began delivering bread on his bike while also maintaining a transparent and high profile on social media.
“A lot of people have copied our ideas, but I don’t mind that at all,” he says. “I’ve been inspired by others in the past, so it’s great to see that now it’s me that’s inspiring people in return.”
Forthright in his advice to struggling restaurateurs, Wawrzyniak is adamant that it is the shorter-term goals that need to be immediately addressed.
“Forget thinking three months ahead,” he says. “It’s all about getting customers now. To do that, change approach: be affordable but keep the same quality. If that means treating a product slightly differently, then do it. And above all, focus on the local community.”
In this respect, the chef has been keen to back up his words with actions: over the last few days alone, the chef has introduced a “pay what you like” option to some courses on his menu whilst also giving a nod to Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals by promising to serve up free pierogi on a first come, first served basis to any underprivileged kids.
By his own admission, Wawrzyniak has been helped copiously by his geographic location: “The British public are going out two or three times a week and, on top of that, getting a take-away or two. From what I’m hearing back in Poland, however, is that this wasn’t really happening, even before the latest round of restrictions.”
To this, his response is emphatic. “You need to support your favourite restaurant now more than ever before. Quite simply, if you don’t, then you can’t complain when your favourite restaurant disappears forever.”