Pierogi King looking to take Polish food GLOBAL with his Pierogi Kiosk concept
A Polish chef dubbed the ‘Pierogi King’ has set his sights on the world after revealing ambitious plans to take his UK-based Pierogi Kiosk concept global.
Damian Wawrzyniak, who moved to Peterborough in 2005, has previously cooked for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, appeared on the BBC alongside Mary Berry and been awarded the Knight’s Cross by President Andrzej Duda for his role in raising Poland’s profile abroad.
Having originally started out mopping kitchen floors in France, the 40-year-old’s rise to prominence has been rapid, with the Radziejów-born chef named last year alongside the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Nigella Lawson as one of the ten most influential people working in the food service industry.
Yet whilst the accolades have fallen thick and fast, this could yet be the beginning for the father-of-two. With his critically acclaimed House of Feasts restaurant already firmly established on Britain’s gastronomic landscape, the chef is hopeful that his side-project, Pierogi Kiosk, can take Polish food to the next level.
Currently operating in a pop-up, food truck format, early trials have been met with such enthusiasm that bricks-and-mortar ventures are soon set to debut in a string of British shopping centres with the ultimate plan foreseeing Pierogi Kiosks rolled-out the world over in such destinations as New York and Dubai.
“This year the focus is on marketing,” Wawrzyniak told TFN, “but from next year on we’ll be looking to launch around ten service points annually.”
As unlikely as it sounds, test-runs in towns like Spalding could be the precursor for far greater markets.
“Just today I’ve spoken to potentials investors in Dubai,” continues Wawrzyniak, “and though it takes anything from three-to-twelve months to go from a call to launching, the potential is there.
“I’m looking primarily at the West, but the universality of pierogi also make the Middle East an incredibly exciting market – as a food they’re so versatile that it doesn’t matter what faith you follow or what culture you belong to, they’re suitable for all diners.”
Poland, however, is one country that appears off the menu.
“Firstly,” says Wawrzyniak, “there’s a saying we have in Poland that goes something along the lines of, ‘you should never take wood into the forest’. On top of that, our pierogi are far from the classic you’ll traditionally find back in Poland – we like to experiment!”
First formulated and successfully trialled in the House of Feasts, Wawrzyniak’s pierogi are nothing if not boundary-pushing. Nutella, ice cream, roasted sweet potatoes and Angus pulled beef have all appeared as fillings, with the chef keen to showcase new tastes and flavours to his ever-expanding fanbase.
Despite the big plans, for the time being London, too, is off the cards: “London is a great place, but it represents a dangerous step for a chef – I’m very aware we need to learn to walk before we can run. Even so, I’m certain that once we do finally enter the London market it’ll be Canary Wharf that we choose as the location.”
Bold as it might sound, this is part of a clear strategy that has seen Wawrzyniak specifically target native custom rather than Britain’s sizeable Polish population.
“Poles and other Central Eastern Europeans are always going to find us,” he says, “but we want to open the door to new people. By just aiming our sights at Polish people we’re closing the door on others.”
So far, so good. Brits, says Wawrzyniak, have embraced Polish food.
“They’re always looking to discover new flavours and learn about them,” says the chef, “and that definitely plays into the Pierogi Kiosk concept – we want our staff to engage the customers and tell them all about the history of pierogi; how they came to Poland via Asia in the 13th century, and how us Poles eat through 120 million of them a year.”
Driving Wawrzyniak is the unrelenting desire to see Polish food elevated to the heights it warrants.
“I want to see it become as popular as Italian food,” he says. “When people go out for a meal, instead of saying, ‘hey, let’s go for pizza,’ I want to hear them saying, ‘what about Polish’.
“It took sixty to seventy-years for Italian food to become the global phenomenon it is today, but I’m sure that if every Polish chef and restaurateur followed in my footsteps then our cuisine could also become a household name around the globe.
“Our problem in Poland is that we’re just too shy about our food,” he concludes. “What we need to do is say to the world, ‘look at us! Look at our food!”