As a child Pawel Motzek wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the regimented world of the Polish army.
But instead his mother put him to work slaving over a hot stove at their home in Katowice and he discovered a commanding talent for food.
“She used to tell me to come home from school and cook all the ingredients she had prepared,” said the east Londoner who was recently appointed head chef at Docklands Bar And Grill .
“Hunter’s stew is the first thing I remember cooking when I was about 13.
“At that age you want to be outside with your friends. So when I was forced to cook dinner for my family I wasn’t very happy.
“But then I started seeing how happy they were and how much they enjoyed what I had made.”
He first started working in restaurants almost 13 years ago when he moved to London and has cooked at establishments including the Butlers Wharf Chop House in Shad Thames, The Grosvenor, Chez Gerard, Chris and Jeff Galvin’s restaurants and most recently the Sunborn Yacht Hotel in Royal Victoria Dock.
His appointment at the restaurant, located in the Crowne Plaza London Docklands hotel, follows a £70,000 makeover of the restaurant, with bosses pulling out all the stops to put it on the map.
“I never thought I would be a chef,” said the 35-year-old, “but I’m so happy with what I do and it is the only thing that suits me. I can see myself still in a kitchen in 30 years.
“I wanted to be a soldier but my father asked me not to and said he had served for 20 years for me.
“In a way being a chef is a bit like being in the army. It is very disciplined. You have to be very organised and have your sections to look after. I’m the captain of the kitchen.
“I try and be very friendly though and chat to my chefs about their weekends and personal lives and I don’t shout. But I am very strict about having a system to follow because a restaurant is all about timing and quality and, if the system fails, those things suffer.
“My favourite part of the day is when we are really busy and I look around and see the chefs working and focused and smiling – that’s the best memory for me, everything working smoothly. You get that feeling of immense satisfaction.”
He has revamped the menu at the hotel with the aim of bringing in flavours from across the globe with dishes such as glazed pork belly in sake and rice vinegar, grilled chorizo sausages with chipotle sauce and lamb vindaloo.
“Having travelled widely from an early age, I have developed a passion for discovering and trying new and exciting world ingredients,” he said.
“I want guests to feel at home when they come here, no matter where in the world they’re travelling from.
“For me, it’s all about fresh, simple, fusion cooking that won’t break the bank.
“My inspiration also comes from going out and walking down the street and watching people and seeing what they are buying and what is trendy but also what they consider a classic.”
He loves life in the capital but says his dream is to one day open a bistro in the “posh countryside” outside London where he says life is a bit more relaxed.
He said: “There is no way I would go back to Poland. I have lived in London 12 years and it is my home.
“I do go back to visit my family every year though, usually for Christmas.
“And my mum cooks for me now, even though she still hates being in the kitchen.”
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