Beata Marcińczyk talks to Iwona Niemczewska, the owner and chef of the restaurant “On the other side of the Mirror” in Szczecin, graduate of the “Grand Diplome” Le Cordon Bleu in London.
Beata Marcińczyk: How did the lawyer decide to become a restaurateur and cook? When was it? (since when does “On the other side of the mirror” function?)
Iwona Niemczewska: These professions have a lot in common: direct contact with people, many hours at work, after leaving work at home, still working, etc. In addition, life is one, so why sit comfortably in a place that developed immediately after graduation? My friends participating in the meetings I have prepared always urged me to open my own restaurant because I cook so well. At the time, we laughed that at the end of my legal career I would open up my own. At the same time I traveled all over the world and it was always my goal to meet people and their cuisine. There were definitely no restaurants in our city that would serve good food. Time flowed and the quality of dishes served did not change. That’s why I decided to stand on the other side – in the kitchen – instead of just sitting, eating and criticizing. Finally, on December 2, 2010, I opened a restaurant “On the other side of the Mirror” in my hometown, Szczecin.
B.M .: What is it that you find in the kitchen that is still your passion?
I.N .: Kitchen – it is first of all a craft that should be based on solid foundations and give a personal expression in what will finally be on the plate. There are great bosses who have their own style and their dishes are immediately recognizable. The same applies to good restaurants that change the menu, but the style of serving dishes is preserved there. I think I know about food, if only because of the number of restaurants visited in various countries around the world and my education, but I am still looking for my own style.
B.M .: She obtained the Grand Diplome of Le Cordon Bleu in London. It was difficult? How much does it cost – money and nerves?
I.N .: First of all, 9 months out of life. Classes 5 or 6 days a week, from morning to evening, so there was no time even for a short visit to a family home in Poland. A lot of stress, because each class is evaluated and there are both theoretical and practical exams in each semester. These individual marks plus exam points make up the final result. You can not “let go” for a moment. In addition to the school fee, there are also maintenance costs on the spot, i.e. renting a flat, transport and boarding costs, which in London are not low. Current prices for learning at Le Cordon Bleu are provided on the website.
B.M .: Your career develops very quickly. You are a juror during culinary competitions, as well as a culinary advisor, a trainer. You spend a lot of time traveling … these culinary. What recently surprised you especially positively, and maybe the so-called wtopa – how do the chefs say?
I.N .: I am disappointed by the more and more commonly accepted only quality. It’s getting harder to find good, everyday food. During my last trip to Italy a lot of sunset required finding good premises with a good local cuisine, the same I experienced in Greece, where once in the kitchens were not used as many finished semi-products as today. Interestingly, Italians work more and more often in Italian restaurants, and most often emigrants from outside Europe. Of course, it’s about money, or the cost of maintaining a restaurant, and the most people cost. On the other hand, I was positively surprised by the cuisine of the Basque Country, both at the highest level of the restaurant’s restaurants, as well as the one in the edition of simple pintxos bars. Mentioned bylejakość also finds expression in disregarding culinary craft. Recently, for example, a culinary freestyle is doing a career, which in most cases means the lack of craftsmanship. There are more and more attractive image places, but unfortunately, it often does not go hand in hand with good quality dishes.
B.M .: You can be painfully honest in assessing the cuisine of the premises you visit. Are you not afraid that someone will finally look for mistakes in your restaurant?
I.N .: Just like every man who does anything, I make mistakes, but I always draw conclusions from such mistakes and I will not do them again. I am very critical towards myself and my actions, and at the same time I put in a lot of heart in what I do. I care about the guest’s satisfaction, so we care a lot about the details both in how we prepare the dishes and in how the guest is served.
B.M .: Apparently a woman – a boss must have … appropriate character traits and a very tolerant partner. After all, it’s not a job that lasts 8 hours, with free weekends! Have you ever felt that the chefs – men did not take you seriously because you are a “baba”?
I.N .: How men treat women, most often results from the education they brought out of family homes. Woman in the kitchen rather associates with the cook in the canteen, rather than with the chef in a good restaurant. These are pictures we have become accustomed to over the years and now we need more years to make the image of a woman – the chef become as natural as a man – the chef. Instead of proving to each other where its (historical) place is, it is better to work and the effects of this work to form a professional position. A tolerant and supportive family is the basis for people working in gastronomy.
B.M .: What kind of cuisine do you promote in your restaurant? Without what products you could not get around?
I.N .: I studied at two French culinary schools Le Cordon Bleu and Paul Bocuse Institute, so I will always use French cuisine techniques, which will be found in cuisines all over the world, whether in the currently top Peruvian or South African cuisine. The combination of French techniques and local products is a recipe for a good kitchen. In “Mirrors” we cook from scratch, using as many local products as possible, but we are still far from, for example, an orthodox style, eg Scandinavian cuisine based largely on local raw materials. In our other dishes inspired primarily by the diversity of Mediterranean cuisine, we try to use original products. It is known that haloumni cheese must come from Cyprus, and the fry from Israel or Lebanon, just as the espelette pepper from the French Basque Country is unique, etc. If I had to replace the products without which I could not do it, they would be dairy products.
B.M .: As an entrepreneur, you have learned the difficulty of running your own business. What problems have you encountered? Which one do you have your own prescription for?
I.N .: Running a restaurant means a huge number of problems, largely unrelated to cooking. I would even say that cooking, although often physically exhausting, is the most pleasant part of running a restaurant business. Supply logistics, people management, perishable equipment (most often at the weekend), and recently, for example, the failure of the water supply has made our life difficult for almost 10 days by flooding the warehouse. These are the aspects of running restaurants, which the guest does not realize, and good. Restaurateurs are just so that these everyday problems and challenges are not noticeable to the guests and, above all, that they do not affect the quality of our work. It is difficult for me to answer whether I have some special own prescription, maybe I try to never give up, because in this business shortcuts very quickly reflect the quality. However banal and maybe naively it would not sound, I believe in everyday effort, which must ultimately bring the final success – just like in sport.
B.M .: What can you wish for the future? What are your plans?
I.N .: Continue the culinary quest and create your own style. I would like to present Lustrzane Gourmet Street Food again at the earliest opportunity. I have a lot of culinary knowledge and I like to share it, so the natural consequence will be the culinary studio.