My life as a jet-setter: becoming the NCOTY is the best thing that ever happened to me

The Staff Canteen

Spring is here, clocks have changed to summer time – all we need now is for the weather to catch up.

 I love this time of the year. Living and working in the Cotswolds means lots of vibrant green grass, lambs jumping up and down and foraging wild garlic by the river. The scenery here is breathtaking, heavenly and beautiful. 

March has been a busy month for me.

Luckily, at The Feathered Nest, we are only open four days a week, so I can manage all the extra activities: in last 4 weeks, I have been to Poland and to London twice, as well as to Finland.

I judged Spring Board’s Future Chef competition; I cooked at a guest dinner in Poland, I jogged live on national TV while being interviewed; I cooked for journalists; I received an award from the Worshipful Company of Cooks; I visited a pulled oats factory in Helsinki; I hosted Chef’s Forum; I was on BBC Radio Berkshire; I met the Polish Ambassador in London; I attended a live press event in Warsaw to promote a TV program about my becoming NCOTY (Kuba Winkowski – British National Chef of the Year).

 As if I wasn’t busy enough, between all the travel and running the restaurant, I am finally getting closer to completing my ‘ultimate shed’ at home.  

 Using the NYCOTY cash prize, I am building my own development kitchen, which will double up as a studio (and a hiding space).

 As well as a woodfire oven, it will have a Japanese barbecue, an induction stove, a fridge and bar seats for 4-5 guests. All this is going to sit inside the log cabin. Here is some footage documenting the process of making our woodfire oven - more can be found on my social media accounts.

People say that winning the title of National Chef of the Year will open some doors and bring new opportunities; I never anticipated that it would afford me the ‘jet-setter’ lifestyle I am enjoying now.

 I am quite overwhelmed with the response here in the UK and Poland. The most exciting part is that this happens every year and it is open to all professional chefs.

 As the deadline to enter NCOTY 2020 draws closer (Friday, 12th of April), all I am trying to do is to motivate all of you.  I remember how hard it was to get ideas together and put them on paper. I was always too busy, I never had enough time, I set it back countless times.

 We all know that nothing comes for free; but as my mentor always used to say, you have to push yourself in life.

Sometimes I wonder where I am heading. I hope that from all the trips, TV appearances and extra work I am putting in, the future will be as exciting as the present.

There is no guarantee of course; it is quite possible that when the hype dies down, everything will go back to the way things used to be. This doesn’t worry me. Everything that is happening now is so beneficial to my progress as a chef, it is life experience that cannot be unlearned.

 And whatever happens, I will still be doing what I love most: cooking.

The same applies to any competition or challenge. It is great to win, but sadly there can be only one winner. You still have everything to gain by taking part. It doesn’t matter how far you go, because you will still become a better chef as a result. Most importantly, you will meet great people and mentors along the way. You will become stronger, more skilled and more determined to succeed than ever before.

 Time now to crack on; good luck!  

IMG 20190221 140132 794About Kuba Winkowski

Kuba has enjoyed cooking for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Poland where the restaurant scene and eating out culture hardly existed, a career as a chef was not highly regarded and did not give many perspectives - cooking was thought of only as a hobby.

He came to the UK to learn how to cook professionally, first at The Thanet College in Kent, then at Broadstairs in Kent.

Kuba won cooking competitions in two countries, did stages at Le Gavroche, Rhodes 24, Buckingham Palace and The British Embassy in Paris. His first full time job as a Commis Chef in Le Manoir aux quat’ Saison under Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones.

In February 2010, he joined the Timmers as Sous Chef, becoming head chef two years later. In his first year running the kitchen, Kuba was awarded 3 AA Rosettes. The chef has appeared on Saturday Kitchen on BBC2, Saturday Morning with James Martin on ITV.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th April 2019

My life as a jet-setter: becoming the NCOTY is the best thing that ever happened to me