My mentors taught me everything I know - now it's my turn to give something back

The Staff Canteen

Welcome back to my monthly blog.

June is here. I can finally sit outside, soaking up the warm air and collecting my thoughts.

May has been another crazy month full of excitement for me: I went to Poland to film some more upcoming TV appearances, I started a media training course; I cooked for the Polish Ambassador to the UK; I judged the ‘Create and Cook’ competition and I started training for the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts' ‘Adopt A School' trust.

As if this wasn't enough, life isn't slowing down: This week,  I will be in Norway for a culinary trip and my reward for winning the National Chef of the Year competition.

Passing the flame

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Speaking of the NCOTY, last week, 40 semi-finalists were announced. It is always an exciting time and this year I was waiting with anticipation, checking Twitter every 2 minutes for the results.

I would like to congratulate and wish the best of luck to everybody who went through to the cook-off stage. It was such an amazing feeling when my sous-chef’s name, Renemar Pinedo, appeared on the screen, indicating that he would be taking part in the third heat at the Cordon Bleu school in London.

Rene has been working with me for past six years and he is largely to thank for my becoming the NCOTY.

Everyone who has taken part in the competition knows how much work goes into it and that a lot of it isn't glamorous.

Rene’s dedication to my effort and the countless number of hours of his private time invested left me feeling very grateful. He deserves all my support in his future career.

One of many great things about having become the Craft Guild's NCOTY is how many opportunities to support and nurture chefs have arisen from it.

Judging competitions like 'Future Chef' and 'Create and Cook,'  for kids aged twelve to fifteen feels really great.

I've been working with the Chef’s Forum Academy for a few years now, doing sessions in local colleges. It is very satisfying to be able to pass your knowledge and skill. I almost feel it is my duty to help to educate a future generation of chefs, which our industry so desperately needs.

I remember exactly when I started college, with no knowledge, no knife skills and not a clue what it is like to work in a professional kitchen. All I had was a dream.

I was very lucky to meet great mentors along the way: first, at college, Frank Thompson and Paul Manning, followed by Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones. Without the time and effort they invested in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

This is not an easy task, as we are all under constant pressure; we are always busy and never have enough time to do everything, but being a mentor is so rewarding.

Rene came to do work experience with me while he was studying to become a chef in Holland. For some reason, he liked me and came back after he finished his course.

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Kuba and his sous-chef, Renemar Pinedo

It makes me proud and feels so good to see him grow over the years and develop as a chef. We have been through a lot of ups and downs, but now he is in the NCOTY semi-final. How great is that.

Another great example is Heather, who, after learning everything I could possibly teach her about pastry at The Feathered Nest Inn, is moving on to work with Benoit Blin at Le Manoir in one of the best - if not the best - pastry kitchens in the country.

You only get what you give

We can all do our bit to give back, to drive our industry forward. 

Starting next year, I will be teaching six year-old kids at my local primary school in Bourton-on-the-Water about food, cookery, food provenance, food growing, healthy eating, nutrition, hygiene, table etiquette and the importance of eating together as part of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts' ‘Adopt a School’ programme.

Though I feel a bit daunted by it,  I can’t think of anything more exciting and rewarding than helping others to discover things they didn’t know existed. The whole team behind the programme is so inspirational; they are so passionate that it is contagious. 

I am really looking into a month ahead. It already looks jam-packed with exciting stuff. Thank you for taking time to read this. I am off to do a last busy service before I pack my bags and fly away to do a bit of halibut fishing (and hopefully eat a lot of amazing food) in Norway. Be safe and share the love!


About 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 4th June 2019

My mentors taught me everything I know - now it's my turn to give something back