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Cooking up a storm: Chef puts Polish cuisine on the map

From Paula Newton, CNN
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wojciech Amaro is a Polish chef aiming to put his country's culinary craft on the map
  • Amaro is the man behind Poland's first Michelin Star restaurant
  • His scientific approach to food has enabled him to create a distinctive style

CNN's On the Road series brings you a greater insight into the customs and culture of Poland. On TV and online CNN explores the places, the people and the passions unique to this eastern European nation. Watch the episodes during the week of November 18 and the special half-hour show on November 23 & 24.

(CNN) -- Polish cities, attitudes and styles: they've all developed their own distinct identities since the country parted with communism almost 25 years ago -- but can the same now be achieved with Polish cuisine?

That's the aim of Wojciech Amaro, an award-winning Polish chef and the man behind the country's first Michelin Star restaurant, who is intent on changing perceptions of his country's culinary craft.

"We're trying to draw a new line for Polish cuisine," Amaro explained. "(This means) having a new combination (of ingredients) but in the end, people can feel this is Poland on the plate."

We're trying to draw a new line for Polish cuisine
Wojciech Amaro, chef and restaurateur

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In the modest-looking "Atelier Amaro" restaurant in central Warsaw, Amaro serves up his unique brand of gastronomic excellence.

His inventive style saw him awarded with the prestigious Chef de l'Avenir award from the International Academy of Gastronomy in 2008 while Atelier Amaro was given a Michelin Star in April 2013.

Yet despite his passion for all things Polish and contentment with his Warsaw studio, Amaro has spent much of his working life abroad learning from some of Europe's most famous chefs.

The aim was to build up a bank of ideas and tastes before returning home to set up shop in Poland, he said.

His previously nomadic life enabled Amaro to hone his skills in high-pressure kitchens across London. He also spent time in Catalonia, Spain, at the El Bulli restaurant of Ferran Adria, the man often referred to as the world's greatest chef.

See also: Polish street art goes bigger than Banksy

Amaro says his time overseas was professionally formative.

"I took all my ideas and dreams and I brought them back," Amaro says. "This country had no such education system in gastronomy. I wanted to learn from the best and one day come back and do something with Polish cuisine."

As with Britain's Heston Blumenthal or René Redzepi, who heads the Danish restaurant Noma, Amaro is highly regarded for his scientific approach to food. He spends much of his time tinkering with conventional ideas and refining ingredients down to their elemental forms, many of which are sourced from all over Poland.

I wanted to learn from the best and one day come back and do something with Polish cuisine
Wojciech Amaro, chef and restaurateur

Prior to opening the restaurant, Amaro spent a year searching his home country to locate the best ingredients and gain inspiration from Poland's forgotten culinary traditions.

He racked up more than 60,000 kilometers (37,000 miles) in the process and now relies on many of the producers he met in his travels as suppliers for his restaurant.

When CNN visited, Amaro was busy in his kitchen compressing pumpkin, beetroot, and sweet potato (all sourced in Poland, of course) into a vacuum machine which he says brings out their hidden flavors.

See also: Poland's medieval majesty

"We actually pay respect to the tradition because we use the ingredients that could be at some point forgotten," Amaro said. "We bring them back to life and we create new dishes out of them."

For the proud Pole, this painstaking process is not just about creating food he finds challenging and rewarding. It's about creating a new Polish identity that everyone can share.

"You can really feel that. You have this sense of, you know, living in this country that (there) is something booming," he enthused.

"We (the restaurant) just want to be part of that and do our job in terms of cuisine and gastronomy, so it's really an amazing time," he added.

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