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Varsovians: Maciek Żakowski

Maciek Żakowski

Co-founder of festivals: Fine Dininig Week, Restaurant Week and Planoia agency.

You co-founded the first Warsaw Restaurant Week in 2014. How has gastronomy in Warsaw and Poland changed?

– During the last 10 years, from 2005 to 2015, the number of restaurants doubled. This year the market will grow possibly by 5 billion PLN. Why is it so? We have to take various factors into consideration: the increase in average pay, Europeanisation of culture, cheap flights, Erasmus and more. People travel, work abroad. And despite the fact that average spendings on dining out in Europe consume 7,8% of the household income, in Poland it is barely 2,5%, it is changing.

Social life has moved to restaurants. In the past people used to drink vodka in a park just before a party, now you go to a restaurant. Creativity of chefs, quality of places and awareness of what we eat have increased. It warms my heart to see it. These are all family- owned, local, very often multigenerational businesses, which pay taxes in Poland and contribute to the popularity of their cities.

Creating and developing with Paweł Światczyński restaurant festivals in Poland we have also added up something to this success. We have recently made a research and asked people why they take part in Restaurant Week.

Why?

– Of course price is important because during the festival they will eat for half price. But the reason is that there is an occasion to meet, go out with friends, spend time. Restaurant owners are also very satisfied because when the festival is over people still come back to them.

What were the beginnings?
– We were driving an old convertible through Warsaw and tried to convince restaurant owners to share half of their restaurants for a weekend. They were tapping their foreheads but took the risk. And 12 thousand people came. In the following year the competition appeared which copied everything. We were disturbed because they wanted to make festivals in the whole Poland. So in three days we gathered all our contacts and built a local infrastructure. Now we organize Restaurant Week in 30 cities, even in Słupsk and Ustka. Twice a year. And additionally Warsaw Fine Dining Week twice a year, too.

Only in Warsaw?

– Yes, because only here there are so many high-end restaurants.

What is this fine dining anyway?
– „Haute couisine” from French. In my opinion there are two categories of fine dining which interlace with each other. One puts stress on „gold door handles” and luxury. Here stars are important but not so much. Place and prestige are more significant. However, the new wave of fine dining shows outstanding quality and creativity. For example in Nolita sometimes the dish has several high quality ingredients and preparation takes couple of weeks. Cooking and serving dishes in such restaurants is a real ceremony. We have invited all 35 high-end restaurants. Ticket costs 119 PLN but it is three or four times less if we normally wanted to eat such supper.

Do you live nearby?

– No, in Powiśle. I have a boat in Czerniakowski Port, a few steps away from my home and there is a lot of greenery nearby.

Fine Dining Week lasts till Sunday, 3rd September. Information and bookings at  Restaurantweek.pl.

Photo: Filip Klimaszewski

 

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