What did top UK chef Marcin ‘Magic’ Pomierny do when he had time on his hands this year? He learnt how to make cheese, of course!
It’s official. Marcin ‘Magic’ Pomierny, is one of the top 10 chefs in the country, having just appeared in the final of the Craft Guild of Chefs’ National Chef of the Year competition.
The competition process was a big commitment for the 35-year-old Head Chef at the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich. It begins in February and finishes in September, with lots of thinking time, preparation and practicing in-between. Combine that with having two young children at home, and it turned out to be quite a juggling exercise.
A month or so into the process, however, and for what could well have been the first time in the 800-year-old history of the hotel, the Maids Head had to close its doors for lockdown.
‘I have two sons, so we spent time doing home schooling, creative craft, going to the forest, looking at nature and cooking all together’
So how had Magic been passing the time? ‘We chefs work a lot of hours and lockdown allowed me to have an amazing time with my family,’ says Magic. ‘I have two sons, so we spent time doing home schooling, creative craft, going to the forest, looking at nature and cooking all together. My wife was very happy because I was cooking all the time!
‘I had time to read cookbooks, work on new ideas for dishes, and I started learning how to make cheese. At the moment I have done soft white cheese with cow’s milk and Gouda-style cheese.
‘I have also spent a lot of time experimenting with making different breads: sourdough, walnuts bread, gluten free bread, rye bread, animal fat brioche, Japanese sandwich bread.’ And there’s more, as he adds: ‘I also managed to workout, something I haven’t been able to fit in.’
He was back in the kitchen at the end of June, ready for the hotel reopening on July 4. And by September, Magic was among 10 chefs competing in the final cook off at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London. The winner, Nick Smith, Head Chef at Vacherin in London was revealed during Hospitality Week at the end of last month.
He says: ‘It was amazing to be in the final top 10 in the UK. The judging panel was great, featuring some of the best chefs in the country – the Chairman of Judges was Paul Ainsworth. I enjoyed the final a lot and was 100 per cent happy with my dishes.’
Magic comes from near Krakow in Poland. He trained as a chef in his home country and studied catering for diabetics as an additional subject. He moved to Norwich in 2005. Why Norwich? His brother and sister were already in the city, so why not?
He spoke little English at the time and his family helped secure him a job as a kitchen porter at Tatlers, where he did washing up and food preparation for a year. Then Magic worked for Pulse and The Library for 18 months, followed by Macintoshes Kitchen for another 18 months.
His next job, in 2009, was Sous Chef at Rare Steak House and he moved on to The Mad Moose where he was Sous Chef for two years and Head Chef for one year. Magic arrived at the Maids Head Hotel as Sous Chef in 2013, was quickly promoted to Head Chef and hasn’t looked back.
Magic will definitely think about entering the competition again next year. And will the cheese making continue? Sounds like it, as Magic says: ‘My next step is going to be making Parmesan.’