How would you spend £1 million? Daily Mail was asking its readers in this article. Most of you would probably choose a vacation around the world, living a luxury life in an exotic destination, shop till you drop or buying your dream super car. But not Pawel Mowlik, who can have it all, but who surprisingly chose to take his passion to a completely new level.
#passionwithpurpose is the first tag he uses each time he posts a photo on Instagram.
Pawel is a 33-year-old banker who works in private equity and hedge funds. He chose to spend a lot of money on a very expensive passion: fine dining on the highest level. He allegedly spends £700 000- £1 million a year on dining, including dining related costs like getting to the various high-end fine dining destinations around the world.
So, if you look at his Instagram account, you can notice that his locations change really often: one day he is at Le Garet, in Lyon, enjoying a cervelle de veau and the other day Frédéric Anton is cooking his sea urchin with pomelo and avocado for him at Le Pré Catelan in Paris. One might be tempted to believe that these are actually photos from Pawel’s archive because it seems impossible to do all these things in such a short time. But not for Pawel, a man who chose to live a very unconventional life. Fortunately, he has the time and the money to do that.
Pawel is now working at Paul Bocuse in a unique position: he is a VIP stagiaire.
Pawel previously worked for a company, but now he has his own network of clients as well as a business partner, based in Greenwich (Connecticut) and Monaco, so they do their own individual deals. Pawel’s partner is aware of this “other life” of him and he’s ok with taking care of things when Pawel is not around. This is not contradictive; this is being a businessman, says Pawel. People always want to put you in a box – go to work in the morning, doing this, that. Many of them have to comply with certain norms. I break out of them. It was not always easy, there have been a lot of rejections, hardships, losses but it really forms a character and makes you strong. It’s worth taking the risk.
Today, Pawel is pushing his passion even further: he is now working at Paul Bocuse in a unique position: he is a VIP stagiaire. Working for Paul Bocuse, le Pape de la Gastronomie, was Pawel’s dream. They know what I’m doing and they support me with everything. I have my own schedule, but I am trying to stick to it as much as I can, says Pawel. Actually, when we had this conversation, he was pretty busy with the Bocuse d’Or preparations.
What are you actually doing as a VIP stagiaire?
I am in the kitchen, actually cooking. I am like a self-taught cook, driven by passion. Before, I was at Noma, in Copenhagen, which is totally different. Someone who works at Paul Bocuse will never go to Noma and vice versa, because those are two contradictive directions. The unusual thing about me is that I have no preference. I know a lot of bloggers, so called food connoisseurs, and they all have one thing in common: they have their preferences – Spanish molecular cuisine, classic French cuisine, etc. But for me everything is entitled, equally.
Where is this passion coming from?
I always asked myself too, it’s this unexplainable drive in me. It’s just there every day. It started when I was 15-16 y.o.; I remember when I used to go to Paris. In fact, many of the chefs know me very well from that time. When I used to go to Christian Le Squer (who is at Le V today), he just got his 3rd star in 2003, I didn’t have the same budget but I was counting the money under the table, hoping that I will have enough to pay the bill. For me, going to restaurants it’s like for a woman going to a shoe store – her brain turns off and she doesn’t see the prices anymore. When I have the menu in my hand I just say to myself Oh my Gosh, I want to try that! They have ris de veau, and sea urchin, and…! I like everything. As long as it’s the best within its own category, it’s what I want.
Over the two decades I’ve created a unique position for myself within that industry – those are the friendships. Cuisine is also about the person who creates the food.
I’ve been to all 3 Michelin star restaurants in the world so the more I visited them, the more I realised how little I know.
When did you first get in touch with a famous chef and how did you do it? How did you become friends?
Mainly it happened because they were very impressed that someone is so obsessed with food. Like Yannick Alléno, for example, who is my friend for 12 years now. I just call him up and say I’m in Paris, I am coming to the kitchen tomorrow. And he will say I am not in the kitchen until dinner but he will come anyway, I just bring my cooking jacket and we’d prepare things and I’d ask questions.
For me it’s always about understanding. I’ve been to all 3 Michelin star restaurants in the world so the more I visited them, the more I realised how little I know. For many it happens the other way – they go to some places and they think they got it and that now they own it. I believe that’s a mistake because any kind of passion, a true passion has no limits. You can always go deeper.
Frederic Anton, who I met last week at Le Pré Catelan, almost made me cry. There was nobody anymore in the restaurant, he was sitting with me and, you know, he doesn’t speak really English and my French is very limited, even if I understand a lot.
But you’re both speaking the language of the cuisine.
Exactly. And, as I also said on Instagram, he speaks the language of the heart and this is the most important language in the world. He was so sweet. I said look, I would like to buy your book and he said just take it and he signed it for me. We were really communicating without saying anything. It was like a language manifesting between us: nor French, nor English: and then I tac tac and tac tac…! he was inventing his own words but I understood everything!
And then I was sitting at the Paris airport opening a box with a Paris-Brest that he has given me on my way (that was probably the best Paris-Brest I ever had!), thinking God, this world, this industry has given me so much! As I said, this is also about those people around it, the chef and the sous-chefs, the rightful men or women of the chefs.
It’s very important for me that I am not misunderstood in the way that I’m just indulging. Of course I’m also indulging when I eat something beautiful. But people keep asking me: what are you, like, a critic?
I’m not a critic. I don’t like criticism because I find it very sticky. It’s easy to criticise people. And many people who exude criticism are actually not knowledgeable enough to do it. In my opinion, they have not the right approach and have not understood what cuisine actually means. They go to one place and they compare it to another place, which is very simplistic.
How far do you see yourself going with this passion? Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
In 5 to 10 years? To be honest, it sounds like I’m a little bit full of myself, but I think I will be, probably, one of the 100 most important people in the food business.
How do you see yourself involved in this food business?
I see myself becoming a food media personality. I have already talked to BBC and other channels.
The business will start this year; I am actually creating a company: it will be a culinary media company, a culinary media entertainment, it will involve television. Basically, I will share all these emotions with an audience, I will be visiting chefs – many of them my friends, we will talk about dishes, discovery…
So it will be an English television?
Yes, but I am sure it will be translated in other languages. I am seeing this as an unlimited amount of opportunities.
What do your friends and family think about your passion?
Mainly, they are very impressed, they say I am crazy. Many people have just accepted this. My friends and family is the cooking business, the chefs, the food, this whole scene. I obviously have a family, but this is I see most sense in.
In 5 to 10 years? I think I will be one of the 100 most important people in the food business.
What if, in few years, you won’t have this money anymore? It’s an expensive passion…
I had moments in my life already when I didn’t have the money, at some point I fell very deep: it was the financial crisis, I had some personal problems… For me failure is just a chapter, it’s not the whole book. I don’t believe that if I fail, this situation is going to stay. It’s like the rain: after the rain the plants are being nourished and everything starts growing… But, you know, you have to keep up that attitude and never, never stop.
Did you ever say to yourself while being in a restaurant that maybe this is too much for a dinner, maybe you are spending too much for this passion?
Yes, many times! For me, the value for money is extremely important, especially because today, even in France, you have this bistronomique movement, pop-up restaurants that receive Michelin stars and you can go there and eat for 50-60 pounds very well. Of course, I feel like I could’ve done much better things with this money.
Have you ever been disappointed by chefs and their cuisine, even Michelin star restaurants? How did you react in those situations?
Oh, yes. It happened quite often. It always depends on the situations. I feel pain, because, sometimes, I see they have great products but people are not entirely dedicated to what they do.
I can always tell when a chef is not present. Some chefs really manage to recruit the right handymen, who are able to do everything the same way the chef does in his absence. But some are not, so this way you can see that it’s rather a commercial company, giving up the values they should stand for. Their signature is on the restaurant so people are coming, but they are blinded by the name and don’t pay enough attention to the food itself.
Frédéric Anton amazes with every single dish that arrives at the table. It's a beautiful way of cooking that is authentic and self-sufficient accompanied by a fascinating elegance! Incredible dining experience!❤😋! "Sea urchin with pomelo and avocado." The bitterness and the intensity of the sea urchin a wonderful story 😋👌! Love it💗! ××××××××××××××××××××××××××× #pawelmowlik The journey of a relentless connoisseur! Passion taken to a completely new level! #passionwithpurpose ***❤*************❤************ #chef #fredericanton #leprecatalan #paris #cuisinefrançaise #frenchcuisine #3michelinstars #relaischateaux #grandchef #laliste1000 #yummy #france #chefstalk #chefsofinstagram #professionalchefs #instafood #theartofplating #finedininglovers #foodlover #gourmet #truepassion #bonenvie #food #loveunlimited @relaischateaux @laliste1000 @chefsofinstagram @fredericanton @yam_magazine_officiel @chefstalk @professionalchefs @chefsroll @theartofplating @finedininglovers @michelinguide @foodstarz_official @chefsplateform @gaultetmillau @four_magazine @saveurs_magazine @saveurmag @falstaff.magazin @vickgarson @theworlds50best
Did it happen to you to ask to see a chef but he declined your invitation? How did you feel then?
Yes, it happened recently, even if people know me already… But it’s OK, I consider myself imbattable.
I want to help them express themselves, I want to be useful and pass on their message, just like an ambassador. Today, many chefs are media personalities. As a chef, you should be only about sharing – you cook for somebody, you don’t cook for yourself and many people look after you, especially young chefs.
You said you consider yourself an ambassador. You feel that the chefs are not communicating enough or there is no enough interest in what chefs are doing?
Not all chefs are like Frédéric Anton, they have different personalities. I know a lot of chefs with one or 2 Michelin stars who weren’t communicating much, but some of them changed after a while. My Instagram (editor’s note: where I post about food and chefs) started 5 months ago. I believe that that kind of posting will happen more in 2017. I am switching my life more to my passion.
To conclude, what is your definition of cuisine?
Cuisine is so many different things, depending on from what perspective you wish to look at it. But one thing is most definitely true: Cuisine connects people in a most unique way, using happiness as a medium – it’s always a shared and never a selfish happiness. Cuisine, it’s when it touches your heart, soul, mind and spirit at the same time. It makes the world stand still for a moment, as though there was no tomorrow and all that counts are the “here” and “now”. It makes you rethink everything, followed by a fervent and genuine smile, and that’s the true moment when Cuisine has created true happiness!
There is no other place in the world that is compareable to the atmosphere of a cuisine which is in full swing at its service….I'm telling you that's where the real magic happens and suddenly everything seems possible…❤ ×××××××××××××××××××××××××× #pawelmowlik The journey of a relentless connoisseur! Passion taken to a completely new level! #passionneversleeps ***❤*************❤*********** #chef #paulbocuse #collongesaumontdor #lyon #cuisinefrançaise #fernandpoint #frenchcuisine #3michelinstars #grandchef #laliste1000 #workhard #yummy #france #chefstalk #chefsofinstagram #professionalchefs #instafood #theartofplating #finedininglovers #foodlover #gourmet #bonenvie #food #loveunlimited @paulbocuse_officiel #bocusedor @laliste1000 @chefsofinstagram @yam_magazine_officiel @chefstalk @professionalchefs @chefsroll @theartofplating @finedininglovers @michelinguide @foodstarz_official @chefsplateform @gaultetmillau @four_magazine @vin100lyon @chefthomaskeller @allenoyannick @saveurs_magazine @saveurmag
Obviously, I asked Pawel what he knows about Strasbourg and its cuisine. He mentioned the classics: Au Crocodile and L’Auberge de l’Ill. I hope that, when he’ll visit Strasbourg, he will unveil to us some hidden strasbourgeois gems, so that we could also give a chance to the less known, but very talented chefs.
Not only it has been a true pleasure to have this conversation with Pawel, but it has also been a meaningful experience, especially for me – a passionate cook, always willing to learn more about this art.
I am looking forward to discover Pawel’s new media project and wish him all the luck in his future endeavours. And now, please excuse me, but inspiration called and I have to run to the kitchen.
Thank you for reading and bon appétit!