Leeds restaurants: Meet the head chef at Banyan Leeds who climbed from kitchen help to culinary star
When Patryk Wieczorek moved to Leeds 15 years ago, he had no professional training or kitchen experience.
Armed with a heap of ambition and the bug for cooking, he joined Leeds bar and restaurant group ARC Inspirations as a kitchen help.
Now the head chef at Banyan Leeds, with a wealth of experience at the helm of the kitchen, Patryk fondly recalls how his culinary journey started.
Born in a small town near Warsaw, Poland, Patryk's first memories of food are baking cakes and preparing salads with his mum and sister.
The 37-year-old told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I remember when we prepped our first meal for our mum while she was at work, we found a recipe in one of her old books. It was good fun and I think we made more mess than actually cooking!
“But my mum really enjoyed it and that stays in my heart - giving her so much joy and happiness from something we did for her.”
Frustrated by the unhealthy packaged food available at his local supermarkets and cafes, Patryk started buying fresh produce and experimenting with flavours after he moved out on his own.
“My energy levels were higher and I realised that food can make a big difference to how you feel," he said.
“I watched programmes like Great British Menu and I moved to the UK because I’d heard good things about British kitchens.”
ARC Inspirations took a chance on Patryk in 2006 - and he proved their punt was worthwhile.
He quickly climbed the ranks from kitchen help to head chef at the former Trio Bar and Grill in Headingley, before launching Napa Bar and Kitchen in Roundhay.
Patryk added: “I didn’t have a lot of experience, but the development team gave me enough time and lots of knowledge to build up to where I am.
"After a year I was promoted to a supervisor role. I tried to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could."
Patryk now runs the kitchen at the busy Banyan restaurant on City Square.
Its versatile menu offers something from every corner of the globe - from roast dinners and grilled steaks, to white mushroom tortellini and creamy Thai curries.
It's a bustling restaurant and Patryk loves interacting with customers, making it all the more difficult when the shutters went down last year.
“It was really challenging for us," he said.
"As chefs, we’re used to long working hours and you love what you do. You come into work because you enjoy giving people joy and an experience.
"Then one day, it’s just completely switched off.
“But I used the time to look for new recipes, try new things and keep developing my skills.
“It’s been great since we reopened, people are positive and the restaurant is vibrant - we’ve seen more trade than before the pandemic.”
Patryk will never forget the joy on his mum's face when he cooked his first dish - and recreating that feeling for diners in Leeds is what gets him through the long hours of service.
"It’s like no other job," he added,
“Every ‘thank you’ from customers is really rewarding for me, when someone appreciates your hard work.
"I love the people I work with, the team and the customers. You’re always developing new skills and moving forward every day.”
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