Under the Grill: Tomasz Podwika

Based in the heart of Finnieston, Soul Food Kitchen is Glasgow's premier plant-based restaurant with health and wellbeing at the heart and soul of everything they do - 100% vegan, 100% delicious. And they're dog friendly too! Head Chef Tomasz Podwika is in the hot seat this week, and gives us a taste of his most memorable meals, his favourite kitchen gadgets, and what Scottish produce is most underrated.

What is your most memorable meal?

When I was wee, I remember my granny would make semolina with raspberry syrup for us. It’s a very Polish thing, people eat it for breakfast, kind of like porridge. My mother would make it for us when we were ill, it was a comforting food and it’s nostalgic too.

What is your favourite kitchen tool/gadget?

Aside from my ubiquitous set of knives, it would be my dehydrator because it preserves all the nutrients and enzymes, and is way of using leftovers to make crackers, crisps, etc.

What ingredient could you not live without?

I have two and they work so well as standalone ingredients as well as together, and that’s onion and garlic – both so versatile and such impactful flavours. I love onions, all good things come from onions! It’s not like I eat it all the time, but I’d say it’s my absolute favourite because you can do everything with them.

If you could cook a meal for anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you make?

Well, it would be for all the chefs that have worked for me, and I have worked for past and present. I would probably cook Bigos and Pierogi - famous polish dumplings and cabbage soup.

What inspired each of the dishes on your menu for Soul Food Kitchen?

Our inspiration comes from Dr Michael Gregor’s daily dozen and direction from Bobby Bashir, the owner. We are so passionate about health and wellbeing and this translates into all that we produce, for example, most of our buddha bowls have over 10 plus vegetables and as a result are super healthy.

Do you have a favourite dish from this menu? Which one would you recommend?

My favourite dish would be the MacSoul Burger which is akin to something you might order at a fast-food joint. Our version is a smokey patty topped with SFK burger sauce, homemade American style "cheese", spinach, gherkins, sliced beef tomato all crammed into a flame-grilled sesame seed brioche bun served with a delicious slaw and sea salt wedges.

What is your favourite Scottish produce?

Shetland Cabbage would be my most favourite produce as its cheap, versatile, and easy to use in salads, stews and fermentation. There are so many health benefits of consuming cabbage, especially the red cabbage variety. It’s low calorie, packed with protein, fibre, Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K and more.

What Scottish produce is most underrated?

I have to say Shetland Cabbage is very similar to Kale and is the oldest known Scottish local vegetable variety and has been grown on the Shetland Islands since at least the 17th Century.

Are there any foods you just don’t like?

I don’t like over or under cooked vegetables - apart from the soggy texture, you lose all the nutrients. I love most raw foods and the cakes we have here are also raw.

What is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

Bitter melon is a vegetable that I find challenging to cook.

If you could give one piece of advice to a home chef, what would it be?

Keep trying new foods, flavours and recipes. Practice and experimentation is fun, you might succeed and fail with some things but it's all part of the learning curve, and the more you try, the better you will get!

What meal would you choose as your last supper?

Pierogi polish dumplings with mushrooms.

For more information about Soul Food Kitchen, view full menus, or to make a reservation please visit: https://www.soulfoodkitchen.co.uk/

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