Peterborough chef receives top honour from President of Poland

Damian Wawrzyniak receiving his award from the President of Poland.'Photo: Prezydent PL
Damian Wawrzyniak receiving his award from the President of Poland.'Photo: Prezydent PL

The man behind Peterborough’s House of Feasts restaurant - Polish chef Damian Wawrzyniak - has received one of his country’s most prestigious honours.

Damian, who opened the restaurant at Eye Green last year, received the Knight’s Cross from President of Poland Andrzej Duda in a special ceremony in Warsaw.

Damian Wawrzyniak with Mary Berry on BBC2's Mary Berry's Easter Feast.

Damian Wawrzyniak with Mary Berry on BBC2's Mary Berry's Easter Feast.

Not bad, he says, for a chef from central Poland who started off mopping floors in France.

The honour - equivalent to an OBE in this country - was to recognise his contribution to promoting Poland and Polish culinary traditions around the world.

And it left the 38-year-old father of two both shocked and proud.

“It is an honour that dates back to 1921 which is usually awarded to scientists, artists, politicians or soldiers, and I am the first chef to receive it,” he said. “I am shocked and very proud. It is a huge honour for me and my family.

Eye restaurant owner Damian Wawrzyniak with his Polish medal. EMN-180514-231928009

Eye restaurant owner Damian Wawrzyniak with his Polish medal. EMN-180514-231928009

“I have had lots of congratulations from all over the world, and invitations from Polish organisations in America and Canada who want me to go over there and give a talk.

“ They want to know about this guy from a little village in central Poland, who started out mopping floors and washing dishes in the French Alps and has now got this award.

“Even the mayor of the town where my family comes from has been in touch to say I am the first person coming from there to be honoured.”

Although he was sworn to secrecy, it was something of a whirlwind of events for Damian, as he explained.

“The presidential office got in touch to ask if I would be happy to receive an award,” said the self-taught chef, who provides a worldwide consultancy service for the hospitality industry.

“They did not say what it was, just would I go to Warsaw to receive it the following week and not to share the information. I still do not know who nominated me.”

Damian, who made quite an impression on the BBC two years ago cooking a Polish Easter Cake called babka for Mary Berry, travelled to Poland at the beginning of the month and received his award on May 2 - the Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad, which was established in 2002.

He said it was made even more special with 2018 being the 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence.

Named as a Top 10 food pioneer by the BBC Good Food Guide, Damian, who came to England in 2005, said he was keen to act as an ambassador for his country.

“I think we are too shy,” he said. “I want to explain to people how they should feel more valuable and that we are not just factory workers. Be proud and be part of the community.”