When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?
I moved into baking after a long stint in academia, mainly working alone, feeling like I was missing out on everything. I decided to pursue my other passion aside from books: food.
Where and how did you get your start?
I started at Leiths School of Food and Wine, doing their year long diploma. I wanted the fast track, hardcore route and I’d respected Leiths ever since by brother gifted me a copy of the Techniques Bible for going to uni.
Sum up your current work life in one sentence.
I run The Dusty Knuckle Bakery School in Dalston, teaching people how to make serious bread but also that is entirely possible to produce incredible things if you keep at it long enough - it’s a lesson I’m still learning myself.
Who has been really influential on your career and why?
My first head baker Daisy! She taught me that anything is really possible with enough tries and a good amount of fermentation. She’s the most positive person I’ve ever met who always makes me feel good about whatever I’ve baked. I try and do the same for others.
What’s next for you?
I want to see the school run at full schedule: classes everyday, and not just baking and cooking, but food styling, food photography, starting a food business.
What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?
Look after yourself. It’s a brutal industry and there’s a persistent, toxic attitude that you have to work yourself to death. Don’t. Fight for your rights, or things will never change for the better.
Where did you last have a great meal?
The Sportsman in Kent. I went with five friends for the full tasting menu, which took four and a half hours. We haven’t been together like that in ages, talking and eating and eating and talking. I left so full, and so happy.
Are there any openings you are looking forward to?
Not really, trendy restaurants and their small plates give me the heebies. I’d rather hunt down a good Korean and inhale the simple stuff: rice, kimchi, vegetables.
Where is the most exciting city for hospitality?
Warsaw! It’s on the up, and there’s an exploding passion for food and wine. People are really keen to push Poland’s gastronomy. There are some really delicious restaurants and an amazing summer scene where bars and stalls open up along the river. There’s even a sandy beach on the banks where a guy grills Polish sausages as people sunbathe.
Who would you identify as a rising star?
Alex Sage, head baker of Jolene. He’s a fellow appreciator of simple things done well. He’s a guy who can throw a pizza dough too.
If you'd like to read more about Tomek's story, you can read his blog for Leiths School of Food and Wine here