A toast to the new Barge lady blog series, Grand Crew! Cheers to the Captains, Deckhands, Pilots, Hostesses, Chefs, and Tour Guides whose tireless efforts ensure your experience on European hotel barges is nothing less than spectacular. Please join the Barge Ladies as we spotlight a handful of the these extraordinary crew members who dedicate their time and talent to the canal cruises of Europe!
A native of Poland, Chef Slawomir Bielak brings a globally-inspired perspective to the small galley kitchens of canal barges. Not knowing a word of English, his beginnings in a pub in London as the kitchen’s resident onion chopper evolved into a position as Head Chef within two years! He credits this remarkable transformation to a manager who became more of a mentor, who, recognizing Slawomir’s natural aptitude for cooking, encouraged him to aspire to a more prestigious opportunity. Heeding this advice, Slawomir’s next position as a Sous-Chef in one of London’s swanky jazz clubs allowed him to fully develop a more nuanced and sophisticated palette, as the Head Chef there challenged him to explore an expanded range of robust flavors from all over the world.
From there Slawomir moved on to a life of travel, cuisine, and culture, working and cooking throughout Europe in high-end ski chalets and deluxe vacation villas. Happily, he as landed on luxury barge cruises, and for the last four seasons he has brought his love of market produce, regional specialties, and spontaneously crafted menus to the hungry guests aboard these boats!
Barge Lady Stephanie cruised on Panache and raved about the cuisine: “I adored the Panache’s onboard cuisine, thanks to Chef Slawomir’s lunches and dinners inspired by global influences with a nod to Holland’s heritage flavors…the beer-braised lamb, for example, was rich with the taste of a local brew; the cheese boards featured Dutch selections; and locally-sourced pears were perfectly presented in a decadent dessert tart. Speaking with Chef Slawomir, I learned that his overall cooking philosophy focuses on freshness first, with the understanding that only the best ingredients lead to the best tastes. He still loves to try new recipes and techniques; three years ago taught himself to bake his own bread, including a from-scratch sourdough using a homemade starter! He takes the most pride is seeing guests enjoy his meals, and considers being a barge Chef the PERFECT job.”
Exclusively for the Barge Lady’s “Grand Crew” series —
Chef Slawomir’s “Crispy Crazy Fish” recipe
This is quite an entree! Showcasing Chef Slawomir’s dynamic range of inspirations, this fish dish incorporates bold flavors, global influences, and a very memorable plating.
- 4 tbsp butter
- 7/8 of a cup of plain flour
- Generous pinch of pink salt
- 2/3 cup of beer (Chef recommends Jopen Lentebier, a strong pale ale)
Whisk well and set aside, letting the flour and beer mingle.
- 2.5 cups of frozen peas
- 1 cup cold water
- 15 mint leaves
- Half a cube of chicken bouillon
Add water to peas and let defrost for five minutes. Add mint and bouillon. After warming a large, 4-5 liter casserole dish, pour pea mix into casserole dish and place on high heat for four minutes, then remove. Use an immersion blender to puree, and then pour pureed pea mixture through a sieve, removing the pea skins. Add a good pinch of salt and set aside.
- 1 fresh Thai chili
- 1/3 of cucumber, roughly chopped
- Slice of chopped pineapple
- Zest and juice of I lime
- 2/3 tablespoon of virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
Combine and set aside.
- Half a cup of plain Greek yogurt
- A handful of cucumber slices
- Pinch of cumin
- Black pepper
Mix together and set aside.
Preparing the Fish
- Clean a fillet of Dorade, leaving skin on.
- Coat the filet with the beer batter and deep fry at 350ºF until golden crispy.
- Pour the pureed pea mixture into a large serving bowl and add a bed of plain white rice, creating a “shelf” for the fish.
- Add a layer of salsa on top of the rice “shelf”.
- Place the fried filet atop the salsa, drizzle with tzatziki, and enjoy!
- For even more “crazy” crunch and zing, add crispy plantains and half a lime on top of the filet!