A native of Poland, since 2014 Chef Slawek Bielak has brought a globally-inspired perspective to the galleys of luxury barges. Not knowing a word of English, his professional beginnings in a London pub as the kitchen’s resident onion chopper rapidly evolved into a position as Head Chef.
He credits this remarkable transformation to a manager who became more of a mentor, recognizing Slawek’s natural aptitude for cooking and encouraging him to aspire to a more prestigious opportunity. Heeding this advice, Slawek’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 palate, as the Head Chef there challenged him to explore an expanded range of robust flavors from all over the world.
From there Slawek 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 has landed on luxury barge cruises, and for the last several 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 raves about Chef Slawek’s cuisine: “Light lunches and sumptuous dinners are inspired by global influences with a generous nod to the cruise route’s local flavors and regional specialties.”
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 Barge Lady’s guests —
Chef Slawek’s “Crispy Crazy Fish” recipe
This is quite an entree, incorporating 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 Slawek 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!