WBJ catches up with Andrea Camastra, the Michelin-starred chef who’s taken Senses restaurant to heady, new heights INTERVIEW BY Alex Webber
WBJ: Senses is famous for its creativity: how do you develop a dish?
Andrea Camastra: It’s always a very random process with a dish often being born from a certain technique that we’ve invented. If we’ve discovered such a technique then we’ll develop the dish around it, modifying it and perhaps rolling it out as an amuse-bouche to gauge the reaction. We create a frame for it and will evolve it on a daily basis until we’re ready to go with it. What people sometimes don’t realize is that once we’re done with the scientific stage then pens and paper are put away – what you see is the result of spontaneous experimentation in the kitchen.
A lot is made of this experimentation.
People expect to ride a Star Trek shuttle when they come into Senses but this is a misconception. Yes, we do place an emphasis on none by note, molecular cooking, but a lot of dishes have a classic application. Sure, we do things to add wow factor and lend a sense of artistry but these tend to act as a wider frame. Honestly, I’m happy to serve conventional food, so long as it’s the best – but to achieve that standard you need to know how food “works” and that’s when the chemistry comes in.
Nonetheless, the culinary theater that surrounds Senses is a big attraction.
We provide a one-of-a-kind experience, the kind of meal you won’t find anywhere else in the world. There are many places you can find really good food, but I want to dig deeper and give something of emotional value.
Le Chef magazine named you as one of their Top 100 Chefs on the planet – that must be a buzz, right?
It’s big, you can’t deny emotions. But generally, the more accolades you receive the higher the chances that you start skipping your duties or thinking that you have golden hands. Your responsibilities grow, as does the pressure to maintain the standards you’ve set. But honestly, to me I’m just following my life principle – whether you have awards to your name or not, you should be striving to better yourself regardless. After all, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t.
What qualities are needed to work in your kitchen?
Discipline. I’m not looking for skills because the moment you start in my kitchen you’re learning from scratch. I don’t care if you’ve got experience in two or three-star kitchens, in Senses you readapt from the start. It’s about emotion, and you need to share and understand our vision.
In terms of that, what is the long-term vision at Senses?
It’s not obtaining three stars, because that’s inevitable. The bigger mission is to establish Poland on the international stage, which is why you find us reinterpreting Polish dishes a little like Noma reimagined Danish cuisine. We want people to recognize Poland, and I think that’s definitely possible – I’m ranked as one of the top 100 chefs in the world, so believe me I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that could happen. I believe in the mission here, and I expect those who work with me to do so as well.
Quickly, how does your cooking reflect your personality?
Out of the box and completely unpredictable!