With his business, Molecular Magic Creative Catering, chef Maciek Kijewski brings culinary artistry to events across Bournemouth (and beyond)…
In the world of fine dining, seeing art and theatre woven in with amazing food combinations is more-or-less the norm. It’s one thing to see this go on in restaurants; now, imagine it on wheels and for hire. Maciek Kijewski, the brain behind Molecular Magic Creative Catering, has undoubted skill with artistic, colourful food styling and menu creation. But where did it all start? We went for a tasting session at Molecular Magic HQ and found out the story…
WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY? WHEN DID YOU COME TO BOURNEMOUTH?
I’m originally from Łódź in Poland. I first came to Bournemouth in 2001, just for a few months. It was more like a summer trip. My brother came here in 1999 or 2000, so I was visiting him and tried to get some chef or KP work – whatever was around. Then I came back again with my wife in mid-2002, just to get some chef experience… maybe do some travelling around England, then onto France, maybe the USA. That was the plan. But that was 18 years ago and we’re still here!
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOUR LOVE OF COOKING?
Food is a very big thing in my family. We don’t have any chefs apart from me and my brother. But in terms of background, it is just passion and love for good produce, and that’s how I grew up. I grew up with good food; curing, preserving, smoking… Sunday lunches with the whole family… that’s how it started.
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR CHEF CAREER PRIOR TO STARTING MOLECULAR MAGIC CREATIVE CATERING…
Years ago, I used to be a carpenter. But in the kitchen, it started with being a KP. And I liked what was going on around me — the rush in the kitchen, what was happening behind-the-scenes. My first job was at the Hilton, and after three months as a KP, they gave me some chef whites and started the training. It was amazing – I still remember that beautiful moment.
After the Hilton, I worked at the Marriott, plus various two- and three-Rosette restaurants. I moved from place to place to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible, and go higher as a chef. And then I moved to mass catering – worked at the BIC, the Henley Regatta, Wimbledon, Eastbourne Tennis…
Following that (I don’t remember which year) to Beales Gourmet at Compton Acres, which I ran for a while. There, I tried to adapt high-standard restaurant food to mass catering. For wedding venues and so on, which was successful.
HOW DID MOLECULAR MAGIC CREATIVE CATERING COME ABOUT?
After about three years, I had the feeling that it was time to go. I had developed carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, which made three of my fingers go completely numb. Which made me think, “What am I going to do now? I can’t even handle a knife!”
I had an operation and everything is back to normal now, but I was off work for about five months recovering. During that time, I thought about what I was going to do next. And I started making some healthy salad boxes for my wife to send to her office, which proved super popular. Within two or three weeks, everyone wanted them. They were called Magic Lunchboxes, which I was running for a little while. But it was very busy and we didn’t make enough money. Plus, my heart was in fine dining.
So, we started with dinner parties at first, before moving into corporate events. The first corporate event I did was for the place my wife used to work as a branch director. I was setting up in the gazebo – I was alone, cooking for about 60 people, who had just come from a go-karting event. And as I was setting up the gazebo, one of the metal parts sprang into my face. I was covered in blood, but they had a first-aider and I managed to have some stitches pretty quickly. After that, it was a pretty successful event!
HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE COMPOSITIONS FOR YOUR FOOD STYLING?
I have a very artistic soul – I used to do a bit of graffiti. Plus, my mother is very artistic as well, so I think it’s a gift from her. I love fresh and sharp colours. But in terms of the plating, it’s just happening. Even before this interview, I had three dishes made from ingredients for things I’m preparing for another event (not leftovers). I place things here and there, and it takes me seconds. It’s all about good ingredients – I use good-quality, local ingredients. When they’re in front of me, my creativity just starts to work.
Menus are always written at the last minute, and I still don’t know how I’m going to plate the food. But I will prepare the ingredients, I will get to the client’s house or venue… THEN I will know exactly what I’m doing! It’s very spontaneous, very freestyle. But it all comes straight from the heart and from passion.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE DISHES THAT YOU LIKE PREPARING OR PRESENTING?
No, our idea is to be totally bespoke. Every week has a different menu, and we try to go with the seasons as well. Basically, I build my menus starting with a phone conversation with the client. I ask for all the favourites — seafood, meats, cheeses, vegetables. And when I get that information, I put together a five- or seven- or ten-course tasting menu.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE WON AWARDS FOR YOUR CATERING?
I don’t chase awards. Most of them just come in. Like we were named Dorset’s Best Wedding Caterer last year. We didn’t ask for that — all the couples nominated us, which is great. We have a really good relationship with the couples for whom we have done weddings.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s great to win awards! But for me, the customer relationship and feedback is more important. I started building this company five years ago, and I still have the same clients from back then. Plus their families, their businesses… Molecular Magic was built on recommendation only and pleasing my customers.
DO YOU FIND CATERING A CORPORATE EVENT MORE STRESSFUL THAN A WEDDING?
Not really. There is no difference for me between catering a ten-person dinner party and a wedding for 120 people, or a corporate event for 200. It’s all even. Is it stressful? Not really… the more you give me, the less stressed I am. If I have more responsibility, I’m on it.
WHAT IS THE DREAM OR THE END GOAL FOR YOU?
I have quite a few goals. My middle goal is to secure myself and my family, and start my own wedding venue. That’s my big plan for the future… hopefully it’ll come through. At the end of my career, I would like to retire in my own restaurant. Before, I thought I would like to open a restaurant and be there running it. Now I’m doing everything the other way around… I want to relax and retire with a small, prestigious restaurant.
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