Five minutes with Jurek Wasio
London’s Mayha is a new Japanese hotspot omokase in Marylebone, offering an exciting 11-seater dining experience. Expect dishes such as prawn chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) and monkfish roe sushi made right in front of your eyes.
Head chef Jurek Wasio has moved from Mayha’s Beirut outpost to London, and we caught up with him to find out how that transition has gone. He also tells us what food experience he thinks everyone must try in the UK…
What’s your very first memory of food?
My grandmother’s crêpes with roasted apples, cinnamon and icing sugar, made with fresh apples from her garden.
Originally from Poland, you’ve also spent time living in Beirut working at Mayha, and now find yourself in London. What impact has living in different cities had on your approach to food?
Every journey impacts us, whether it’s about the culture or about the food. I’m always trying to pick up whatever I can on my way and then combine it all together on a plate.
Poland is known for its passionate food culture. What’s the first thing you eat whenever you go back there?
First thing I always have once I’m back to Warsaw is the pierogi, Polish dumplings with my favorite filling such as potato and white cheese, loads of black pepper and dash of salt, wrapped in thin homemade pasta dough, seared with butter and topped with sour cream and fried golden crispy onion. A simple dish in every Polish home but so satisfying and complex in taste!
What do you like to do to relax?
Hiking, going for long walks, listening to audiobooks and music – whether it’s a live concert or just on Spotify – and watching movies. I’m a big fan of Star Wars and Akira Kurosawa.
What’s the one dish you can’t live without?
The answer again is simple: Pierogi!
And what’s your signature drink?
Always a Bloody Mary or an “Apple Pie”, which is bison grass vodka with apple juice, lime juice and cinnamon.
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
What is your favourite season of the year in produce terms?
You opened Mayha this year. How has the experience been so far, and how is it different to the Beirut restaurant?
How is it different? Not too different because our regular customers from Beirut are coming now to London and follow us wherever we go, bringing their friends to introduce our food to others. It’s a great support base and we are very thankful for this.
So far so good, we are getting good feedback and reviews but there is always room for improvement. We came here as the underdogs and had to step into a battlefield full of big players but we like to compete!
How do you find suppliers for the amazing produce you use in the restaurant?
Some of the suppliers we already knew back from when I used to work in London, before moving to Beirut. Some others were introduced to us by our friends who are also chefs here in the UK. It’s all about good connections.
Where do you think Mayha sits as part of the Japanese food scene in London?
I think we compete with the best here in London but where we sit now is a question which should be answered by our customers…
What is the best food experience you’ve had so far in the UK? Something that you think everyone should try before they die…
It should be the brioche with raisins from Aux Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington.
What’s dish currently on the menu at Mayha are you most proud of?
Venison steak with forest fruits, port wine compote, coffee oil and kinome leaf.
Do you have any aspirations and dreams you’ve yet to fulfill?
I want to be a cool human being like my father always wanted me to be, and to have my own family.
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