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The Chef

Age: 27 | Location: Oxford, UK


When I start to interview The Chef, we quickly stumble across a problem. He’s no longer a chef. Well, sort of. He has just hung up his apron to pursue his own pastry business.


‘I'll be honest with you, it's a very interesting point in my life. I've just dropped full time employment and I've decided to go full time with my own business, so you know it's a new type of life for me. At this moment I'm working for myself.’


For the last few years, the balance has been tricky. He worked at an Oxford college, cooking for hundreds of hungry students, while trying to keep his side hustle afloat.


‘I've also been running a pop-up shop with bread and pastries. Pastries I was making myself and bread I was collaborating with the bakeries. And a month ago, I decided to go full time with it and see what life is gonna show me really, and what I will be able to achieve.’


He worked seven days a week, getting up at 6:30 on days where he had to be in college and 3:30 on market days - Wednesdays and Saturdays - to begin making everything he’d be selling.


Now he’s quit his day job, he’s anxious I’ll no longer want him to be one of The Archetypes.


‘I'm still a chef I believe really. I still cook things. And I run a shop where I'm cooking and I'm making goods and I'm selling them. So maybe it's even better.’


I reassure him there’s no problem by swiftly telling him I’d love to hear what his signature dish is.


‘Okay, so at this moment French fruit tarts.’


He laughs.


‘Because, French tart, there is a quite silly meaning for French tart as…’


He tails off.


‘Well, have you heard that?’


I laugh, realising exactly what he’s referring to.


We laugh together.


‘So this is the best thing. That I've mastered it was a long story for me, because in the beginning I was working in places and I've been pushed to make those and I was never good at those. And then through the way of practicing and struggling for many years, it has eventually turned into a very big advantage.’


But there are still things The Chef finds difficult.


The first is his smoking habit.


‘I've been smoking in my high school in Poland, but it was not an addiction or habit yet, but then two years are going past and I had started smoking and my girlfriend, my ex-girlfriend, we bought a few packets of cigarettes. At that time it was a bit different time for me in my life than now so we've decided that we're gonna, you know, sell a few of them. And then we decided that we're gonna keep ten of them, for ourselves, so we just start. This was a wrong decision.'


He’s tried to give up a number of times, but his determination to quit often wavers.


‘Obviously I failed, because I'm still smoking, however I had lots of good periods in my life where I did. I'm finding a balance. This moment today is the first day that I don't have cigarettes on me.’


The other is his dating life.


From what he tells me, I sense that The Chef has a lot to give but nobody to give it to. Many of his answers are about his hopes to meet someone to love. He’s even willing to move halfway across the world, for the right person.


‘I never travelled in my life much. For me, the most important thing is who are you living with rather than where do you live.'

'So I probably wish myself to be with someone who is very important to me and would be a great partner for me, a woman, and it would not matter where we would be. If there is a person that would like to leave to somewhere else that would be very important for me. It could be in San Francisco, it could be in New York, it could be back to Poland or somewhere in Italy. Any place I think. Any place.’


The Chef clearly wears his heart on his sleeve.


‘Everyone says that I'm nice.'


'Very few people in my life I had a break up with in a way that they don't want to keep in touch with me, you know.’

But he’s also sad, underneath.


When I ask him for a guaranteed way to make him laugh, he replies by telling me that it’s a difficult question, one he doesn’t have an answer for, since to laugh requires someone else.


He’s healing, from something. I wonder if it’s his parents separating, because I know that, in my case, fourteen years have passed and I still haven’t quite accepted what happened.


‘My parents are very different. They are divorced. One is my mother. She is mentally unstable. She has bipolar. She writes to me but I never pay attention to such things, I always lose them. I don't keep up with her but she always finds some way.’


‘My father, somehow he was giving me a kind of balance to what my mother was doing. You know that he's standing on the ground firmly. Not like my mother.'


Unlime my own parents, the divorce of The Chef’s parents was dragged out for years.

‘The separation period was lasting around seven years because in Poland at that time people don't have divorces like this, especially when you have children. They try to find a solution which lasts for a very long time.’


I ask him how he copes when he feels low?


‘Previously I go for cigarette. In normal circumstances. But if I'm flying high in my life then

I go for a run. I'm a very big runner and I do push myself very hard, you know. I'm a long distance runner, so I do a lot of miles very fast.’


His brother lives in Oxford with him too, so sometimes they cook and eat together, keeping each other company.


‘We have this relation: goes closer and splits a little bit, goes closer and splits. It's not easy.’


But there’s hope on the horizon. With his new business ahead, he feels confident that good things are on the way.


‘This is the proudest moment for me, this day today.'

'It's a proud moment for me that I gave myself a chance to try a different life than with employment. My dreams now come true.’


One of the last things The Chef says to me stays with me. In fact, what he says, a sort of thank you for my asking questions, and mostly, for my simply caring about what he has to say, makes the entirety of The Archetypes worthwhile.


‘It's quite an honour for me that you've paid attention to me.’


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