> Chefs

Kuba Winkowski

‘When you go to work at Le Manoir they ask you for two-and-a-half years, which is enough time to work on all the different sections,’ says Kuba. ‘The sheer amount of butchery, prep, mise en place – you don’t see that at many other restaurants. I wanted to be the best chef I could possibly be and Le Manoir was the perfect place to develop my skills. It was like being in the army, and I needed that regime and discipline – I think every chef does.’

Kuba honed his skills at Le Manoir until 2009, when he decided to leave in search of a better work-life balance (his son was eight months old at the time). That brought him to The Feathered Nest Country Inn – not too far from Le Manoir – where he joined as sous chef. A year later he was given the head chef job, and over the next nine years he set about turning the eighteenth century malthouse into one of the finest gastropubs in the country.

Today, Kuba’s cooking can best be described as rooted in French cooking, but with plenty of other influences. He sticks to classic flavour combinations – there aren’t any white chocolate sauces served with fish or anything like that – but the ingenuity comes in his presentation and his dedication to making everything in-house, including the charcuterie. On top of that, Kuba calls upon his native Poland to add little eastern European twists to his dishes.

‘At the end of the day I am Polish as well as British, so when I was thinking about how to make the menu here stand out it made sense to explore Polish cuisine. So many gastropubs end up serving the same sorts of dishes, but there aren’t many places serving modern British food with eastern European elements. Sturgeon, for example, is hugely popular in Poland, but it’s rarely seen in the UK. Sauerkraut is also a fantastic ingredient to cook with. I taught myself about more traditional Polish cooking by going through cookbooks and asking chef friends back in Poland for tips, and it’s been really well received.’

Kuba’s dedication and training at an institution such as Le Manoir turned him into a very talented chef, but cooking in a rural inn in the Cotswolds meant he found it difficult to get people to take notice. He entered the National Chef of The Year 2019 competition to remedy this, and ended up coming in first place. This cemented his reputation for impeccable cooking, and The Feathered Nest soon became one of the region’s top dining destinations.

‘It’s not easy being from Poland and getting into cooking a little later in life – you just don’t have that network of friends in the industry that a lot of people make when they start at sixteen,’ he explains. ‘I wanted to see how my cooking compared to others, so I entered the competition hoping to win. I would’ve been happy if I’d just networked a little bit, so to win it was fantastic.’

Armed with the best classical training you could ask for and a repertoire of eastern European recipes most other chefs don’t dabble with makes Kuba one of the UK’s most exciting chefs. He left The Feathered Nest in August 2019 to focus on his own project called Kubarn, an intimate custom-built shed in his garden perfect for supper clubs (and eventually opening his own restaurant once he finds the right site and location in The Cotswolds). At Kubarn, he cooks small plates using a wood-fired oven and live fire cooking for just five people at a time, using ingredients exclusively from local farmers with plenty of homemade charcuterie, smoked fish, butter, bread, liqueurs and ferments.

Three things you should know

Kuba is passionate about charcuterie and regularly wins awards for his creations in competitions which also include full-time cured meat producers.

At Kubarn, Kuba hosts supper clubs, private events and cooking demonstrations in a unique setting.

Kuba works closely with the Polish Embassy to help promote Poland in the UK.