January 17, 2011


david ellis

LIKE the other kids in the street, Tomasz Kozlowski loved riding his bicycle, kicking a football and dreaming about what they all might be when they "grew up."

But while his mates talked about being motor mechanics and the like, rather than the thought of grease on his hands, Tomasz was happier playing around with the wondrous things that went into the mixing bowls and the saucepans and the baking dishes in his mum's kitchen.

And he dreamed of one day creating his own dishes from these wonders himself.

So much so that while his mates were still fantasizing about "when they grew up," young Tomasz convinced his Mum and Dad to enrol him for five years in culinary school – from which he graduated at just 17 years of age.

After doing his compulsory Polish military service, he went straight to work as a chef in a restaurant in Germany, then others in France and Spain – not just as jobs, but to learn as much as he could.

And in 2001, he heard about the fledgling SeaDream Yacht Club that had just two mega motor-cruiser yachts, SeaDream I and SeaDream II.

The ambitious Tomasz signed-up to join the team in the galley of SeaDream I. Today, still just 34 years of age, he is its Executive Chef, winning stunning acclaim from guests as she wends her way around the Mediterranean from May to October, and the Caribbean from November to April.

It's a long way from his mum's kitchen in the little town in Poland.

"Being small – we've just 56 staterooms for 112 guests – allows us a huge amount of freedom to provide guests with a dining experience like no other at sea," Tomasz says. "Including being able to change menus and dining venues from indoors to outdoors to suit the day, to set up lunch on remote Mediterranean beaches or uninhabited Caribbean islands, and to surprise guests with little favourites for birthdays, anniversaries and the like."

As one Australian travel writer wrote after sailing SeaDream in the Mediterranean, "dining is like you're in the world's finest restaurant – with a ship underneath it."

Tomasz has just nine cooks, a pastry chef and a baker in his galley, and relishes enthusing to guests about his team.

"Everyone is hugely dedicated," he says. "We treat each sailing as a separate and exclusive event... not as a weekly repeat of what was done the week before: we tailor meals to the regions through which we are sailing, so guests experience the flavours and subtleties of local ingredients, as well of course as international favourites."

In some places, such as Sorrento in Italy, he invites guests to join him on a shopping expedition to buy the ingredients for pre-dinner cocktails and canapes around the pool. "They come with me to select cold meats and local cheeses, olives and unique drinks like Limoncello, fresh regional fruits and vegetables – and that night they enjoy it all from our cocktail tables."

More basic ingredients come from around the world: lamb from New Zealand, beef from Kansas, lobster from Maine, crab legs and claws from Alaska, fruit and vegetables from Australia, South Africa and Asia...

And recently when SeaDream I sailed her annual repositioning voyage from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, he surprised the dozen Australians on board with a poolside "Aussie Party Pies Party."

It was a stunning success.

And while he puts boundless energy into his culinary creations Tomasz likes to keep offerings modestly-sized, tasty and healthy.

"Piling a plate doesn't necessarily make for a good meal," he says. "Rather, we offer up to five courses at lunch and dinner – appetizers, soups, entrees, main courses and desserts or cheeses, so guests enjoy a wider choice than two or three plates piled-high."

So many choices in fact that guests' only complaint is decisions, decisions…

When he's not aboard SeaDream I, Tomas Kozlowski returns home to Szczerin in Poland and his wife and son (8) and daughter (coming on 3.)

And yes, he's happy in the kitchen there too. "We eat light, simple and healthy meals, and I like to dine out as well to pick up tips – I like constantly learning."

For information about SeaDream's itineraries and prices see travel agents or visit www.seadream.com

Photo Captions:

[] EVER-effervescent Chef Tomasz enthuses over fresh market produce on a guests' shopping tour in Sorrento.

[] IN the galley – his hands do the talking.

[] DREAM cuisine – decisions, decisions: when a guest couldn't decide between Dover Sole and Atlantic Salmon, Chef Tomasz gave him both!

[] SEADREAM I in the Mediterranean.


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