A woman sitting at a table with food.

Millions Savor Flavor of Poland

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Aleksandra shows viewers how to make Chruścicki (Angel Wings), which are traditionally served for Fat Thursday

PASI EDU’s Susan Gorga interviews Culinary-Travel Host Aleksandra August

For the first time ever, American Public Television broadcast a culinary-travel series about Poland. Breathtaking scenery and mouthwatering recipes combine to create an unforgettable experience for viewers in Flavor of Poland. Since January of 2020, millions of viewers have become armchair gourmets each week as a new region is explored by host Aleksandra August. PASI EDU’s Susan Gorga interviewed Aleksandra about her reflections on filming Season 1.

Fans will be happy to learn that Season 2 is underway and there is the possibility to support this impressive project by donating through the PASI EDU website donation page at pasi-edu.org.

Susan Gorga: So first, congratulations on the success of Flavor of Poland!  How did this project get started?  What was the vision?

Aleksandra August: Thank you so much! Yes, I’m also thrilled about the way the first season of Flavor of Poland was received. I’m excited to have been able to share more about Poland with my fellow Americans. 

That actually leads into the answer to your question – giving Americans a better picture of Poland was the vision behind the project. Upon observing culinary trends in the U.S., we (the creators of the show) noticed that there’s a lot being shared about many cultures from around the world, but that Poland is not quite as well represented. If you go to any major city in the U.S. you’ll encounter a lot of Italian cuisine, Chinese food, Mexican food, Japanese cuisine, etc.; however, Poland’s flavors are still not very widely known. You see the same trend when you turn on your television. At the same time, there’s an estimated 10 million individuals living in the U.S. who trace their heritage back to Poland. Many of them (2nd, 3rd generations and beyond) remember certain flavors and stories passed on from grandparents and perhaps have some general knowledge of Poland’s history.  Aside from that, Poland is very much an undiscovered territory for most. This has also created somewhat of a longing to learn more. Flavor of Poland offers that solution. The 13-episode series takes American TV viewers on a journey all around Poland, focusing on the different regions, cities and landscapes of Poland. It dives into national and local history, legends, as well as modern life and current trends. Woven into the fabric of all that is, of course, food. Every stop along this journey through Poland includes an exploration of Poland’s culinary heritage, where it’s been, how it developed and changed over time and what it is today. 

For millions of viewers, the show has done exactly what we had hoped it would – it has been a sentimental journey back to the country of their ancestors, strengthening their ties and sense of identity with Poland and their Polish heritage. We’ve heard from countless viewers that, thanks to Flavor of Poland, they now feel so much more familiar with Poland. They’re all so thrilled that they now have a show that provides more education on the country of their ancestors. 

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Aleksandra in Kraków’s Rynek Główny (Main Market Square) with two guests dressed in Krakówian folk attire

SG: How did you personally become involved?

AA: I am a professional actress among other things. I met the producers of Flavor of Poland quite a few years ago and worked with them on a number of different projects. When they came up with the idea to make Flavor of Poland, they thought of me as a host. Due to my Polish-American background, they thought I’d be a good fit. I was born in Poland and grew up in the States, although I came here with my parents when I was 3 years old. Even though I’ve called the U.S. home throughout my entire life, the Polish language, culture and traditions were passed on to me and were a big part of my life. I guess that because I am a part of both American and Polish culture, I seemed like the right person to translate one culture to the other. 

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Aleksandra sampling Oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep’s milk exclusively by Highlanders, (Górale) in the Tatra Mountains region.

SG: I’m sure each of the 13 regions has something unique about them, but could you share an anecdote or two about something that was especially memorable?

AA: You are correct in that assumption! Yes, there was truly something special about every stop along the way, but a few of my most cherished experiences include: having a chance to recreate the favorite dish of one of Poland’s last Kings at his summer residence in Warsaw (Wilanow Palace) with Chef Maciej Nowicki. Chef Maciej is the director of the culinary research and education center at Wilanow Palace, and he was able to tell me about where Polish cuisine truly began and how it developed through history. My visit with Poland’s first Michelin Star awarded chef, Wojciech Modest Amaro was also a great privilege. Speaking of how Polish cuisine has evolved, Chef Amaro is the trailblazer in the modern evolution of Polish food. He’s redefined it in a genius way and is giving Polish cuisine a new direction and footprint in the world. 

You can watch episode #102 of Flavor of Poland to learn more about that.

Having the opportunity to sail a boat on the Masurian Lake where my father earned his sailor’s patent years ago was also an experience I’ll cherish forever. Visiting the cities that are tied to the birth of Poland as a nation were pretty epic experiences, as was cooking a traditional dish of the Teutonic Grand Masters within the walls of their old castle in Malbork! As you can see, I could go on and on and on, but I’ll leave it at this for now. I encourage everyone to watch the series and pick their favorite moments, too! 

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Aleksandra enjoying the beautiful Polish countryside

SG: What was the craziest experience you had while filming?

AA: It was either the large amount of cherry vodka that I was encouraged to drink by the incredibly hospitable and good-humored Highlanders (Gorale) in Zakopane or the part where I had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step out onto an open field with a roaming herd of American buffalo, ironically, in the middle of Poland… actually, I think the buffalo win on the measure of craziness! We got really close to them! You can watch me walk among the American buffalo in Poland’s Holy Cross region and learn how they got there in episode #111 of Flavor of Poland 🙂 

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Aleksandra and guest watching a herd of American buffalo in Poland’s Holy Cross (Świętokrzyskie) region

SG: What was your favorite recipe to make? To eat? Why?

AA: These are always the hardest questions to answer! Food in Poland is so good! If I have to pick a couple of favorites though, I’d say that the “Rebel’s Cakes†(potato pancakes with a meat sauce) from the Zakopane episode was my favorite dish to make while the amber seafood soup was my favorite dish to eat. 

Why Rebel’s Cakes? Mainly because potato pancakes are one of my absolute favorite Polish foods. The meat sauce recipe I presented in the episode is also superb! Made with high quality beef entrecôte, tomato sauce, mushrooms and a touch of red wine it’s a very hearty, aromatic and simply mouthwatering goulash to top the crispy potato pancakes. I added a bit of nutmeg to the cake mix and fried them in goose fat, so this also gave them a unique taste – almost a bit sweet. Topped with the sour cream and freshly chopped leek, this dish was an explosion of flavor…and quite filling at that!

The amber soup on the other hand, was something I had been anticipating since the preproduction days of the show. We had gotten Chef Andrzej Lawniczak, creator of this signature Baltic Coast recipe, on board for the show and he promised to showcase his famous seafood soup made with the very best catch from Poland’s side of the Baltic and seasoned with a marinade made of what he calls “The gifts of Father Neptune.†It’s a unique flavor concoction that includes bits of actual amber from the sea! He also says it has many health benefits if just consumed on its own. I got to assist Chef Lawniczak in the making of the soup in the Tri-City episode (#106) and its taste was everything he promised it would be! A creamy soup filled with the best catch from the Baltic with a unique flavor and a touch of caviar to finish it off! It’s safe to say I’ve never had anything like it before!

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Aleksandra with Chef Lawniczak preparing Amber Soup, a signature Baltic Coast recipe

SG: What did you enjoy the most about the experience?

AA: It was wonderful to actually get to know Poland! I grew up in the States so every visit back to Poland during my childhood revolved mostly around visiting with family and perhaps a few trips to locations near my hometown. My family did a great job passing on the history and culture of Poland to me, but I really only knew it from stories. Flavor of Poland gave me the opportunity to experience all the places I previously had only heard about. I now have a deeper understanding of my heritage and the place I come from. I feel even more connected to it. 

I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to experience such a unique adventure. 

I’m also thrilled I got to share it with so many people all around the U.S.! 

SG: Congratulations to you and the team for winning and being finalists for all the Taste Awards! Flavor of Poland received a Special Achievement Honoree Award in the category Best of Europe (2021) as well as being a finalist in five additional categories: 

Best Food Program (television), Best Food Travel Series (television), Best New Series, 

Best Travel Program, and Best International Program. 

The series has been watched by more than 65 million viewers in over 35,000 broadcasts.  

I hear there are plans for a second season!

AA: Thank you so much! YES! We absolutely want to do another season! Probably more than just one more. On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who has tuned in to watch the show since it premiered. I’m so touched by all the positive feedback that we’ve received! Flavor of Poland holds a great sentimental value for many of those who have tuned in to watch it. 

It’s given people a sense of pride to (finally) have the country of their ancestry represented on public television in the U.S.  From what they tell us, it’s been showcased even better than they would have expected. Nothing feels better than to hear that. 

SG: Thank you, Aleksandra, and we wish you all the very best on the upcoming season!

Dear Reader, if you would like to help educate the public about Polish cuisine and culture, please make a donation through the PASI EDU website to support Flavor of Poland at pasi-edu.org. After clicking on the Donate button, click on the dropdown and select “Other Program or Purposeâ€. In the next window, click on “Add a note to your donation†and type in “Flavor of Polandâ€. Thank you!

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Aleksandra August samples a delectable Polish pÄ…czek (“ponchekâ€) donut

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The Flavor of Poland production team