Confectioner, craftsman… artist? Albert Judycki and Jacek Malarski x Lukullus
On combining confectionery traditions with modernity. On the relationship between confectionery industry and interior design. On the controversial gastronomic rebranding and whether it actually pays off. Maciej Maćkowiak interviews Albert Judycki and Jacek Malarski of Lukullus.
What is a confectioner? A chef? A craftsman? An artist…?
Albert Judycki: A confectioner is above all a craftsman, and whether craft is an art is a subject for a philosophical dissertation! In pre-war times, confectioners did indeed need to know the basics of drawing and sculpture and to study the principles of architecture in order to be able to compose elaborate pyramids of sugar, build structures of grillage or carve flowers of caramel and fruit of marzipan. Today we tend to focus on flavour, and decoration is only supposed to be its expression and a preview. Of course, the choice of the right ingredients, the finesse of the recipes put together or the discreet charm of the cake decoration may bear traces of artistry, but we would probably prefer to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” and reserve the title of ‘artist’ for artists in the strict sense of the word. In our opinion, a similar modesty should be maintained when calling confectionery an exact science and the confectionery workshop a laboratory. Yes, it is governed by truly apothecary principles – recipe ingredients are measured out and recipes followed to the nearest gram, and the confectioner should do everything ‘with a scale in hand and a clock in front of his eyes’, as recommended in the mid-19th century by the great Jules Gouffé, the author of the first modern cookery book – but we should not overdo these lofty analogies.
Jacek Malarski: For us, art means making the simplest things to the highest standard. A seemingly ordinary cupcake with vanilla cream or a slice of yeast cake can be a delight to the palate. In these simple pleasures there can be hidden emotions that some people take as the fruit of artistic inspiration!
You based the Lukullus brand on combining confectionery tradition with modernity. Why this immersion in the past and what exactly is “modernity” in confectionery?
Albert: The great traveller Nicolas Bouvier wrote that “tradition is like a deep-sea whale. Something like Moby Dick, who travels long distances under the surface of the sea without rest. If we insist on looking for it and watching out to where it was last seen when it surfaced, we may be waiting for a long time. No, you have to believe and sail until the two roads cross. It has to be sought where it is, not where it was.”This is why we believe that, on the one hand, we should not on the philosophy of top quality raw ingredients and generosity of recipes. forget the past, because Polish confectionery has a rich tradition and alongside the French, it is the best confectionery in the world, based Cracow-style Cheesecake with a checkered pattern, yeast cakes and poppy seed cakes, fried doughnuts and faworki are wonderful things, and in pre-war recipes you can find treasures undreamed of by confectionery philosophers. Polish Easter Baba muślinowa cake or Lucyna Ćwierczakiewiczowa’s Vienna strudel (mid-19th century recipes) are the ‘Himalayas’ of flavour and quality.
Jacek: On the other hand, alongside traditional products, Lukullus also offers pastries inspired by contemporary French confectionery. Twenty years ago, it underwent a major metamorphosis thanks to such geniuses as PierreHermé, who turned the concept of the modern patisserie on its head completely, or Philippe Conticini, who focused on the depth of flavour and perfection of raw ingredients. For example, our Limoncello tart is a fusion of recipes from three giants: the aforementioned Pierre Hermé, the master of simplicity Jacques Genin and Cédric Grolet, the youngest of the gods of the Parisian patisserie pantheon. Combining these two worlds – the traditional Polish, with the contemporary cosmopolitan – is a difficult and demanding task, but it ensures the diversity of the offer and satisfies the expectations of a wide range of guests in our patisseries. We are convinced that depriving confectionery of one of these components is crippling and impoverishing.
Your „venues” always feature a thoughtful and unique design. You don’t keep to one design scheme in Lukullus interiors. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Albert: Thanks for your kind words! It is wonderful that our efforts are being appreciated. You know, decorating new interiors is above all great fun for us. Next to inventing new pastries – probably the greatest! When it comes to artistic aspirations, interior design is a great opportunity for us to express ourselves aesthetically!
Jacek: Where do we find inspiration? From the head and from the heart! And we have been providing input for these for years, by looking at art and architecture, reading, travelling, meeting new people and arguing among ourselves… We decided, contrary to the standard assumptions of corporate branding, that each Lukullus outlet would be different and unique. First of all, this gives the opportunity to make each venue fit into the character of the location, to refer to the building or the district in which it is situated. Secondly, it makes it necessary to start the creative work on each project virtually from scratch.
Albert: And that is wonderful! The very thought of being able to start designing a new venue gives us goosebumps. We love art, we love good design, actually of any time period. Our shop in Lisowska Street is furnished like a 19th-century geszeft, the café in Chmielna Street is a luxurious version of the Polish People’s Republic(PRL), and the ice-cream parlour in Powiśle is a mixture of the Memphis Group aesthetics and the 1990’s style. We enjoy variety, but always full of flavour and in style!
Where did the ‘Art of Packaging’ come from? What is it and where did the idea even come from?
Albert: What is it and where did the idea even come from? The idea was born long ago, in 2010, during the rebranding of Lukullus. It may be hard to believe, but back then we were a patisserie in beige and brown camouflage colours. Wika Wojciechowska, our friend and the author of the new visual identity of the company, came up with the colour yellow – strong, bold and sunny, the colour of butter! Quite controversial for the gastronomy of the time. To stir things up even more, Wika also came up with the idea that our boxes will have a yellow lid, and the bottom part of the boxes will change depending on the season (contrary to classic box design, where the lid functions as the decorative element). It was then that we decided together, that the illustrations on the boxes would be created by young Warsaw artists.
Jacek: The first was Janek Dziaczkowski, his collage – „Dream of Warsaw” – is our default illustration, always present on the boxes whenever there are no seasonal graphics. Our packaging has changed over a dozen times since 2010. The authors of the illustrations were, among others, Bożka Rydlewska, Marta Ignerska, Tytus Brzozowski or recently Igor Kubik, who designed boxes with futuristic snowmen for Winter 2020. These are always great collaborations and fantastic meetings. We are also proud that every time we propose that someone does an illustration for us, we are met with enthusiasm and a quick „yes!” after a short conversation. Everyone wants to design for Lukullus! It is wonderful.
Who oversees the selection of artists to collaborate in the „SArt of Packaging”? What guides you in your choice?
Albert: The choice is ours, guided by our own taste and the occasion for which the packaging is to be designed. There are many wonderful illustrators in Warsaw whom we have not yet asked to collaborate, although their art delights us. Our delight must be matched by a strategic element – the reason why we want to dress Lucullus in these and not other clothes for a few months.
So art is an integral part of your strategy. Do you think there is still a demand for this? Is it viable to communicate through art?
Jacek: Of course there is a demand for it! Working with artists is a great opportunity to make your company stand out from the competition. After all, these designs are original and testify to the uniqueness of the product and the company itself.
Albert: And is it profitable? We do not know, we have never thought about it. Investing every year in the design of a new illustration or decorating shop windows for Christmas is a big expense for us, but it gives us pleasure and we are sure our customers feel the same. For several years we have been trying to follow our own intuition and a sense of flavour at Lukullus, rather than focus group research or current fashions. This is bearing fruit: customers are voting with their feet, for which we are particularly grateful after 2020, one of the most difficult years in the history of modern gastronomy. So yes: doing business according to what you believe in probably pays off!
Albert Judycki and Jacek Malarski: owners of the Warsaw Lukullus patisseries. Albert is the grandson of the patisserie’s founder, Jan Dynowski, a graduate of ethnology at the University of Warsaw and of a confectionery course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Jacek graduated in acting from the Łódź Film School and completed a confectionery course at the École Grégoire-Ferrandi, known as the Harvard of gastronomy.