THE father of a Polish squash playing champion is serving up a culinary treat to shoppers at Stretford Mall.
Darek Atras has launched a new business cooking up unique recipes which have been passed down through his family for generations.
He has put together a flavoursome menu, with the help of his wife Jola, based on the dishes they grew up with in their homeland and which they in turn served to their own children, Przemek and Monica.
Przemek, 33, is today a champion squash athlete who plays for the Polish national team and runs a top ranked squash club in Krakow. Monica works in administration in Warsaw.
They both always loved family meals at home with their parents thanks to Jola’s delicious cooking. But it was only on moving to Britain in 2015 that Jola and Darek came up with the idea of catering professionally.
Darek, 55, said the business, launched just a couple of weeks ago, is named after his chef wife and the couple have invested in a custom-designed-and-built, fully equipped kitchen kiosk, emblazoned with the ‘Jola’ logo.
They had it shipped over from Poland to Stretford Mall where it is based in one of the central aisles. It enables them to cook up flavoursome feasts fresh to order on site all day long.
The entrepreneurial grandfather-of-three said he had no hesitation launching the start-up cafe project, saying he had a lifetime of experiencing how delicious his wife’s recipes are.
Darek added: “The new venture is truly unique because only Jola knows the full recipes which have been passed down through the women in her family for centuries.”
His wife has also developed a halal version of one of their recipes to cater for local demand.
Darek, who plays squash and tennis as a hobby and helped train his athletic son, ran a successful neighbourhood supermarket business in Krasnystaw, near Lublin, Poland, for 25 years, before the couple moved to Manchester.
They left Poland to seek new opportunities after facing ever increasing pressure from larger hypermarket chains.
Darek worked for the Enterprise vehicle hire firm on first settling here, but his own irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit kicked in when he and Jola realised there was a gap in the local cafe and takeaway market for traditional Polish food.
If successful Darek would love to develop the Jola food outlet as a franchise with more branches across the North West.
Their friend Daniel Klein, who lives with them in Whalley Range and has been helping Darek launch the initial business, said: “In Poland it is traditional for recipes to be passed down the family line between women, from grandmother, to mother, to daughter. Some recipes go back generations and on occasions the current generation may add a new twist or ingredient only known to that particular family.
“That’s exactly the case with Jola. Everyone who knows her loves Jola’s cooking – it just comes naturally to her and so this is the perfect investment for them both.”
Daniel, 30, originally from the Czech Republic, has been helping by dishing out free samples of hot-cooked food to shoppers in Stretford Mall.
He said: “After his years of business experience Darek knows that you can have the best product in the world but it won’t sell unless people know about it, so during the opening weeks we have been offering people free samples of the food to give them a taste of what’s on the menu.”
Stretford Mall manager Gareth Wilkins is thrilled to have the new independent trader join the Mall community.
“It’s exciting times at Stretford Mall at the moment as we have started a £2m redevelopment which will include a bright and modern new entrance on Chester Road. It’s a big step towards creating a more vibrant retail space for the community which will help us to attract big high street names along with other interesting independent businesses like Jola.”
Gareth added: “I succumbed to trying one of the hotdogs for breakfast and I can honestly say it was truly delicious. Jola definitely knows her cooking.
“It’s important to have a good mix of outlets in a shopping centre like ours, well known chain stores supported by an eclectic mix of independent businesses so I am so pleased to welcome something as different as this.
“Darek is so enthusiastic and really has spotted a gap in the culinary market. No one else currently in the Mall or nearby offers a range of traditional Polish takeaway food like this.
“Their enterprise and initiative is commendable. They have done well to seize the opportunity to offer such a new and exciting style of freshly made cuisine to consumers in Trafford. I’m looking forward to watching this young business develop and grow. We all wish them the best of luck for a lucrative future. Hopefully the business will be as big a winner in the culinary world as their son is in the sports arena!”
A hot favourite already emerging is a tasty mushroom base Jola prepares herself to go on baked baguettes topped with cheese, three types of onion, tomato sauce and a choice of meats including salami, chorizo, ham, and sausage.
“The mushroom base has a secret ingredient which makes it all the more tasty, but Jola will never tell what it is,” said Daniel.
They also offer traditional Polish hotdogs with a choice of relishes, halal baguettes, sweet cooked waffles with a variety of toppings, plus hot and cold drinks and cakes.
Darek said it is important to get to know the local market and to be able to adapt to its demands, which is why they introduced a halal option to the menu.
Daniel added: “We have already had a number of Asian customers who asked for a halal option so it’s important that we cater for them.”