We sat down to talk to Kamila about living in Waterford, why she loves the people and the scenery and what it’s like to open and run a business in the city.
Let’s dive in…
When did you move to Waterford and what did you do when you first arrived?
I moved to Waterford from Kraków, Poland in October 2004. I spent the summer of 2003 in Dublin. I remember walking around Dublin thinking—I could live here. But I didn’t want to go back to Dublin—I wanted a fresh start.
I read about Waterford in the Lonely Planet and it ticked all my boxes—I could pronounce Waterford, it’s on the coast, it’s not too big or too small and it is the Sunny South East!
The first place I went when I arrived was the Gingerman pub. I got a newspaper and after a few phone calls I found my first accommodation in Lismore Park.
Did you find the transition easy?
I moved a lot as a child, so it wasn’t difficult for me to settle in. The people in Waterford are wonderful—helpful, supportive and very open.
When did Momo open and what were the biggest challenges you faced at the beginning?
Momo opened on November 25th, 2014. The biggest challenge was…everything! I wasn’t completely tuned in to what running your own business entailed. We didn’t get a loan so the money ran out quickly. Actually, we were minus €4,000 on our opening day. The restaurant was very quiet and I was nervous and exhausted. There were lots of sleepless nights, but I couldn’t give up. The money I invested came from my mom—she passed away when I was 8 years old—so Momo had to work. I couldn’t waste it.
What’s it like running a business with your husband Harry?
Running a business with your partner is both challenging and rewarding. Harry ran Momo with me until he opened Luca Records last year, so we don’t work together anymore. But, when you work with your partner you know that you can trust them…they want to succeed as much as you.
But you are bringing work home so you don’t have quality time and normal everyday chats. Momo absorbed us. It is much healthier, in my opinion, to work separately. Now we are both doing what we love. I’m extremely proud of Harry and what he has achieved so far. He loves music and records and has created a wonderful space for everyone in the city.
Has owning your own restaurant always been a passion of yours? And if so, where does this passion come from?
I love food. When I was a student in Krakow, I worked in a little pub called Eszeweria. I loved it. It was then that the idea of having my own place started. After our children were born, I continued working in pubs and restaurants. I love looking after people. My passion is still growing and I’m still learning. Food, flavours, the never-ending combinations and the people behind it—that is what I love.
What’s the best and toughest thing about having a restaurant business?
The toughest thing is everything! You can’t switch off… Something always goes wrong, something breaks, something leaks, someone forgets…and you are only as good as the last plate you served.
You’re open six days a week—do you have any downtime!? What do you like doing when you’re not working?
I’m working on having more downtime… I’m trying to have a full day off and a couple of nights off. That doesn’t always work, but I have to do it for myself and my family.
When I’m not working, I love spending time with my family and friends. Normal everyday things are what I like to do—walk the dog, have coffee or wine with a friend, chat with Harry and the kids, cook at home. I also enjoy sea swimming in the summer.
How was life for you during the pandemic when Momo was closed?
The pandemic…oh, it was so strange. It was a nerve-racking time for me. Not knowing what to expect was very hard. I was worried about our staff—they are like family. I worried about the future, trying to figure it out. I tried to stay busy…ordering takeaways, going to Seagull Bakery, making cordials… I didn’t know how to deal with the free time…I wasn’t used to being at home and just being. I had to keep going, otherwise I would have fallen apart. It was a very stressful time.
You’ve won many awards for Momo—which ones are you most proud of and why?
All the awards are important. It is so lovely to get a pat on the back from the industry.
Personally for me, getting “Local Food Hero” in 2022 and “Best Casual Dining” in Munster in 2017 and being listed in the Top 100 Restaurants by the McKenna Guide for a few years. But if I’m honest, the best award for us is when people are coming back to us, when we can get to know them and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
You source your food (where you can) from local producers—is it difficult to keep things local?
From the day we opened our mission was to use as much local produce as possible. Why? Because it is the best, it supports our community, it is fresh and we know the people we are buying it from. The hard work, passion and dedication of our suppliers motivates us every day. We learn from them. It is not hard…it is rewarding. Great produce gives us great food.
What are your two favourite pastimes?
Being with my family and swimming in the sea or just going for a walk.
If you could have dinner with someone, dead or alive, who would they be?
I would love to have dinner with my mom. As I mentioned above, she passed away when I was 8 and I would do anything to have a chat and dinner with her.
Tell me three things you love about living in Waterford?
The people, the sea and the mountains. I love that I have everything I need here.
Where’s your favourite place (in Waterford or anywhere in the world)?
My favourite place is the Guillamene—it is my happy place.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be afraid to change. Change is good.
What’s your favourite food?
Anything pickled and cheese, bread and seafood…
Thanks Kamila—you’re a true inspiration to business owners to keep on working towards your goals to succeed. Here’s to many more years of enjoying the wonderful food and atmosphere in Momo.
Momo is located on Patrick Street and open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. See here for more: https://momorestaurant.ie.