Czech super chef Mirek Kalina’s eponymous restaurant, Kalina, is one of Prague’s most esteemed eateries. Elevating traditional Czech cuisine with fine dining flair and a soupcon of French finesse, Kalina’s dishes are a joy. Here, he reveals how to experience the best of the Prague dining scene on your next trip.
Who was your biggest inspiration as a young chef?
The American chef, Thomas Keller. His restaurant in Napa Valley, French Laundry, is one of the best in the world.
Tell us a little about your background. Where did you train as a chef?
I started in a very casual restaurant in Prague called Vlachovka. Later, I moved to Aqua restaurant under Chef Jaroslav Žídek. After that, I worked at the fine dining restaurant Kampa Park alongside executive chef, Marek Raditsch.
Which other acclaimed European restaurants did you go on to work in before founding Kalina?
I moved to Oslo, Norway to work at chef Terje Ness’ restaurant ORO, before heading to Pavel Pospíšil’s Michelin starred Gasthof Krone in Baden Baden, Germany. Later, I trained at Les Prés d’Eugénie in France under the supervision of Michel Guérard.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Traditional but inventive Prague cuisine with French charm.
Your restaurant, Kalina is one of Prague’s most revered. Does it have a signature dish?
That would be our roasted veal sweetbread. It’s served with rigatoni pasta, egg yolk croquette, glazed chestnuts and cream of black truffle.
What flavours and ingredients underpin Czech cuisine?
Rich dairy products like butter, egg and cream, and also mushrooms and fresh water fish like carp or bream. The Czech Republic is landlocked, so our fish largely come from rivers and lakes.
What do you love the most about Czech cuisine?
I love humble, classic meals that remind me of my childhood.
When visiting Prague, what local dishes should people try?
Butter fried veal schnitzel. This is a simple comfort food you’ll find in many Prague restaurants. Also, they should try Bramboračka, a traditional Czech potato soup made with diced vegetables and vegetable stock. Finally, our local freshwater fish.
What are your favourite restaurants in Prague?
When I dine out I like to go to Grand Cru, a restaurant and wine bar that serves fantastic international fine dining cuisine. Divinis in Prague’s Old Town does the best Italian food in the city, while Zdenek’s Oyster Bar serves complex and creative oyster fusion dishes as well as first-class Champagnes.
How has the Prague food scene changed over the last ten years?
It has definitely progressed in terms of quality and innovation, chefs are becoming more progressive with their approach to traditional cuisine.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Salt, pepper and lemon juice.