From trends to tips, Oldřich Sahajdák lifts the lid on Czech dining in Prague
Since he started cooking at the age of 13, Oldřich Sahajdák has been obsessed with food. Now, as co-founder and head chef of La Degustation, one of only three Michelin star restaurants in Prague, he’s an authority on the Czech food scene. In a time when the cuisine is really starting to make its mark on the world stage, we sit down with Oldřich to talk about his favourite foodie spots in Prague.
What makes the food scene in Prague so exciting right now?
Prague is a fascinating city. It is my home town and my inspiration. It has changed a lot over the years and, of course, the culinary scene has developed with it. Like in many other European cities, our chefs travel a lot, working in France, England, Spain, Germany, and so on. When they come back, they bring back what they’ve learned and transform our cuisine. In Prague, we also use mostly local ingredients and our taste is different compared to other cuisines, which is interesting and new for foreigners.”
How has it changed on an international level?
Our culinary scene is changing in a positive way. I see Prague as similar to Copenhagen in that it’s on the same route to becoming a gastro hub. What did you know 15 years ago about Nordic cuisine? Nothing. And what now? I think Prague and Czech cuisine are on the same path.
Do you see Prague becoming more Michelin-star focused in the future, following the lead of La Degustation?
I don´t see that happening because here restaurants are more simple than fine dining. What really matters is the quality of the food and this is what our chefs are focused on more and more. In the future, I think restaurants will focus more on serving perfect food in a small, modern settings, than fine dining service with silverware.
How do you combine tradition with modernity at La Degustation?
We have no other option but to modernise. There are a lot of old Czech cooking books with great recipes, but we don’t have any more open fires in the kitchen. We don’t have a cellar for storing our meat and wild birds, and most of the animals and vegetables that were used before are prohibited now. Nowadays, we must replace many items, but we try to use the right ingredients to reach the same unique taste. We are using modern techniques and knowledge to develop old cuisine, which is great fun for our chefs.
If a visitor wants to sample traditional Czech cuisine in Prague, where should they book a table?
I would recommend Lokál Dlouhááá. It’s not only good place for a beer, they also have great food that reflects a homemade traditional style of cuisine. To eat, I would choose tripe soup and dumplings with sauce.
When you have an evening off cooking, where do you go out to eat?
I like to go to Sansho, Bistro Milada, Lokál Dlouhááá or Na Stodolci. I like uncomplicated but tasty meals, and this is what I find in these places. I also go to u Zlatého tygra for great beer with my friends.
Where do you buy your ingredients in Prague?
Every day we go to Pražská tržnice (holešovice Prague 7) to buy ingredients for the restaurant. One of our chefs also drives daily to pick up ingredients directly from farmers, fishermen, hunters, and so on. Our menu strongly depends on what they offer us each day. It is great to not know what will be on the menu tomorrow as it pushes us to be creative.