Prague’s culinary scene has come alive in the past few years and there’s a real buzz around food in general. There’s the emergence of farmers markets (and direct-from-farm food stores too). The TV schedules are packed with cooking and food-centric reality shows (the star of the Czech version of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Zdenek Pohlreich runs Café Imperial in the city center). There are currently two Michelin-starred restaurants in Prague with more tipped to be anointed in the next edition, plenty of Bib Gourmand listed eateries too.
above: Lukas Skala, head pastry chef at Zlata Praha at the InterContinental Hotel Prague. Photo by Mikulas Gottwald
An obvious manifestation of this vibrant foodie scene is the addition of several festivals to the city’s culinary calendar every year or so. A brand new festival for 2014 is garnering lots of attention for taking a different approach. Whereas some festivals are about a particular region and others focus on getting people in the door of participating restaurants with a low ticket price, or some are 2-3 day events at a single outdoor venue with restaurant kitchens out of their element in makeshift kitchens this newcomer turns the spotlight back on the people who create the dishes in the first place, the chefs.
Time for Chef Time
Chef Time began as a series of videos featuring the stars and up-and-comers of Prague chefs. The format was a recipe and short interview. With chefs queuing up to be involved, the concept was expanded to a live event, but instead of an overwhelming and massively disrupting three days in a castle garden somewhere, Chef Time Fest is instead a calendar of events spread over three weeks, all taking place at the neat Prague 6 restaurant AvantGarde and featuring 19 chefs, 18 of the very best chefs from Prague and one Michelin-starred guest chef visiting from France – Reine Sammut.
The best part of Chef Time Fest is the interaction between the chefs says Edita Zeit, project manager of the festival and presenter of the original Chef Time videos. At all the preparatory events there’s been tremendous camaraderie and enthusiasm. Most festivals isolate the chefs or pit them against each other to compete on a purely monetary level. Chef Time has given them the chance to hang out with each other, on work time. The organisers have been able to get the head chefs of most of Prague’s fine dining restaurants involved. Jiri Stift, judge on Czech Masterchef and head chef at the Mandarin Oriental is probably the most well-known but his counterparts at white-hot-on-TripAdvisor Pot-au-Feu and Kalina Cuisine&Vins as well as the head chefs of Buddha Bar Prague, Chagall’s Club Restaurant, Le Grill at Kempinski, Kampa Park, Zlata Praha at the InterContinental, Zinc at the Hilton Prague Old Town, Coda Aria Hotel and more are all taking part.
Head to head Duel or Chef’s Table?
There are several different formats to the events that make up Chef Time. The classes are probably of least interest as they’ll be in Czech but most interesting to foreign visitors are either the head-to-head Duels between two chefs where for each of three courses both chefs present a dish with the same main ingredient or the Chefs Tables, where 5 chefs prepare one course each of a menu they came up with together and dine with a table of 12 for the rest of the meal.
Tickets for the events are on sale now and we’re told, selling well, so if you’re a foodie who’s going to be in Prague between mid January and early February 2014 you’ll want to get your place secured soon.