Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay opens new restaurant in Prague

Gordon Ramsay, photo: www.smh.com.au

There are many reasons to visit Prague, but up until now, maybe gastro-tourism hasn't been one of them. Guidebooks such as the Lonely Planet and Let's Go don't spare too many compliments when it comes to the fare offered by the city's pubs and restaurants. So, not a place you would naturally expect a top chef with three Michelin stars to open up his latest venture. But that's just what British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has gone and done. His restaurant Maze has been up and running since last Thursday, transforming the ground floor of Prague's Hilton Old Town Hotel into an art-deco dining experience. Jason Atherton is Gordon Ramsay's business partner. Kitted out in his chef's whites, he explains why they decided upon Prague for their latest restaurant:

"I believe that we first got the opportunity to create a Maze in Prague when Blackstone Investment Bank, who bought the hotel, just gave us a perfect opportunity to do something in a city which we believe is one of the most emerging cities in Europe. You know, it is on that circle of Barcelona, Berlin, London - and so we just thought 'why not? Let's give it a go'. And the Czech people have been wonderful, the produce has been fantastic, and it's such an emerging city. When we got the opportunity, we jumped at it."

In your research, did you think about who your clientele might be? Are you expecting mostly British tourists to come here, or guests of the Hilton, or even Czechs to come and eat in this restaurant?

"I think that we would like to have a sort of merge of all cultures. We certainly want Czech people coming in. If we could fill this entire restaurant with Czech people alone, that for me would be mission accomplished. It would be fabulous, because we are in the Czech Republic, and we are in its capital. There are some fantastic shops here, which proves that there is a good strong economy. People are always talking about Prague and the Czech Republic. Yes, of course we are going to get British tourists, because it is owned by a three Michelin-star British chef, and we are going to get American tourists, because Gordon is well known in America. And that's great, because there are no two ways about it; we need to fill the restaurant to make money. We are here as a business, not just as a vanity thing. But yes, we definitely want our restaurant to be full of Czech people, enjoying our cuisine. The majority of our staff are Czech, a good 95% of them. And that's what it was all about."

What have your experiences of eating out in other people's restaurants here in Prague been like?

"There is such a vibrant scene in Prague. A lot more than I was expecting. It's very similar to when I first went to live in Dubai to open up our first restaurant out there and I wasn't expecting too much. I came here with very little hope and didn't really know much about it and was very surprised. Kampa Park is a fantastic restaurant, very busy, beautiful location, great food. Allegro restaurant is doing a great job, they've just changed their chef. So, you know, it's fabulous. We have 50 chefs in the kitchen in total, who predominantly are Czech, and we have already spotted a couple of these guys who are potential head chefs for the restaurant. And there is nothing more gratifying for me than seeing local people being trained to run a restaurant of this quality."