Celebrity chef Roman Hadrbolec

Roman Hadrbolec, photo: www.romanhadrbolec.com

If you happen to be a celebrity like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, or Paul Newman, then you may have heard of Roman Hadrbolec - in fact, you may have tasted his dishes. Roman is a Czech celebrity chef who was born in Moravia. After an apprenticeship in Austria's four-star hotel Alphof, three months Down Under, and several months on the Pride luxury ship of the prestigious Seabourn Cruise Line, he spent a decade in the homes of people many of us only know from cinema screens.

A decade later, Roman has returned to the Czech Republic where he's been busy putting out his own cookbook, a range of spices, and working on a new TV series.

In our Radio Prague studio, Roman Hadrbolec revealed how he ended up cooking for celebrities just months after moving to LA:

"I met the housekeeper and a nanny for Kenny Rogers and she told me about this agency in San Fernando Valley for chefs, housekeepers, basically the personnel and staff of celebrities, and I got a job with Mark Hughes who was the owner of Herbalife and then with the owner of BMG music. So I worked there for three months. Then I was told that the best agency is in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and that it is owned by a Polish lady, Dora. Dora said 'well, you don't have an experience of two years, which is necessary to be able to work as a private chef for celebrities in Los Angeles, but since you are from Ostrava, which is thirty minutes from Poland, I will help you.' And then she did.

"She called me the next day and she said there is this movie producer, John Davis, whose dad, Marvin Davis, used to own Twentieth Century Fox and they hired me as a weekend chef at his beach house in Malibu. It was amazing because there's this beautiful home with a private cinema room, beach, swimming pool and Jacuzzi, twenty rooms and a fitness centre - everything you can imagine. Of course, the pay was not that great but my agent Dora told me 'if you stick around for over a year then the doors of pretty much any celebrity will be open to you because Mr Davis is well connected and everybody loves him'."

And that's how you met Arnold Schwarzenegger...

"Mr Davies was his best friend and he actually discovered him and put him into movies. Through Mr Davis, Mr Schwarzenegger met his wife Maria Shriver. Because the Schwarzeneggers didn't have a beach house, they used to come to Mr Davis' house quite often in the summer and they got to know me. Arnold loved me because I spoke German and I knew how to cook Austrian food. So, he asked me to pass by his house in the Pacific Palisades a few times and cook there. It was no problem because I had the week off. So, we became friends and I worked there for a year and a half. But since I was off for the week most of the time, my agent Dora told me about another producer, recording company owner [Lou] Adler, who was the producer of Carole King and came out with the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"I agreed to work for him because he lived only ten houses away from Mr Davis' beach house. So I went there and cooked for him twice a week before they hired me for the whole week. His best friends were Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty and his wide was Paul Newman's best friend and colleague as well and that's how I met them. I was there for two years. I did parties for Cher as well because she had meetings with Mr Davis and he was planning to make a movie with her. She came there eight to ten times."

But besides working for Mr Davis, you also ended up working for Mrs Hoover...

"I moved back to the Czech Republic. I broke up with my girlfriend and then I didn't want to return to Los Angeles because I had my memories there. So Mrs Hoover, the wife of the inventor of the vacuum cleaner, invited me to Chicago to work for her. She has a beautiful place on the island of Bois Blanc in Michigan on the Lake Huron. We spent two months of the summer there and spent the winter in Palms Springs."

If you've spent all this time with these celebrities - in their own homes - have you ever been approached by any of the tabloid papers to share some secrets?

"I have been many times... by the Hollywood Reporter. But I'm loyal to my employers and I have contracts with them. I cannot take any pictures with them, ask for autographs, or bother them with different questions - only if they want to talk about stuff with me or if they want to have a picture taken with me. I cannot approach them myself."

You've travelled the world and you've spent all this time in the States. You've met celebrities...why are you back here?

"Well, after working and being with these celebrities for ten years, I always wanted to have something of my own. I wanted to build my own career and gain out of my experiences after I turned 30. I'm 32 now. When I was thirty I said 'okay, I'm going home'. I wanted to spend more time with my family - I have really great parents, and I wanted to enjoy them because I had been away from home since the age of fifteen. So that's why I decided to come home. Of course it was not easy for me because I hadn't been here for ten years and I thought that the Czech Republic was still what it was before I left, which was not true. I was a little disappointed, I admit, because my friends thought 'he's a millionaire so let's get the money out of his pockets' or something like that. So I went through a tough time here. I'm here for the second year now.

"But then I was dating a girl here and she told me 'we don't have chefs on TV here so why don't you try to pursue being a chef on TV?'. So then I went to a PR agency and spoke to the owner of 2 Media, Pavlina Fechterova, and she basically started my media campaign."

So how did your career start here?

"All those magazines and newspapers were asking me for recipes, so I was giving recipes away. I had different kinds of columns in different kinds of magazines. But then I got asked to be on the morning show of TV Prima. They had this show called Prima Jizda and I joined the team there and cooked in the mornings. But unfortunately they cancelled the show in July. But by then I got a very good response and they told me that I needed to get my book done and concentrate on my own cooking show. So, I worked on that and have finished my cookbook now."

What is it called?

"It's called 'Varil jsem svetovym celebritam' or 'I cooked for world known celebrities' and I have forty-five pages there of stories with pictures from my archive. It's my whole biography and I have recipes there too of course. They are my original recipes. The good thing when I was cooking for the celebrities was that some of them had enough money for me to try out new meals. For example, I mixed many fruits and vegetables. I make a pear and leak soup, a carrot and orange soup and that's what I have in my book as well. All the recipes are made for a Czech market, which means that you can get all the products here.

"About my show, I now dealing with German and English producers and it's looking very good, knock on wood, that I'm going to have my own TV show. But it's going to be aired in Germany and not here."

When will it premier?

"It will start in March. We have a great concept. I'll be cooking for celebrities outside the country in their own homes. So, we'll see how it will go."