Jiri Kral on the sport of cooking

Jiri Kral

Jiri Kral is chef at the French restaurant in the Art Nouveau "Obecni dum" just off Republic Square in Prague. He is one of the Czech Republic's most accomplished cooks, and earlier this year he was part of a Czech team that battled through to the final of one of the most highly respected international culinary competitions, Culinary Challenge 2002, which took place this year in Singapore. The team surprised the competition from countries far more famous for their cuisine by bringing home both a bronze and a gold medal. Here Jiri Kral talks of his impressions.

"It was the greatest experience so far in my career as a chef. Both when the results were announced and while we were cooking there was a fantastic atmosphere. There were fans, just like in a sport. We were cooking in a kind of amphitheatre. The fans were looking on, our trainers were there - that is the team leaders who weren't actually doing the cooking - it was a bit like a football match. From time to time the fans would applaud or cheer, especially when you did something that looked good - if a flame went up when you were flambéing something, or if you were cutting onions fast - and the tension really stepped up when the time limit began to draw close. Our team was popular in Singapore, because we're all tall. Two of our chaps are pretty well built and our manager is a giant of nearly two metres. There everybody tends to be small, so everybody remembered our team. It was great when we won, because we hadn't expected it at all. We really showed that we're a world power when it comes to cooking."