Richard Fuchs - well-known Prague cook and new head chef of Prague's Four Seasons' restaurant

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Starting October, well-known Czech cook Richard Fuchs will be taking over the post of head chef at Prague’s Four Seasons’ restaurant Allegro, replacing the Italian Andrea Accordi, under whose direction the kitchen became the first in the former Eastern Block to be marked with a Michelin star. Richard Fuchs, who has cooked in restaurants all over the world and just wrapped up his gig at Prague’s Monastery restaurant, will also be the first Czech to lead Allegro. Ahead of the start of his engagement, he speaks about his cooking style, respecting ingredients and if he is looking forward to his new role.

Richard Fuchs, photo: Monastery Restaurant
“For sure, it will be a big pleasure. That’s the first thing. But it will also be a very challenging situation, because this is the first time that the restaurant will be headed by a Czech chef. I feel happy about it and will make sure that the quality and the service remain at a high level, not just for our foreign guests, but also for the locals, who we hope to attract.”

So do you want to be extra good because this is the first time that the restaurant is headed by a Czech, does that add to the challenge?

“I wouldn’t say that, what is important to do what I have been doing, to make sure people who come to the restaurant are happy with the food. It is important that they are, it is matter of the heart.”

You have worked at the Prague location of the Four Seasons before but not as head chef. Do you think that helps, or are there a lot of things that you will need to learn?

“In the kitchen, I always say, it is a never-ending story, even if you are a hundred years old, you will have a chance to learn something new. And I am willing to learn. I think that will be very interesting for me and the team, who have already brought this restaurant to such a high level.”

How would you describe your cooking style?

“I like straightforward, simple, clean food. Not too many things on the plate. Slow food. Making sure that people can recognize what is on the plate, three ingredients max. What people see on the plate, they also have to be able to feel in their mouths.”

Allegro serves Italian-style cuisine. Is that a cuisine you feel home in?

“Yes, I think that is a very important point for me, that it will be Italian cuisine, because I like it and from my previous experience, there always was a chance to work with Italian chefs, even in the beginning, when I was in my twenties, I worked with Italian chefs and ingredients. So it is almost twenty years since then and I am very familiar with Italian food, the country’s people and its excellent products.”

You have cooked in restaurants all over the world. Can you talk a bit about your experiences abroad?

“I was very lucky, because when Four Seasons came to Prague in 2000, and Vito Mollica was the executive chef, and I owe him a lot. We had a very good relationship. He was very experienced and of course had lots of friends in Italy. So I had the chance to go abroad, to Italy, France, England, Germany and Austria. That was good for me; I had the chance to work with Italian people and Italian cuisine. It is what I like and what I am looking forward to working with in the future.”

How does the Czech Republic compare to other countries in terms of food? Are we still catching up?

“No. I am convinced the situation is much better than right after the revolution. I am a patriot and I am happy and proud to be a Czech. I am not saying this because we are sitting here and talking. The culture of the food here is something I grew up with, and it’s constantly improving. The quality of the food and products we are using in 2011 is much higher than many years ago. People travelled abroad and made new experiences. Right now, there is an interesting trend, people try to serve what is in season in the Czech Republic. Which means that if asparagus, morels or game are in season, we select the best Czech products and serve them in our pubs and restaurants. So people try to use our domestic sources as much as possible.”

Do you personally like Czech cuisine?

“I can say that I like it, but what I prefer is doing a modern twist on traditional cuisine. It’s 2011, we have to be a bit more flexible with the preparation and try to find a more modern approach. It’s simple: Respecting basic ingredients, flavors and traditional products.”

You have said in an interview that your old boss Vito Mollica showed you what it means to respect ingredients. What exactly do you mean by that?

“It is a very straightforward question, so I will give you a very straightforward answer: If you want to respect the ingredients, you have to respect the people. The two go together. If you respect the products, people are happy. When people leave the restaurant, people should be happy, they should feel that they ate well. Vito was a great chef; good people make good chefs. And if good people work together to make food, then that is great.”

When did your love for cooking start and how?

“Honestly, it was not that simple for me. Some people go to chef school and know they want to be a cook. For me, it was a step-by-step process. I was deciding to become a chef more slowly. And you cannot learn everything in one year. The more experience you have, the better you will be. It’s kind of like a good wine, which gets better with time.”

You start your new job in early October. How are you preparing ahead of this new, very busy, very demanding role?

“In each restaurant, it is not a question of the hours. My average hours have always been 14, 15 hours per day. What is important is what you want to build for the future, to make sure to continue what has already been established. It is important to create a good team of motivated, well-trained people; it is all about the people. Then there is no limit. But you need to know what you want to do. If you have a good team, you can do anything.”