Sofia Smith is a British-born chef of Irish-Malaysian heritage, who has been living in Prague since the late nineties. She started her career at the British Council and has since become one of the most respected experts on Asian cuisine in the Czech Republic. She is currently Executive Chef of Cafe Buddha in Prague’s Vinohrady district. That’s where I caught up with her to discuss her life in the Czech capital. I started by asking what made her leave the IT sector and pursue cooking professionally.
While pubs around Prague are vying to attract visitors with a trendy, clean environment, good food and wide assortment of drinks, a pub in Prague’s Jižní Město – a huge communist housing estate made of pre-fabricated panel buildings – has put its money on nostalgia and is making a profit from the fact that it is a throwback to the communist era.
A new method using so-called QR codes is being adopted by some Czech restaurants, with cash increasingly regarded as a slow and outdated payment method. Especially popular in parts of Asia, QR enables guests to scan a code on the table, then order and pay for their food via smartphone. However, some QR experts say the future of restaurant service actually lies in other payment methods.
Two Prague restaurants have reason to celebrate, having retained their Michelin one-star status in the 2018 Main Cities of Europe Michelin Guide. La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise in Prague’s Old Town can boast holding its one-star-status for over a decade, while Field, one of the world’s least expensive Michelin-starred restaurants, has maintained it for three years in a row.
Things have improved dramatically in the past 30 years as far as service in restaurants goes, but you still come across irritable waiters, with long faces who make a good job of ignoring guests for as long as possible. According to a recent survey by the STEM/MARK agency two out of three Czechs say waiters must earn their tip, but only one in five people leave the customary ten percent of the bill. So are waiters rude and unwilling because Czechs are skimpy or are Czechs skimpy because waiters don’t give proper service?