Prague Food Festival highlights the city's fast-improving cuisine

07-09-2007

This Friday sees the launch of the first-ever Prague Food Festival, an event that aims to celebrate the increasingly multicultural nature and rapidly improving standard of the cuisine that is now available in the Czech capital.

This new culinary event aims to treat Prague diners to special cut-price delicacies in some of the city's most exclusive restaurants.

The festival is the brainchild of Pavel Maurer, a well-known Czech gourmet who compiles a popular Prague restaurant guide:

"Our idea is to give people an opportunity to try some very different cuisines coming from places like Brazil, Japan and France for very little money. It will give them an opportunity to sample food that they might not normally be able to afford. The festival is kind of like a gastronomic charity."

By buying a ticket for the event, those attending the food festival will be able to sample a range of normally expensive specialities at some of Prague's best restaurants for about one-tenth of what they normally cost.

The participating restaurants have been specially chosen to show the diversity of the food that is now available in the Czech capital, which Pavel Maurer says has been coming along in leaps and bounds over the last decade or so:

"I remember after the Velvet Revolution that there were three foreign restaurants in Prague - one Chinese, one Vietnamese and one Russian restaurant. Today there is something like 35 different types of exotic restaurant, from ranging from French to Japanese to Pakistani cuisine. I think Prague can now be viewed as a city where you can try a lot of different types of food. Not just Czech cuisine."

With over two and a half thousand tickets sold before the event even started, there certainly seems to be plenty of people interested in trying out the exotic dishes that will be on offer.

One of the cooks who will be preparing meals for the festival-goers is Jiri Stift, the head chef of the Alcron hotel. I talked with him while he was busy cooking special dishes for the festival's opening party and started by asking him to describe one of the culinary delights he was preparing for the event.

"Charcoal-grilled smoked duck breast with porcini mushrooms and potato au gratin."

Pavel Maurer, the organiser of this festival, has just told me that according to some surveys 87 percent of Czechs prefer their own national cuisine if they had a choice and that only 13 percent are adventurous enough to regularly try other types of food. In your experience as a chef, would you agree with those figures or do you think the Czech attitudes to food might be beginning to change?

"I think it is changing. A lot of Czechs now understand that they should really try other types of dishes apart from just having goulash with dumplings."

The idea that Czechs are starting to be more discriminating about what they eat had also crossed the mind of one of the punters I spoke to while enjoying a good nosh-up at the festival's opening party:

"There is an old saying that every town has the restaurants it deserves. You have to have a discerning clientele to maintain a level of quality. I think the people going to restaurants in the Czech Republic nowadays are beginning to know what fine dining is all about."

The Prague Food Festival until Sunday, 9 September. If you are interested in finding out more, you can visit the event's website at www.praguefoodfestival.cz.

07-09-2007