He´s been active in the field of gastronomy for quite a few years. He instigates respect. I expect not only in the kitchen. His path to the top was a long one, but it was worth it. Zdeněk Pohlreich knew nothing much according to his own words. More like nothing than much. And so after thirty he wrapped it all up, literally. He left, to see the world. To learn. And in the end he returned, because home is home.
Today we find ourselves among expensive watches. Are you very discerning as regards watches? Expensive things in general?
I enjoy it. Guys mostly do not wear much jewellery and I think that a good watch is the most dignified gentlemanly ornament. A guy should have proper shoes and a good watch. Well and luxury goods are not a luxury for free. The prices are rising, expressing the expertise and ability of the people who produce it. Luxury is a relative concept. The term means different things to different people. However it would be a lie if I said that I do not like finer things.
The watch prices today differ a lot. In the market there are pieces worth hundreds of thousands of crowns. Are you not a bit afraid to have on your arm "so much money"?
I think that if one is afraid one should not buy these things. Of course, this does not mean that we should not be careful about precious things. However if every time you put on your watch, you think about how something could happen to it then you are not the right owner.
Are you materialistic?
I think on the whole that I am. But I don´t really know what it means. Perhaps yes. I am more materialistic than spiritual.
It is said that sometimes it is cheaper to dress someone than to feed him. Is it like that in your case?
Perhaps it is easier to feed me. It is not so costly.
It surprises me. How much do you invest into food per month?
I think that it will be slightly above average. Of course, that me and my wife once in a while go out to some good restaurant. But that is perhaps five times a year.
In which case are you capable of sending a dish back?
I have to have a feeling that it could endanger my health. When it is just badly cooked, but it does not seem to me that it could make me feel ill, I am capable of eating it. If I saw that it really is all wrong, I would send it back.
In recent years there was a repeated public debate that worse quality food is coming to the Czech Republic. Do you perceive that, too?
I think that it is very exaggerated. I think that the goods imported here are such that people are willing to buy. Simple matter. Of course in this country the laws concerning food are a little more relaxed and therefore the imports are made according to demand here. And the pressure on prices brings its consequences. And if people let them get away with it they will simply have worse things. On the other hand I cannot completely agree that everything that comes here from Poland is bad. Everyone has the freedom to decide. There are a lot of alternatives.
Does your wife cook in your home, too? Do you occasionally let her?
To a minimum extent. If I am not at home then yet, but otherwise it´s me who cooks. It is faster.
What is the most frequent mistake that Czechs make as regards cooking do you think?
A lot of people chase the time, at the expense of what dish they produce. And that´s a pity, because lack of time unfortunately makes people buy ready meals. That is I think not an ideal situation.
So you are not in favour of “box” dishes?
The question is what you find inside the box. The fact that it is transported in a box is just another form of how to get it to the customers. I am not quite convinced that there are super things in there. I think that the box diet is just another form of marketing. Food does not belong into a box. It belongs on a plate.
Is it possible to learn to cook even in your fifties?
And do you know that I think one certainly can? There are many people whom I meet at cooking courses and they are occupied by it even at that age. One can manage to do a lot of things after 50. I have also managed a lot. Fifty is no age.
When did the first moment come, the decision to devote yourself to gastronomy completely?
I have to say that for me the turning period came after thirty, when I went abroad. I realised that I knew nothing and that I have to learn a lot. I learnt relatively quickly. I got to know gastronomy of world class, which until then was an unknown territory for me. I found that it is a difficult but also fun discipline. And I started to take it really seriously when I turned 34.
When you compare foreign and domestic cuisine, the ways and attitude, what is the difference?
Here there is a terribly emphasis on how much food there is on the plate. We put emphasis on meat but Czech cooks cannot work with vegetables and fish. Overall my view is that the Czech cuisine is in a relatively good shape. It certainly is not such a tragedy, as it was ten years ago.
You travelled and saw a lot of places. Where did you like it? It there a place where you could live?
I liked it very much in Australia. Then I have to say I very much enjoyed South Africa. That is a place where I could imagine that would be able to live. Provided that it would be a little more safe. It is paradise on earth, ideal temperatures and great food. And if I were to choose in Europe, it would certainly be Spain. When I think about it I liked Peru, too, but I would not wish to live there. I like the warmth so coastal way of life would suit me.
Are you picky? Is there some dish that you would never order?
Well in America, when you are not careful, interesting things can happen to you. This is not to say that gastronomy there is no good. But I have seen quite interesting creations there. When we are choosing where we would like to go, in the first instance we hope that there will be good food. Two years ago we went to Sardinia, and it was a total disaster there.
Where will you go this year?
Certainly Spain. And then we will see what ideas we will get.
Do you have anyone whom you let yourself be inspired by?
I very much like what Gordon Ramsay does. I very much enjoy to look at it on television. But of course Gordon Ramsay at a certain stage of his career worked for Joël Robuchon. And in my opinion that is a chef who is a huge inspiration for me. I really admire him.