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He could have ended up living off his family’s money! But fate saw to it that he did not become part of the crowd of spoilt brats and was able to show what he really had in him.

Fast confession - Emanuel Riddi: From poverty, right to the very top

Tereza Janatová
16.Feb 2017
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10 minutes

Manu, as his friends call him, believed in himself and it was precisely thanks to this that he has worked his way up to where he is now. He owns a restaurant on Dětský ostrov in Prague. That famous one in Dejvice which he was above all linked with at the time when he reigned supreme over the cookery programmes is now a thing of the past. If he had not moved, it is quite possible that he would have ended his career as a chef once and for all.

Manu, let us of course start with food. What is it like having one of the top restaurants in Prague?

That is a wonderful thing to hear. It is true that since we have been here, we really have done a lot of work. I probably needed a change and it came at just the right time. I acquired these premises and I am happy that I decided to go for it. I wasn’t certain at the start, but I’m here now and I made the right choice. I have an appetite for work, creating new dishes and have once again got together to work with a colleague who I have been cooperating with for eleven years. Everything is working and that is the way it should be.

You have an appetite for work? So you didn’t before?

It happens. When you are always in the same place and meeting the same people for eighteen years. I renovated the restaurant three times!! But all of a sudden, I found that I was tired. I already felt that I didn’t even want to stay in this line of business and that I needed some sort of change or to do a different kind of work. And then this came along. And I established a restaurant here that I myself would enjoy going to.

Leaving aside the type of restaurant you would enjoy going to, how do you in fact recharge your batteries?

I spend a month at home during the summer and recharge my batteries by the seaside. I need that. And I sometimes treat myself to a short holiday and escape somewhere for two or three days.

Prodej exkluzivní vily, Praha 4 - Kunratice
Prodej exkluzivní vily, Praha 4 - Kunratice, Praha 4

Is this a relaxing holiday or do you have to do something when you take it?

A relaxing one. We do sometimes go to the largest global wine exhibition, but that isn’t business, that is pleasure. You taste some of the wines there and that is very nice. In the evening, you go for dinner and there are people there from all over the world. You have people from American there, people from Russia and it is very lively there.

Do those foreign countries provide you with inspiration?

They do, but I find most inspiration from my own country, Italy, because my taste buds have been formed that way from childhood. But Asian countries do also give me a lot. I really like Asian cuisine. Nowadays you even see fruit combined with fish, which would have been unheard of in the past, but nowadays you can have a fish tartare and raspberry to go with it and you find that they go well together.

And what do you most like to see on your plate?

My favourite is whatever is in season, because I know that it will be good. I won’t eat strawberries now, I prefer to eat them in the summer. I even enjoy eating Czech food in the winter! Duck with cabbage, potato pancakes or sauerkraut soup, but it has to be really cold.

You have very little time. Arranging a date to interview you was quite a chore. I understand that it is very difficult to combine looking after your restaurant to make sure everything works the way it should and taking part in Star Dance which you recently appeared in. That must have taken up a huge amount of time.

A huge amount!

How much weight did you lose?

Almost five kilos.

How did you manage timewise? What time did you get up and what time did you go to bed?

I am used to going to bed after midnight. At about one o’clock. But it did happen to me that I fell asleep at ten in the evening here at the restaurant and had to go home to have a rest, because we practised for as much as five hours a day. It was OK at the start, but then I had to learn dances which I knew nothing about. I have never been a dancer. I was a disco barfly. At the very most, I hovered around the bar looking at the women, having a drink with them and that was all. I wasn’t the sort of person to hit the floor for a dance. Never.

Maybe it is nicer when only the women strut their stuff on the dancefloor, isn’t it?

Exactly! Definitely. But then I came in to work here in the morning, had lunch and then had to go back to dancing, had a shower, worked and then the alarm clock went off at half past eight in the morning. No earlier. Although I did sometimes even wake up at half past six because of Star Dance.

It is said of Italians that they are not early birds, that they like to have a lie in. Does that apply to you too?

Unfortunately it does. Ideally, I would wake up sometime after ten.

You are a person who is really full of energy. What in fact is your driving force?

I like challenges. Setting myself new goals. I like running. 

Let me go back to those challenges. Does that mean that you rush into things headlong? Even things you have never done before?

That’s it. You take the energy you have inside and try to squeeze out even that little bit which you don’t have. You need to take up new challenges in your life. Being successful and earning money isn’t everything.

Do you think that this is related to taking risks? Do you know how to take risks?

I do know how to take risks, but it is never “all in”. I couldn’t do that. I never have been able to.

You make yourself a backdoor.

I have been like that since I was a child. Granny gave me money, saying that it was a present and I always saved it. I bought the things I liked, but then I opened my wallet and there was always something left. 

Luxusní byt na prodej Praha - 320m
Luxusní byt na prodej Praha - 320m, Praha 5

What in fact do you invest most into?

I don’t know whether you could call it an investment. If I say clothing, I don’t get anything back from that. If we are talking about a high-quality wristwatch, then the money is not entirely wasted.

Let me ask that in a different way. What do you spend the most money on?

Things made from cashmere.

Things made from cashmere??

For example, the cashmere jacket I am wearing. After the age of thirty-five, I lost interest in brands and took more of an interest in materials which I feel good wearing. 

Do you do that for the good feeling or so that you are attractive to women?

(laughs) Mainly the feeling! Mainly the feeling! (laughs). Anyway, in Italy I would be one of many, but here I am one of a few.

Seeing as we have already stumbled across this topic, it is said that Czech men don’t know how to dress. Do you think that is true?

Eighty percent don’t. Young people have learned to dress. These are American style trends. If somebody has a well-ironed shirt and jacket, that looks nice. People wear that here because they have to for work. They wear it as if they were wearing pyjamas.

So tell me, how much time do you spend shopping?

I couldn’t say, but I also have things specially tailored for me, so I choose the material and have it made up and that makes me happy.

A lot of celebrities design clothing for some fashion chain or other. Listening to you, if somebody where to contact you, do you think that you would be able to dress Czech men?

If I got a certain percentage of the takings... (laughs). No, I would certainly manage that.

So if they brought you a man weighing in at two hundred kilos and asked you to dress him?

I would send him off for a run to lose at least some weight. Italians watch their weight.

In your case, you also lost weight by dancing. Dancing and cooking – what do they in fact have in common for you?


You know I thought you would say that? Are you still dancing? 

I have already performed several times and I will be doing so next week. I have two more performances. 

And where do you perform?

At balls for example. The last time, it was the waltz and the quick step. Those two just happen to be my favourites. There are wonderful lifts there. I am better at that now than I was during Star Dance. I was annoyed at the judges giving me low scores then. But I still went through to the next round!!

How in fact do you take criticism? Be this as regards your dancing, food or anything else.

You have to accept criticism and then take something good from it. But you have to realise that people often criticise you because they don’t like you. And in that you just have to rise above it. The problem is most often to be found with the person handing out the criticism – not you.

Do you come across this often?

Not often, but it does sometimes happen. But that is probably just a normal part of life.

How do you react? Other than rising above it?

Tatiana Drexler, who was a judge in Star Dance, told me that I don’t reply much and that I don’t speak. So I told her that if I were to start, I would be rude and swear, so I preferred to hold back. But then I discovered that I wasn’t very popular among the viewers. 

Do you think so?

I suppose there was something they didn’t like about me.

At least you have more free time now. What in fact do you consider to be luxury?

Probably having more time for myself. That is a luxury. But nice clothing also makes me happy, but I think that time is the greatest luxury for people. Time you can spend with your family, time free from stress, time for yourself and time to enjoy life.

And the greatest luxury for your employees?

Having me as their boss! (laughs)

Would they agree with you?

Ask them. (laughs)

I will take your word for it. Do you think that this staff satisfaction is a basis for them to be nice to guests and for them to do their work to the best of their abilities?

Some employees have told me that they have worked in lots of places, but they have never felt so good at work. Maybe the bosses in their previous jobs made it clear who the boss was. That is something I don’t like.


Because before I made it to where I am now, I had to work my way up. I started from nothing. I was also an employee, I also had to work for somebody else. I dragged crates around, I drove a van. I sold Italian baked goods all over the country and people said: “What is an Italian doing here? Is there so little work in your country that you have to drive a van here?!” Then I worked my way up the ladder a bit. Unfortunately, some bosses like to belittle people. I hated that.

Do you think this is the reason why you understand your employees better?

It certainly helps. If you start off as a spoilt child living off your family’s money, then it takes a little while until you earn the respect of others. But you have to have something inside you and life also teaches you something.

And what has it taught you? How did you start out here in the Czech Republic?

I could actually have lived off my family’s money. I came over with my dad who had five clothes shops here at that time. We had a really good life. But then everything went bust and we had nothing to eat, so I started to work more. I worked for an Italian friend and imported Italian baked goods, tomatoes and wine. I made myself a packed lunch and set my alarm clock for four in the morning. I left the house at half past four and came back at nine in the evening.

How old were you then?

I was 22. I came here when I was nineteen. We were doing really well, but then going bust actually helped! It was a double whammy. Because when you are up among the stars and all of a sudden you find yourself under the ground, then you no longer want to go back to being underground. You find incredible strength inside yourself and you try to get yourself out of that situation.

Now we have come to that bad time. But which memories on the contrary make you smile?

I met my wife at that time. I was madly in love and if they had told me to take my van and drive to Russia, I would have gone. And there was a completely different atmosphere at that time. Anyone who had money enjoyed spending it straight away. I think that people weren’t even so jealous of each other back then.

And you think that people enjoy themselves less now?

Back then, I was a young boy. I am an adult now. What I mean is that when I see the youth of today, I say to myself that we knew how to enjoy ourselves better. In the past, when you went out for a drink, you could take things a bit easier the next day. Nowadays you have to keep your nose to the grindstone. Things aren’t as easy-going as they were during the nineties.

You mentioned love. What in fact are you like when you are in love?

I would have to think back a long way to answer that! I am a kind person! And when I am in love, I am twice as kind.

Do you usually also go a little gaga when you are in love? For example, mix up your keys...

I am not a woman.

Hold on! It for example happened to a friend of mine that he took the wrong key and unlocked something different.

I might forget things – that maybe, but that I would unlock the wrong car... (laughs)

You probably wouldn’t open it if it was a different car. (laughs)

That has never happened to me even when I was drunk. (laughs)

What in fact would you be willing to do for a woman?

If the woman was worth it, then... What would I be willing to do for her? Wait for her.

Would you for example wait a year?

Well, that is quite a long time! (laughs)

OK, so a shorter period of time?

Well, let’s say that I would wait for some time! I’m not twenty anymore, I can’t wait forever.

But you are not that old yet.

But I am not that young. I will be turning 43. And if I were sixty, I wouldn’t be prepared to wait at all.

There is a lot less scope for waiting there. But let’s talk about something other than waiting. What is your recipe for success?

Believing in yourself.

Do you believe in yourself? And was there in fact ever anyone who discouraged you from doing what you wanted?

There was. When they came to me with an offer of filming the show “S Italem v kuchyni”, the man in charge said: “I think that you can do it Emanuel. You are a likeable person. Let’s take some ingredients and go to your place to film it. And there was a famous cameraman there who said about twice during filming: “You’re wasting your time.” I heard him and I said to myself that I would show him. Things worked out after a few months and I met that man in the editing room and he apologised.


Fast confession:

Pasta or pizza?

That’s difficult! Pasta.

Tango of Cha-cha?


Dance or food?

That is a nasty question that one. Both!

Red or white wine?

Red in winter, white in summer.

Favourite food?

Anything seasonal.

What or who do you love most?

I haven’t got an answer for that yet. My son! Sorry, sorry. Thanks!

What is the greatest mistake you have ever made in the kitchen?

Other than ruining a dish. I cut off part of my finger. That is it.

Italy or the Czech Republic?

I have to thank both countries.

Your life’s dream?

Wow! Life’s dream? I will have to think of something.

Carefully now. Who is better at cooking? Men or women?

I don’t want to offend you, but of course men.

What is in your opinion the best restaurant?

The best restaurant... At the moment, the best in the world is Osteria Francescana in Italy.

Blondes or brunettes?

I don’t understand why. I prefer brunettes, but I have always had more blondes. Why? I don’t know.

What is the best food in your restaurant?

Wow. The best food. We should really ask my customers. I enjoy almost everything we prepare here. Meat dishes are popular at the moment, but I would definitely also have some pasta.

What do you not like wearing?

What do I not like wearing? Bad material or something made out of plastic. It has to be good material.
Question by the interviewee to the editor:

What would you ask me?

The same thing you have just asked me!
What do I not like wearing?
No, everything! From number one to number fifteen!
We would be here a long time. You can ask me one question.
What is your favourite place in the world? Where would you like to go?
My favourite place in the world? I suppose there where my family is.
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