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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A huge amount!
Almost five kilos.
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.
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.
Unfortunately it does. Ideally, I would wake up sometime after ten.
I like challenges. Setting myself new goals. I like running.
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.
I do know how to take risks, but it is never “all in”. I couldn’t do that. I never have been able to.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
If I got a certain percentage of the takings... (laughs). No, I would certainly manage that.
I would send him off for a run to lose at least some weight. Italians watch their weight.
I have already performed several times and I will be doing so next week. I have two more performances.
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!!
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.
Not often, but it does sometimes happen. But that is probably just a normal part of life.
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.
I suppose there was something they didn’t like about me.
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.
Having me as their boss! (laughs)
Ask them. (laughs)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am not a woman.
I might forget things – that maybe, but that I would unlock the wrong car... (laughs)
That has never happened to me even when I was drunk. (laughs)
If the woman was worth it, then... What would I be willing to do for her? Wait for her.
Well, that is quite a long time! (laughs)
Well, let’s say that I would wait for some time! I’m not twenty anymore, I can’t wait forever.
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.
Believing in yourself.
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.