You have all probably seen Pavel Berky in the reality show MasterChef, but those interested in fashion have known him for much longer, as he’s already gone pretty far in the fashion world. How many designers can say for themselves that their models were included in London, New York, Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks? In short, anything this guy does, he does with such fervour and passion that the results are absolutely perfect. And he dove into cooking the same way. His cooking adventures have been so successful that he confided in his interview with LP-life.com he thinks about hanging fashion design up for good.
How was last year for you – be it in your personal life, in the kitchen or in the fashion world?
My life turned around completely. Maybe you’re expected to say that, when you’re in a reality show and the production puts it in your script, but it really does turn around. However, the direction of that turn is then completely up to you. I was able to spin it to my advantage. Actually, I didn’t really expect it would restrict me in doing fashion so much. I’m mainly a fashion designer; I love fashion, I want to design as long as I can. Although I’m a bit sad that it absolutely doesn’t go together with the options that came after MasterChef. So yes, at this moment, Pavel Berky is a beginner chef (laughs).
Last year was really demanding, but on the other hand, I’m very grateful for that. I believe that if I hadn’t applied to MasterChef, I would have been completely lost in these pandemic times. Everything is really hard right now, especially in the fashion world. Coincidentally, MasterChef actually helped me so that I don't have to deal with existential problems and the like.
You can’t hold fashion shows at this time and formal dresses aren’t selling either, so you designed a line of kitchen towels and aprons. Is that really more financially advantageous than clothes for you?
Actually, it is.
Then MasterChef must have been a lifesaver for you.
A great lifesaver at that. It’s been two years since the shooting because it was filmed in advance. Back then, COVID wasn't really a thing, so I couldn’t have known that it would help me in any way, or even save me from a pandemic we'd had no idea about yet. I'm very grateful for it.
You filmed the show before COVID, so you had to curb your designing job. Now you benefit from your MasterChef popularity. What exactly do you do? You have offers to appear in other shows, but those won’t last forever.
Thanks to MasterChef I now have a greater following on social media, and social media is what sells these days. I’ve already had sort of a personal brand as Pavel Berky – the designer, and MasterChef took it way higher. It’s all about the collaborations that come up when you’re visible, when you’re an influencer. That's what saves all of us influencers during this time.
I know you mainly as a designer, as you have achieved great success. This allowed you to keep your options open, which is something many other young designers don’t have. Did the pandemic offer you a space for your own creation, that you’ll restart once this situation is over, or are you so caught up with MasterChef that Pavel Berky simply won’t be a fashion designer for the next two years?
When MasterChef ended, I had no idea whether it would have any impact on my life whatsoever. But the impact has been immense. It’s really strange to watch my opinion on the whole situation change, whether Berky shall stay in fashion design or not. I have always been into gastronomy and food, even though no one knew that I cook every day at home and I spend more time watching cooking shows than fashion shows. I’m not against turning my career around at all. I can imagine it happening.
Yes, although it’s only been a matter of the last few months. Moreover, I signed up for MasterChef at this point in my life where I didn’t want to see the fashion world anymore. Suddenly it seems incredibly superficial to me.
Well, I’m shocked.
I love the craft, but I’m a little annoyed how fashion as a whole gets treated these days. The fashion industry has always been a dirty business. I’m not saying gastronomy is clean through and through, it has its share of awful stuff happening as well.
What kind of awful stuff could possibly happen in gastronomy?
I mean generally. The fashion industry fights to keep using real fur, gastronomy gets all worked up about meat. Even though everything has its downside, I still believe it’s something I can affect individually very easily here. Way easier than in fashion. But maybe my opinion is wrong.
Your opinion can change in a few months again.
Exactly, absolutely. Right after MasterChef I thought I wanted to keep designing and doing fashion just like before, but it changes every month. Even I am surprised.
What do people around you, your partner, your mom think about it?
Both my parents and my sister were strongly against my participation in MasterChef.
My sister doesn’t like reality shows much. And mom and dad were probably scared I was going to lose what I'd been fighting for my whole life. They were afraid. My Matěj is very open to new challenges, though, so he agreed immediately. He wants me to do what I enjoy right now. Since I knew I would enjoy it, I went by his opinion. I love food, I had loved it since before I started doing fashion. As a kid I wanted to be an ice cream man, then a chef, I wasn’t interested in fashion until I was a teenager. Gastronomy feels absolutely natural to me, even though people who don’t know me that well might see it as strange.
Do people want to hire you as an in-house chef?
And do you accept such offers?
No, I don’t feel ready yet. On one hand, I’m afraid they won’t have good equipment at home and I won’t be able to prepare the food the way I want to. I like to compare it to fashion, because it’s really actually the same. I can’t create a good garment without quality materials and machines. But it’s very individual. If such an offer comes from a friend, that’s something different. But I haven't done it in a stranger’s home yet.
Not to be impertinent, but you are a man of a darker complexion. Czechia is ripe with xenophobia and racism, especially against people featured in media. Do you have the same experience?
Of course, I do. And I’m surprised tremendously that this is still a thing, even though everyone keeps saying it’s long gone. Prague has a different social climate than the rest of the country, but coming to a pub in a smaller town you feel you’re not welcome.
You said yourself you were very visible on social media, where the haters gather the most. Lately, you became popular in another field besides fashion. Did your presence in MasterChef attract more people who feel like it’s worth writing you an anonymous hateful comment?
When I applied for MasterChef, Matěj and I talked about it a lot, since we knew this is something that could happen. After all, the show was going to put me in one of the biggest commercial TV channels on primetime for several months. And we know what Czechs and Slovaks are like. So that’s something we were really afraid of. Especially given that I tick all the boxes being a Roma, gay and Slovak (laughs). We were really concerned, but actually, I’ve only gotten about three hate messages about my race.
I even talked about it with the director, as the production was also afraid something like that could happen, and they, too, were pleasantly surprised that our society has advanced in this. Xenophobia and racism are still present, but when people see that the person of colour actually has some knowledge and skills, they are able to rethink their opinion. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, since they didn’t actually change, but I really don’t see it often.
Did something in the show strike you emotionally, move you to tears or made you laugh?
I think I was crying in almost every episode (laughs). Anything that touches my family or any sentimental family stuff always brings me to the verge of tears. So right in the first episode, where we had a family photo on display and we were cooking traditional family recipes, that totally got to me.
Why? Are you that fixated on them, do you love them that much?
Yes. It just all ties together, you stand in the studio with twenty cameras pointing at you. And at that moment you remember, for example, how I couldn’t go to boarding school because we had no money, and had to stay for a week. The emotions are strong.
In our Fast confession you said that of your many successes, you consider your relationship to be the greatest.
Yes. A functional relationship is the alpha and omega of my life. I can’t function properly without a strong background, be it in the family or in a relationship. "Success" may not be the best term for it, but in a way, it really is a success, a great victory for me.
How long have you been together?
Many people are curious, how one can keep a relationship for that long. What’s your secret?
They often say you shouldn’t both work in the same profession, but for us it, paradoxically, works incredibly well. I mean, not in the same profession, but in the same field. Matěj is an artist with his own artistic activities, so his perspective is very close to all creative work. And this helps us a lot, as well as the fact that we actually work together, he is my manager. We complete each other. We’re together 24/7, which can be crazy sometimes, but we always have a lot to talk about. Communication is very important in any relationship. Working together makes us talk to each other every day. That’s probably our secret.
You have another success ahead of you, you're preparing a publication of your own cookbook.
It’s going to be beautiful. We suppose it will come out in June.
Isn’t it better to publish a cookbook before Christmas?
It is, but I want it published already. We have other projects to kick up in summer and we'll be too busy. The cookbook is going to be really pretty and absolutely different from all the classic cookbooks. I wanted it that way since it’s probably going to be the first and last cookbook I’ll ever publish (laughs). It’s going to be really glammed up and just different.
What does "different" mean here?
I take a lot of pride in its beautiful design. Before last Christmas I published a recipe calendar with my drawings instead of photographs, I drew all the meals. The cookbook should be in a similar vein, it’s going to have my illustrations as well.