Josef Maršálek was born in a tiny Moravian village where half the residents were his direct relatives – and the nearest shop, let alone patisserie, was beyond walking distance. Yet, his early love of baking would one day lead him to become head pastry chef at the world-famous Harrod’s department store in London. Now, after a sabbatical of sorts in India, he’s back in Prague, gearing up to co-host the Czech version of the wildly popular show the Great British Bake Off.
If you visit the Czech countryside at the start of the year you are likely to receive an invitation to attend a "zabijačka" – in other words a pig-slaughter feast; a centuries old tradition that is still observed in many parts of the country. While for some it is a barbaric practice that has no place in the present-day, for others it is an important part of village folklore that brings people together.
The festive dinner on Czech Christmas Eve is mostly associated with fried carp and potato salad, but few people know that this is a fairly modern tradition, established only after the Second World War. In the old days before the tradition of fried carp and salad was established, Czechs used to eat more humble meals, although they came in a rich variety of styles.
It is not just at local markets where gingerbread in all shapes and colours can be found. Baking the delicacy is a treasured tradition among most Czech families as well. On average each household bakes around eight types of gingerbreads, known as the perník, ahead of Christmas and children are often excited to partake in their preparation. To find out more about the way they are made, Radio Prague visited a museum that specialises in the baking of exquisite gingerbreads.
The Czech food rating app Foodgroot aims to “disrupt” the industry by giving consumers the power to evaluate every product on the grocery store shelf with the touch of a button. At the most basic level, this means the quality to cost ratio – whether it’s worth paying more for a certain brand. Down the road, Foodgroot founder and CEO Petr Václavek says, the app will rate products on over 70 parameters, from their organic make-up, eco footprint, and impact on food security – even to what kind of grass milk cows are eating.