An interview with chef Vladimír Čech
Why have you decided to expand the Sisters Bistro with another branch? Could you describe the concept of the new store?
Because we believe that the Sisters brand can build the same position among our customers as our sweet-shop concept „Cukrář Skála“. Both projects are based on the same principles – we want to bring the complete production process closer to the customer so that he can see the difficulty of the process, raw materials we use or the decorating techniques. Even at Sisters, we set out to do everything fresh every day and refill our showcases during the day. After the store in Dlouhá Street, which focuses on rectangular northern style sandwiches, in Spálená we focus on typical Czech sandwiches, in our presentation as rolls. All salads are based on the original old Czech recipes, so somebody may be surprised that we put boiled pork tongue and apple into the walnut salad.
Is it a marketing move, or does the substitution for rolls, instead of classic bread sandwiches, have any other meaning?
We had to think for a long time how to conceive a traditional thing that everyone knows and that has a white type of bread cut off slightly at an angle. We had a feeling that it is difficult to explain our idea and uniqueness on such a classic thing. Of course we also like traditional sandwiches garnished with ham cone and pickles, but in Sisters, we want to move the cold kitchen to the presence and decorate in a different way. Since we already have our manuscript in Sisters in Dlouhá, we did not want to associate spreads and salads with a rectangular sandwich, so we chose a roll.
The owner of the whole Together network, where Sisters belong, David Petřík says that cold cuisine is very difficult to prepare. What is its difficulty above all?
The difficulty starts when selecting ingredients, we get sausages from our neighbors – Naše Maso, camembert for our camembert salad we buy in Sedlčany, we always try to find the best on the market. We also use a number of unusual elements such as vegetable dust, vegetable caviar, dried eggs, picking up our own vegetables, and recently we made our own turkey ham. The whole process is completing the rolls continuously during the day and putting them completely fresh in the showcase. Surely it is not that we prepare everything in the morning and then sell all day. We want our work to be visible, so we work on the spot right in front of the people. We even write down the times when the rolls were prepared so that we always have an overview of freshness.
In addition to ready-to-eat sandwiches, you also offer spreads and mayonnaise salads, how do you prepare them and what is their uniqueness?
We prepare our own mayonnaise on the spot, it contains only eggs and sunflower oil. There are no additives, so the customer can be sure that he always gets a freshly prepared roll.
Surprising is the look of the whole store in retro style with “umakart” material and manual weight from the 70s. Why did you choose this form?
In the 1970s, classic delicatessen had a long tradition and the Czechs loved it. It is not our goal to create a false memory or to orthodoxly capture the 1970s. However, all of us who experienced this time can recall and remind the taste of traditional mayonnaise salads in Sisters in Spálená street.
Will you find a sweet version of the roll in your offer? And will you, as in Dlouhá, prepare themed rolls such as kulajda, Halloween, St. Martin’s goose, etc.?
We do not have a sweet option on the menu yet, but I am not saying it cannot come, for now, we are using the sweetness of vegetables. When it comes to thematic rolls, we will certainly be making a slice of pork, and we are also going to make aspic, jelly or oilseed. We are currently working on other special events. Our Russian egg bowl is also very popular.
Both Sisters stores are located in tourist-frequented places. It is said that foreigners often look for cutlery on the table when they are about to eat sandwiches, if not hot dogs. Do you experience similar stories?
I must say that foreigners search for cutlery with iron regularity. As such, they do not even know the sandwiches, nor do they think they can eat it by hand. But sometimes we see Czechs who seek for cutlery because our sandwiches are full of ingredients, so it is sometimes difficult to make a whole bite without an accident.
Where do you get inspiration for your recipes? You say that you want to revive the tradition, so do you have any exact historical sources that inspires you or you just create variations that were used in Czech cuisine in the past, but not just for sandwiches?
We are very influenced by classical Czech cuisine, we are inspired by classic Czech made meals or soups. We make sandwiches with kulajda, goulash, sirloin, and also a duel of cabbage with cabbage or rosehip according to Mr. Hrabal and his movie The Snowdrop Festival. Now we offer carp roasters with potato salad, which includes horseradish and apples. In short, we take the classic Czech made meals, transform it into other textures and put it on the bread or roll. The bottom-up sources of inspiration coming from the First Republic.