By Juliette Heath
Growing up as part of a large family, Jiri, who is affectionately known by friends and clients as George, discovered his passion for home-style cooking from an early age, spending endless hours helping his grandmother in the family kitchen, which, in turn, offered him a peaceful place to escape from the noisy household and family politics. What started off as a place he knew he could go where nobody would bother him, ended up being the inspiration for a life-time career and love of food…
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from the Czech Republic, which is known for being the number one beer drinking nation in the world and one of the few places where beer is actually cheaper than soda!
When and why did you first come to Cayman?
I came to Cayman in 2009 on a six week recovery vacation. I had been working around the clock for a large wedding banquet in Bangkok and, subsequently collapsed from exhaustion. A doctor ordered that I take time off from my job so my manager bought me a ticket to Cayman for a six week ‘recovery vacation’. After the hustle and bustle of Thailand, I instantly fell in love with the laid-back Island life-style and have not looked back since.
Where else in the world have you worked prior to arriving in Cayman?
After completing culinary school in France I went to work in London for celebrity Chef, Gordon Ramsay in his Soho Restaurant for two years. From there I went on to work for the Four Seasons in London, Ireland, Italy, New York and LA before moving to Bangkok, Thailand.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
My grandmother, she was an incredible cook; she prepared all the family meals from scratch. I loved spending time with her in the kitchen, it provided a place of peace where I could escape from the rest of my family! I feel privileged that I got to learn her techniques first-hand and, through her, developed my passion for cooking.
What made you decide to open the Czech Inn?
I wanted to create an environment that embraced the relaxed Island lifestyle while offering reasonably priced, good quality food with something for everyone to enjoy.
What are your favourite ingredients?
Liebstockel (Marjoram) & Paprika together with fresh seasonal ingredients.
Can you share with us one of your favorite menu items?
Guláš (Beef Goulash) served with Knedlíky (Dumplings) which is one of my grandmothers’ original recipes. It takes a lot of preparation, time and love to create this dish.
How do you decide what to include on the menu?
I originally started out with a more basic menu covering local favorites with an emphasis on grilled meat and fresh seafood. Then, bit by bit, I developed the menu, incorporating a larger choice of international dishes and, of course, wanted to share my own culinary heritage with the addition of traditional Czech dishes, which have proven extremely popular.
Have you ever had any ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ of your own?
One incident when I was in Hong Kong stands out, when a couple who were in the middle of argument, were distracted when selecting menu items. They did not pay attention when asked if they had allergies and subsequently ordered a dish which caused an allergic reaction for the lady who almost instantaneously swelled up. Thankfully we were able to call for medical assistance in time however, it highlights the importance of making sure you have the customers’ full attention when taking their order, no matter their personal circumstances!
What you would reccomend as a romantic meal for two?
Any kind of sea food. Couples should not eat a heavy meal if they are looking for romance later! For instance, I would highly recommend our mussels which are prepared in a wine & garlic broth as a perfect choice for couples enjoying a romantic night especially as mussels are well known for their aphrodisiac qualities!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a culinary career?
If you don’t love it, don’t do it!
Believe in yourself! Never be afraid to experiment with developing your own style and recipes, if you do not try you will never know what you are capable of.
If you have not already, then stop by the Czech Inn Bar & Grill, in Bodden Town, described by visitors as a “must visit” while in Cayman. Enjoy an incredible selection of freshly made food, affordable prices and engaging service at arguably one of the most unique and characteristic restaurants in Cayman.
Opening hours: 11am -10pm Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.
Note: Due to Covid the Restaurant has temporary hours in place. Tuesday – Thursday 4pm -9pm, Friday – Sunday 11am – 10pm. Closed Monday.
Tel: 1 345 923 1986 or 1 345 947 6231
Delivery available through Island Grub
Juliette Heath is a Caymanian foodie, wedding and events planner, and author of childrens’ books.