Sitting with chef Radek at his bistro in Boulder I can see the impatience in his face as he answers several phone calls, looks at his watch and asks me how long this interview is going to take. Chef Cerny currently has two restaurants in Boulder – his bistro and his flagship L’Atelier. In 20 minutes (the fastest interview I’ve ever done) I was able to learn quite a bit about this passionate and busy chef.
Radek was born in Prague, where his grandmother’s cooking influenced him to become a chef. He finished his regular schooling and did a four-year program at the Czech Cook’s School. His real passion, however, was writing and performing blue grass music. Eventually Radek left Czechoslovakia and headed for Nashville, but music was not to be his career.
“The minute I saw the 10- and 15-year-old kids playing music outside the bus
station, my dreams were shattered,” he says. “You have to have it in you and I do, but not like that. I said, ‘I should go back to spatula.’”
His travels took him from Nashville to Chicago to New York where he cooked at Le Francais and LaFayette, with Jeans George. Finally Radek ended up in Vail working for another Czech chef, George Jaku. It was here that he learned about French style cooking.
A couple of trips to France and some time spent working with Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge finally convinced him to open his first restaurant in Boulder, The European Café. The success of the European Café put Radek on the map. Since then he has opened Al Fresco, Papllion, Radex and Le Chantecler. In 2003 he opened L’Atelier and in 2009 Radex Bistro.
For as long as he has been in the business Radek still writes both his regular and dessert menus, works on the line and is a stickler for having a clean and well-organized kitchen. His signature dish is lobster ravioli in buerre blanc and from personal experience, it is amazing.
Favorite kitchen utensil: Mandolin
Best thing about being a chef: You can always invent something new. There is so much versatility in a kitchen.
If you could eat anywhere in the world: Noma in Copenhagen. I actually have a reservation for September 15th.
Why did you open the Bistro: I was bored with just L’Atelier.
Favorite Food Cities: Chicago, San Francisco and New York.
What do you cook at home: I love to grill a good piece of fish or a steak.
Advice for home cooks: Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying.
Advice for culinary students: Don’t count so much on culinary school. Go figure it out in a kitchen.
Favorite Ingredients: Asian spices. I learned about those when I worked at LaFayette, with Jeans George.
Favorite Station: Sauté
Favorite Restaurants: Sushi Sasa
Favorite Local Chef: Michael Long of Opus
Favorite Food Movie: Babette’s Feast
Favorite White Trash Food: KFC