Would you dare to renovate an old traditional tavern in the suburbs and change it into a grill restaurant with specialities from a charcoal grill? Zdeněk Svoboda wasn’t afraid to do so. He’s a chef and owner of the restaurant Pod lipami in Olomouc-Slavonín and his burgers and steaks have an excellent reputation. He says that Metelka’s Absinthe de Moravie is perfect for meat cooking.
When Zdeněk took over the restaurant in 2014, he didn’t have much experience. “I thought that good cuisine would be enough to attract guests. But I was unpleasantly surprised. A year passed and I was a slave to my own business and the earnings were zero,” he recalls the tough start of his business. He had two options: to end the business or to make a radical change. Fortunately, he chose the second option. “We renovated the restaurant by ourselves and built the charcoal grill that I always wanted. Then we opened with an absolutely new name,” he describes.
The lack of personnel is the biggest problem in our development
Investing money in the restaurant transformation was very helpful. On the other hand, it can slow restaurant’s growth because Zdeněk can’t rely on this big financial help. “Restaurant’s progress is slow because I only can buy something when I make enough money. After the renovations, we bought the new kitchen equipment and a new facade was done. Restaurant guests often tell me what to do or what to buy next. I’m glad we have such friendly relationships with guests but I have to do everything gradually,” the 26-year-old chef realizes.
The biggest hardship for him is the lack of good personnel. “I’m at work every single day. I give it everything but it’s very hard to find competent and hardworking staff with good work ethics, someone you can rely on they go to work and do a good job. That’s the real problem here. I have few stable employees which the whole business is dependent on. Of course, we constantly look for new employees but we haven’t been successful yet,” he shakes his head.
I can’t do it without my family
He can always rely on his family. He was able to open the restaurant thanks to their help. “My girlfriend has given up everything and she’s put all the effort and time into fulfilling our dreams. Moreover, she’s a fantastic pastry chef and she makes delicious desserts and cakes for the restaurant every single day,” he highlights the contribution of his partner Hana Dvořáková.
The help of my family has always been necessary. “I wouldn’t be able to renovate the restaurant if it wasn’t for my father. He was in charge of everything. One of my grandmothers has sacrificed her small garden to supply us with fresh vegetables and herbs. The other one is in command of tidiness of the kitchen. My girlfriend’s parents take care of flowers and herbs and my brother is in charge of outside grill even in hot summer days. And two cousins of mine are waitresses,” he explains why the restaurant Pod Lipami is the real family business.
Absinthe is ideal for venison recipes
Zdeněk can’t pick just one favourite culinary recipe but he likes beef and barbeque the most. “And maybe that’s why I can’t decide what the best meal is so I have a new menu every week. I add, withdraw or change things all the time. It just depends on my current mood,” he smiles. But burgers are the top sellers. “Customers love them so much. I know that,” he adds.
Using alcohol as an ingredient? I need alcohol to be really strong. THE chef Zdeněk Svoboda says.
Does he find alcohol useful in the kitchen? Zdeněk works with this ingredient quite often, mainly, when he prepares meat. “Using an overproof alcohol beverage is essential,” he says. He usually cooks with overproof spirits and it brings another great flavour to meals such as pâtés or steaks. When he organized a venison feast in his restaurant, he found Metelka’s Absinthe de Moravie to be very useful. He used it in the recipe of grilled deer steak. “I was able to offer a grilled deer loin with a venison demi glace sauce flambéed in absinthe and roasted seasonal vegetables and potato pumpkin puree,” the chef of the restaurant in Olomouc describes the speciality to which the Metelka’s absinthe gave the unique flavour.