The morning of my last day in Prague I was sitting in a café perusing Trip Advisor over breakfast trying to figure out what I wanted to do before I left, when amidst the historical monuments and typical tourist traps something caught my eye: the Gastronomy Museum. Never mind the overwhelmingly positive reviews or the institution's ambiguous name (which, as it suggests, is not just about Czech food); my inner chef made the decision to go right then and there. And it's a good thing that I went with my gut feeling, because it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences on the trip.
Opened just four months ago by Ladislav Provaan, a former architect who worked extensively with American hotel chains designing kitchens, and his wife Nina, whose parents were hardcore foodies and cookbook authors, the museum attempts to expose the evolution of cuisine and man's relationship with food starting from pre-history. This is, of course, no small feat and for now the fledgling exhibits are modest - but as visitor traffic increases I'm sure it will expand.
Thanks to my anthropology background I was already familiar with the early stuff - harnessing the power of fire, domesticating animals, first use of tools for foraging and agriculture, etc.
The rest of the main floor is dedicated to the gradual development of modern cooking, including early recipes and antique appliances, with additional exhibits on liquor distillation and brewing beer.
Upstairs features biographies of famous chefs and my favorite part, the futuristic kitchen. Ladislav told me the space is currently used by aspiring chefs who can record themselves doing demos and send the videos out to prospective employers, but in the future they would like to offer cooking classes to the public.
The kitchen features:
- A smart oven for cooking meats that sets itself based on the type and quantity entered
- A convection oven that has a steam function (good for items containing yeast so they can rise in a controlled environment)
- A metal-safe microwave
- A smart dishwasher that self-selects the cycle based on how dirty the dishes are
- A faucet with built-in LED light that changes color based on the temperature of the water
- A refrigerator with three distinct (and adjustable) climate zones
- Overhead lighting that turns on/off by tapping the side of the island counter (for when your hands are dirty)
Needless to say...I want one just like it.
After showing me around the kitchen, Ladislav offered another visitor and me a sampling of Czech beer. I hesitated at first because it was approximately 11:30am but, hey, I never say no to free drinks! (Which sometimes gets me into trouble, but that's another story).
The sheer scope of the Gastronomy Museum is a hugely ambitious undertaking, but the Provaan's obvious passion for food and cooking have already carried them a long way.
And, as Ladislav proudly told me at one point, there really isn't another museum out there like it. So if you're ever in Prague make sure you stop by!
More info at the official website.