Mr Ksána and we go way back. When we started Taste of Prague about two and half years ago, we did home cooking classes, too, and inevitably ended at the Ksana and son butcher shop for meat. It was the same all the time: four people in the line in front of you, but you waited for 20 minutes because Mr Ksana jr. (the “son” in the name of the establishment) would explain everything to everyone, sharing recipes and tips. The side effect? Everyone (including us) was going out with two bags of meat instead of the one cut they wanted to buy in the first place.
About a year ago, the son left the father and joined forces with AMaso, the butcher shop project by the almightily Ambiente Group. For a long time, you could only buy meat from them online but now, about two months ago, the project culminated with the opening of the Nase maso ("Our Meat”) butcher shop at the Dlouha street. Immediately it became one of our two favorite butcher shops in town (another being the wonderful Real Meat Society with their amazing organic and sustainable meat sold separately or in the popular farmer’s boxes). And not only ours: the shop that sells raw meat, sausages and ham (along with organic eggs, dairy products and spice) and also prepares some burgers, steaks and meat loaf on the spot became very popular.
We met with Mr Ksana for the interview on a Tuesday morning before the opening time in a small cafe opposite the butcher shop. Throughout the time we spent there, you could see his eyes locked on the shop whenever he registered any activity, losing his string of thought. The diagnosis is clear: Mr Ksana is a total workoholic. We like that. It was also hard to steer the interview to anything but the meat. Mr Ksana is a butcher from head to toe, and a really nice person at that. We like that, too.
Have you ever, in your life, thought of being something other than a butcher?
I still want to be a pilot. It’s a big dream for me. My grandpa was a pilot. But I'm colorblind so it is likely to remain a hobby for me: I have a powered paraglide at home, though. But I love to do pretty much anything. I get very excited about different things. But pilot is still the no. 1 dream for me.
Why Nase Maso? Why the split from your dad?
Have you ever worked with your parents? I have. For twenty years. :-) My father is the nicest guy in the world but unfortunately, he always chose business partners who betrayed him. So he became a bit mistrustful and very stubborn: it's either his way or nothing at all. I always had an idea in my head for the butcher shop but could not push it through my dad.
These high-end butcher shops are nothing new but they were missing here. So me and Mr Karpisek put it together: I sketched up a few ideas and Mr Karpisek added some of his own. My father and I became known because we sold sausages to the former Allegro restaurant (the first Michelin-star restaurant in Prague) and to Emanuele Ridi (one of the most famous TV chefs here in the Czech Republic) and appeared in the Apetit food magazine. But my father has never liked the publicity.
What are you trying to do with the butcher shop?
We call it "our meat" because the animals are raised the way we want them to be. Our manager visits farms around the Czech Republic, and the farms raise the animals specifically for us because they know we will buy the meat from them: they would get less money from the slaughterhouse because the meat is too fatty for them. We control all the details, incl. the slaughtering process. Then we take the meat to our facility and we dry age it ourselves. That's why we call it "our meat".
The same thing happens with the Prestice pigs (an old Czech breed of pigs). We cooperate with the Mladotice farm, now we work with a new Moravian farm in Cejc and so on. We try to get more farms involved because we want to do the proper Prague ham and we need more Prestice pigs available. And we do retail at Nase Mase and wholesale at A-Maso.
What should a tourist in Prague order at your butcher shop?
Exactly what you are getting for your tours: the meatloaf, Prague ham, our hot dogs.
Because they are really good and I love them myself! I have now spent a year and a half in the production facilities, tasting things and trying different recipes. We really use no chemicals or additives. That means our meat will do you no wrong. It's all good and natural and it tastes great.
Where do you go for a meal yourself?
I'd love to visit many places :-) But I mostly eat in our butcher shop and when I want some alone time, I go to the Lokal pub nearby. And at home. We love to eat at home. My dad has finally built a house so we like to meet there with my family.
And where do you go with your kids?
I don't want to sound like an Ambiente salesman here, but my family and I love Cafe Savoy. The schnitzel there is perfect. And we love going outdoors, sit in the grass, grill a sausage over a fire and enjoy the sunset. I love to spend time with my family: we start with a big breakfast and then leave Prague and do something outdoors, e.g. in the Brdy forests nearby.
And your favorite vegetarian restaurant?
What? Could you pick one?