A new chef's table experience in Prague fuses Thai spice with Aussie passion

Named for a Thai chili that packs a punch, a new cooking school and dining venue teaches guests how to turn up the heat.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 16.09.2021 17:00 (updated on 16.09.2021)

Small, intimate experiences represent a foremost trend in dining out in recent years in the Czech Republic, with chef's tables, private dining, and hidden supper clubs inviting diners to a memorable meal in a non-traditional setting.

Group dining experiences that allow guests to both cook and eat together are another unique way to mark a special occasion or bond with co-workers. The latest such venture, Scud, is the culmination of its Australian founder's fifteen years of travel, high-end catering, and work in open kitchens across multiple continents.

Scud offers both cooking classes and Thai degustation menus from chef Greg Haynes' Žižkov kitchen. The full roster of culinary experiences fuses Haynes' passion for Thai flavors with his love of collaborative cooking and eating that fosters good feelings and great times among guests.

"I wanted to do something different here that I hadn't done before and see if I could create something that is unique to Prague without having to go back into a large restaurant kitchen," says Haynes.

While Haynes says there's no shortage of excellent Asian restaurants here in Prague (he names Taro and QQ Kitchen as favorites), his classes combine Thai cooking with tastes and techniques gleaned from his own international culinary adventures to create something wholly unique.

"Sydney has such an amazing food scene that has been there for a long time where you can really eat almost any type of cuisine and know it's the real deal," says Haynes.

He recalls finishing work at midnight, starving, and heading to the city's Chinatown where ten to fifteen restaurants would be open until 3 am. "You would catch up with your other chef mates, who worked at different restaurants, drink beer, talk about the night and eat seafood fresh out of the tanks or whole BBQ duck – it was amazing."

While Haynes has experience in Sardinian and Italian kitchens and has worked and lived in Shanghai, Scud is focused on Thai which has always been his favorite cuisine to cook.

The romance of Thai cooking for me is the balance of flavors which make every mouthful a memorable one," he says, adding that Thai cooking only works with fresh ingredients and certain produce leaving no room for substitutes. "If I can't source the correct ingredients I don't make it."

Speaking of ingredients, the name Scud refers to one that's essential to Thai food: chilis. Called bird's eye chili in the English-speaking world, in Thailand these small, fruity, red and green varieties are called "scud."

This scud chili is small, but packs a piquant punch, registering around 50,000-100,000 Scoville units, which is hotter than a common jalapeño. In Thai cuisine, it is used in curries and salads, or can even be eaten raw on the side with rice dishes.

Haynes' classes offer a range of opportunities for guests to taste or try their hand at cooking with heat. His masterclasses have space for up to 8 people with 3 different menus in rotation ranging from banquet style with 3 different dishes, to a salad masterclass on how to make dressings and correctly assemble a salad. Classes run from 6:30 pm-9:30 pm twice weekly.

"Here you will learn about the dishes being prepared, be introduced to the amazing ingredients needed to produce them, cook the dishes with me and then sit down with me and enjoy them together around the table," says Haynes.

The Scud dining experience is a 6-course degustation menu taking place on Friday nights, for a maximum of 6 people, and offers a modern play on Thai cuisine. "Several dishes pay homage to Thai origins but with a new twist," says Haynes who adds that during these interactive sessions, guests may be called upon to act as sous chef.

"I compare it to a chef's table, of being inside a kitchen while the chef entertains and cooks in front of you in an intimate environment. It's a great opportunity to meet new people and also works as a private event for a birthday or company dinner."

Seatings for both the cooking class and degustation dinner can be individually booked or a group can reserve an entire time slot. 

Recent Scud guests include Carl Clarke, People & Property Director for Vodafone Czech Republic, who treated his staff to Haynes' interactive Thai dining experience in August.

"The venue itself provides an intimate space to mix and mingle with colleagues before getting hands-on with the Thai cooking and eating experience," says Clarke whose colleagues opted to let Chef Greg do the cooking, "It gave us the opportunity to sample the amazing cuisine that was being created before our eyes."

Clarke's customized evening also included a waiter which allowed his group to focus on team building. He says that the carefully orchestrated planning was another high point of the experience.

"Chef Greg made sure the entire evening went well, knowing just when to step in and when to let our group relax and connect with one another," he says. "I’d recommend Scud for any team event."

Rave reviews aside, one thing that Haynes has learned over the years, particularly when cooking for Czechs, is that spicy food isn't for everyone. He says that during the Scud experience, "I generally try to keep the chili modest but provide tempting condiments you can add to any dish to them up as most people who enjoy Thai like an element of spice."

And for those who would raise an eyebrow at learning Thai mastery from an Aussie? "I think if you've been taught the correct technique and follow the principles that's what matters," says Haynes. "It's the same about eating the food, you need minimal knowledge to appreciate or understand it – if it looks, smells, and tastes good then enjoy it."

This article was written in cooperation with the Scud. Read more about our partner content policies here.

Publish your story to Expats.cz Find out more