text Olga Sládková
Peter Bartoš' Kruh Dining is a concept of a tasting menu in motion - it has no permanent location, on the contrary, dinners take place directly at the clients' homes or other designated places. The main concepts that Petr Bartoš works with are locality and seasonality. The standard ten-course menu changes throughout the year to carry the flavour and aromas of local nature. One of the restaurant's specialities is the use of local wild herbs in numerous variations.
Taste and smell, two inseparable senses. The difference between experience and physiological need. Between a meal full of emotion and an aesthetic-free infusion of nutrients. Forget the prefabricated restaurant experience for a moment. Chef Petr Bartos' Kruh dining concept brings emotions closer to life core - and the Pigmentarium aromas are an integral part of this.
What role do aromas play for you when it comes to cooking?
The smell in the kitchen is as essential to me as taste. Because taste is something that happens on the tongue, that we perceive through the tongue. When you plug your nose, you no longer smell the aromas in your food. You feel the texture, you feel the flavours (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami) - but when you put a carrot in your mouth you don't know if it's a carrot or some other vegetable. Aromas are very important for food - and for my work.
Also, the menu I cook is bigger and more complex. It has a concept, a story, and a momentum, and the flavours are therefore of varying intensity - so that people don't get bored, and the food doesn't lack dynamics. At the same time, our connection to nature plays an important role. I cook with wild herbs, we make different "perfumes" for food, we pull out different flavours and aromas from herbs that suit specific dishes and that is the most important thing for me. In short, it is important to remember that the aroma in food is not just about smelling it before putting it in your mouth, but that taste is complex. Your nose in this case acts as a kind of chimney for the mouth.
How do you get such high-quality local wild herbs?
It's not so easy, because the palette of flavours in our climate is not as pronounced as in the subtropics. We are therefore looking for different directions and techniques to bring out interesting flavours from the herbs that grow locally - which can sometimes be a bit tropical or appear to be something that doesn't normally grow here. We do this by drying, oxidation, and fermentation, or we make herbal oils... these are different techniques that are not yet fully explored and so there is also a lot of discovery going on.
The collection itself is mostly about trips outside of Prague. We either have time-tested spots for something particular to grow or we spend a long weekend in nature. First, I walk and observe, where what grows. The next day I take a basket and collect things.
How are the other ingredients selected?
I have been part of the world of gastronomy for 15 years now, and in that time, I have made many connections with amazing colleagues and suppliers. The ingredients' origin is important for Kruh because of the closed circle (in Czech "kruh” means circle) symbolizes the most important part of our philosophy. One of the key things is the terroir, the space we live in, and its surroundings. That is why it is essential for me that the ingredients are local up to approximately 300 km and they do not come from far away - because that is how their quality degrades. The season is another crucial element, the cycle of the year that is constantly repeating. This is symbolized by the seasonality of the menu and the use of local wild herbs.
Who are the people you cook for in Kruh? Who do you enjoy cooking for?
I like to cook for anyone who is open to new things and trusts those happy people at the table is our mission. I enjoy cooking for people who know how to give me feedback, whether positive, negative, or perceptual.
For some reason, people who are attracted to us are mostly those in the field of art or those who are interested in it. It might be, in a way, because Kruh is not “easy to digest” in terms of information. We talk a lot at dinner, sharing the stories behind the menu. (Empathetically and non-violently to the atmosphere at the table, of course ..:-D) We try to make people understand why we do it. That it is not just about making food, it is also about connecting with nature.
Our favourite diners are anyone open to this philosophy and let us stay a bit adventurous.
Do you have a story related to Kruh, something you like to come back to?
It is hard to say. It is the little things that make me happy - the tiny smiles from diners after they taste the food, their questions, and interest in what we do, knowing that they feel Kruh.
Yes, we prepared our first truly big dinner, realised we know how to, that we like it...but what makes me happy even more, what I am into, what gives me chills, is the moment after dinner. I always get a nice tingle that people are happy, that they smile, finish their meal, and that they are into the story. That there is a connection where they give themselves to us and we do our best for them. And that is indescribable.
At Kruh, you not only make "standard" dinners but also custom-made. What does it look like and what was the biggest challenge?
Kruh has been in operation for a year and a half, and we started offering custom dinners about 2 months ago. The requirements are of course different and as it happens, one must compromise. Also, here we are gradually trying to convince clients to step out of their comfort zone and trust us a little more.
Probably the biggest challenge was dinner for 70 people. It was the first time we did such a big dinner and I think it turned out pretty well. But it meant perfecting, planning, and testing everything 2 months in advance. There were 12 people on the team, and with a bit of exaggeration, I had to think in advance about the movement of every limb of every person at every minute. So that was the most intense experience so far.
What led you to work with Pigmentarium?
I've been following the brand for a while now and have always liked it. I love the look of it, the vibe of it, the sophistication of the information, and the stories it tells. I have always liked things that have a deeper meaning and pass something on - rather than just "forceful" product sales.
After I founded Kruh, I reached a point where I started to consider collaboration. I generally enjoy connecting with different interesting people and brands that maybe do something a little different than me. And they were the first to come to my mind. Perfume, and food, it is related through aromas. In addition, both Kruh and Pigmentarium share values and the importance of philosophy in products.
How do you choose the Pigmentarium fragrances to complement a particular menu?
At the moment we use Pigmentarium scented sticks in Kruh when we reach client´s home, during the two hours of preparation. The scent is meant to help the client relax - after all, they might be sometimes nervous about strangers in their kitchen. Particular scents are, for now, used rather intuitively. Because the sticks are made from exotic ingredients, the aroma cannot be directly linked to our Czech terroir. It might, though, come with more products. Maybe we will pair the scents just like we do with wine for instance.
Pigmentarium fragrances follow Kruh. However, the roles have shifted last week. How was the dinner in the newly opened Pigmentarium Studio?
It was an important moment of our cooperation and the dinner was therefore traditional and special at the same time. Two evenings with twelve guests each day were mainly about of the opening of the Studio and we had the opportunity to make the evening even more enjoyable for the guests and show them a cross-section of our new spring menu.
It is April, everything is waking up or has already woken up, plants are budding, nature is full of water. The air smells good. Our menu mirrors all of this and I am delighted that Pigmentarium and their guests.
PIGMENTARIUM STUDIO OPENING BY KRUH DINING