Food & Drink
From Cocina to Kuchyň: Gallery 44 welcomes Fernando Hernandez Ruiz
Award-Winning Mexican Chef Ruiz joins Gallery 44 for three-month residency
For Gallery 44 in Old Town, artistic expression at the dining table is just as important as the art that adorns the walls of the restaurant. Here, guests can enjoy culinary delights while taking in pieces from the famous DSC art gallery, whose roster of artists includes David Černý, Jiří Georg Dokoupil, Pasta Oner, Jakub Matuška aka Masker and Milan Houser, among others.
The owner describes it as dinner literally in an art gallery,.
The space’s history prior to its life as a restaurant served as the restaurant’s inspiration.
Among the previous owners is Karl Calvi, who was the first to use the building as an art gallery in the late 1600s for his own private collection, which the restaurant is still known for today.
The owner of Gallery 44 said they wanted to create something more than a restaurant. A venue to be remembered for more than just beautiful cuisine.
Creativity extends from the gallery walls into the kitchen. Like the rotating art pieces, Gallery 44 also alternates new VIP guest chefs each quarter who serve up dishes inspired by their local region as well as sometimes giving their take on Czech classics. During their three-month tenure, these masters craft an à la carte menu, as well as a tasting menu with wine pairing.
This month, Chef Fernando Hernandez Ruiz takes the helm at Gallery 44, as a guest chef from his critically acclaimed restaurant Moyuelo in Puebla, Mexico.
The 34-year-old Mexican chef decided early on that he wanted to be in the kitchen. Ruiz tried a conventional education at the Culinary Institute (ICUM), but he left in 2005 in search of more practical knowledge. With a plan to work and gain experience in some of the world’s best restaurants, Ruiz landed in Spain working for Lasarta Berasategui Group.
In 2008, Ruiz began working at the group’s Mugaritz restaurant, which he says changed his life.
“It’s where I learned that you can cook very differently, and that’s where the first ambition of having my own business was born,” Ruiz says.
He also says Mugaritz was where he crafted the insight to use quality ingredients and combine the uniqueness of the flavors.
Ruiz then went to the US, where he works for the Hyatt Group.
Like many famous chefs, Ruiz uses his hotel restaurant time to gather experience in his field, but also to travel, photograph and write, which has become a great hobby for him.
But being a world traveler soon gave way to missing home, and he returned to Puebla to open Moyuelo in 2014. The restaurant was instantly notable, gaining praise from the likes of Forbes magazine, and propelling Ruiz into the spotlight. In fact, Moyuelo was awarded as a restaurant with the “greatest future” and is consistently at the top of travel guides as a “must visit”.
Even though Ruiz has seen a lot of the world, he said he is enjoying his time in the city and enjoying working with the team at Gallery 44 on such a unique project.
Art and food aside, the space itself is stunning. Its subterranean entrance with Romanesque features leads past an open kitchen and into the dining area. The building, one of Prague’s oldest, showcases 800 years of Czech history, complete with beautiful finishes, heavy tables and chairs, and playful use of light.
The restaurant is literally a hidden treasure in plain sight, resting under one of Prague’s busiest tourist paths. Located at Karlova 44, Gallery 44 is below the popular Fat Cat Pub and Brewery, where locals and tourists alike go for locally brewed craft beer. Unlike its upstairs neighbor, Gallery 44 is not a restaurant for crowds. It only allows seating for 44 people, offering an intimate experience with close attention to detail.