František Kšána junior, the son of a renowned traditional butcher from Prague decided to continue the family tradition and devote his life to meat although his approach is quite different from his father’s. František Kšána senior has always, even in the gastronomically lousy times, firmly believed that beef comes from cows and pork from pigs. It was, however, Kšána junior who managed to bring this simple recipe to perfection. The key event in this respect was getting to know and starting cooperation with the owner of Ambiente restaurants, Tomáš Karpíšek as together they have come up with sort of a prototype of a modern butcher shop that gave birth to Naše maso.
A tiny shop in Dlouhá Street right in the heart of Prague, and just a corner away from Ambiente restaurant Lokál, makes the traditional and decent production of meat their top priority. This is underlined by a clean and tastefully designed interior with a friendly atmosphere, helpful staff and top-notch graphics. White tiles, blue writing and wooden tables prove that butchery and Scandinavian interior complement each other surprisingly well.
The icing on the cake is that you can order and eat the local specialties right there in the shop. Beef burgers, steak tartare, sausages or frankfurters – you can have it all, prepared by the staff of Naše maso and wash it down with a delicious light lager from Antoš brewery. It would simply be hard to find a better place for a quick snack on your way to the city centre.
Your dad is a renowned Prague based butcher, much like yourself. Did you want to follow in his footsteps even when you were a kid?
We have become renowned after working together for 20 years so he has influenced me a great deal and taught me a lot of things and I’d say it was the other way around as well. I definitely wanted to work with my dad even as a kid and it was also due to the fact that he worked abroad for a long time so he wasn’t there for some parts of my childhood. I liked the way he worked with meat, how he knew so much about it and I couldn’t get my head around how he was able to tell it apart. The beginnings were sometimes tough but it started to make me happy when I got to taste a frankfurter right from the smokehouse and gradually started to understand meat. My dad could be quite a tough teacher sometimes but his motto is that there are softies and there are toughies. I’m glad I haven’t gone soft and I want to continue and see what’s out there. Butchery is a beautiful profession and making people happy by providing good meat is definitely worth it, same as with food.
Since 2014 you’ve been the face of the butcher shop Naše maso which is a part of the Ambiente chain. Were you involved in the development of the concept itself?
I met with Tomáš Karpíšek, the owner of Ambiente restaurants a few years back to discuss the idea of producing and selling our own meat that would be of excellent quality. At that time they had started meat aging using a dry method for Čestr restaurant and I liked their work very much. They had a company called Amaso, which supplied meat to restaurants and I started to make smoked meat products for them. The guests wanted to have the possibility to buy that meat for home use as well so my dream of having a great butchery shop started to take shape. My and Tomáš’s ideas of what the place should be like and how it should work were very similar and that’s how Naše maso was born. We took a trip to New York to get some inspiration before we opened the shop.
Likable and helpful staff is one of the essentials of Naše maso. What criteria do you base your choice of staff on?
We have an excellent personnel assistant Hanka Smítalová in Ambiente. Her experience and advice have been priceless for me and she is the one who helps us with hiring new people. I see my colleagues as a crucial part of the business and it’d be impossible to run a successful business without skilful people. It is important that they enjoy working with meat and even more importantly with people so we have a trial period after we meet for the first time during which we get to know each other. The most important thing for me is that I see that they put their heart into it. They don’t have to be professional butchers.
Your costumers are welcome to sit down in your shop and taste your meat products right there on the spot. Who is behind the menu and what’s your favourite dish on the menu?
Our menu is based on the products on offer. Before we opened and a couple of days after opening, Tomáš Karpíšek and I had already known what the geratest hits would be – beef tartare and our hamburger. We also had the best meatloaf contest‘ among our staff. Jirka Michal’s meatloaf was voted the best one. He followed his grandma’s recipe and we’ve been preparing it like that ever since. Anyway, Dalibor Křivánek who is the store manager, is in charge of the menu as he has gained a lot of experience also from working as a sous chef in La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise.
Are you fully aware of the origins of everything you sell in the shop? Are your customers interested in these things?
Absolutely! Our supplier, the company Amaso, which also belongs under Ambiente knows absolutely everything about the origins of the meat. We choose particular cattle and oversee what they are fed and also the process of slaughter. We separate the meat ourselves and let it ripen. Our meat is exclusively Czech and fresh – we don’t freeze anything. The meat that you see in our shop is also the meat we use to make our smoked meat products. Our costumers do sometimes ask where our meat comes from and we are truly grateful for that.
Could you imagine living your life as a vegetarian?
Yes, but in that case it would not be possible for me to work as a butcher, examine the quality of meat and share the happiness of a great tasting warm sausage with my colleagues.
(František Kšána jr., butcher and co-owner of Naše maso)