Roman Mikulica – Commis Chef (Ship St.)
COMMIS CHEF, CURRY LEAF CAFE (SHIP ST.)
A 19-year-old called Roman turned up at the cafe in June 2015, looking for a part-time kitchen porter job to tide him over before starting college. Fifteen months later and he’s still here, equipped with a chef’s uniform and big plans for the future…
Where are you from and how did you end up in Brighton?
I’m from a small town in the Czech Republic. During my first year of high school my class travelled to England on school trip, and one of the places we visited was beautiful Brighton. When I graduated a few years later, I decided I wanted to spend the summer abroad. It took me all of a minute to choose Brighton.
What attracted you to the restaurant business?
A little while back I randomly started watching a YouTube channel called SortedFood, which features a bunch of Londoners cooking dishes from around the world. I became fascinated with cooking and decided that I was going to one day open my own restaurant. Curry Leaf Cafe seemed like a great place to start.
Did you have much experience of Indian food back in the Czech Republic?
I’d never been to an Indian restaurant in my life. It seems to me that Czech people are really only just starting to explore more exotic cuisines; Indian food culture is pretty much non-existent in my country.
I remember the first time I walked into CLC. The smell that hit my nose was so amazing! When I got to try some of the dishes I instantly fell in love with the cuisine. I never thought that such complex flavours could exist.
You were a bit of a rock star back in high school, we hear…
Haha. I played guitar in a band that I formed with four close friends, most of them schoolmates. We gigged in our hometown for about four years and had a lot of fun writing heavy metal tunes and watching the modest crowds enjoy our live performances.
Do you still play? And what else do you do with your time off?
Yes, it’s still a big part of my life – I’ve been playing since I was ten. Skateboarding is also something I love to do in my spare time.
What's your favourite dish at CLC, and who there do you get the most out of working with?
Pondicherry Salmon. Without a doubt. As for the person who inspires me the most, that has to be Chef Gouranga [Head Chef of the Ship Street Cafe]. His teaching skills and ability to make the whole kitchen work together as a team are amazing. But what impresses me the most is how quickly he comes up with solutions to problems. There are lots of them in a busy kitchen.
Where else do you like to eat in Brighton?
There are still quite a few establishments on my to-visit list, so I can't say that it will stay on top forever. But right now I’m in love with Bincho Yakitori on Preston Street. Such an incredible menu concept.
You originally applied for a summer job before heading off to college. What made you stay on?
My life goal is to open my own restaurant, and I thought I needed a business degree to do that. But when I saw how much I could learn about the industry here at CLC, it became clear that this was the best 'college' I could study at.
Any advice for our new recruits?
Patience is key – listen carefully to the senior chefs because they know how things work. And don't worry too much if service doesn't go exactly as you hoped. Things will get better with time.