Where are you from? What did you do prior to moving to Phuket?
I grew up in Prague in the Czech Republic in a restaurant-owning family. I studied Philosophy and History of Art at the University of Karlova IV Praze in Prague, the oldest university in Europe. I sometimes think that’s a particularly appropriate background for managing a brand named after Leonardo Da Vinci!
My family owned the first Italian restaurant in the Czech Republic and when I met my husband Claudio Pivotto, we opened and ran a couple of successful restaurants prior to our coming to Phuket.
We’d fallen in love with Phuket while having holidays here, so when I thought it was time to take it easy, we came to Phuket to retire.
Then I met Mario at Capannina restaurant in Kata. He offered me a job, and I worked with him for over three years. Then fate took a hand, as it often does in my life! I had an accident on my scooter outside DaVinci restaurant in Nai Harn and Mark Norris, the manager and partner at that time, came to my rescue. That's how I became involved in DaVinci.
How did you end up becoming the co-owner and manager?
Once I got to know Mark and his DaVinci co-founder and majority shareholder, David Roberts, we realised that there was a great 'fit' between my background and experience and their vision for the future of DaVinci. Also I fell in love with the style, food and friendliness of the restaurant. I joined them and soon after became a partner, taking over the day-to-day management when Mark left in June 2012 to pursue his own career.
How did DaVinci become a complete lifestyle brand?
It was always our vision that we’d add all sorts of complementary lifestyle services. We expanded into yacht charter and luxury villa rentals and that side of our business is growing. Many of our villa and boat guests need catering services, so we’ve embraced this are too. We’ve also started a training company to teach the skills of the hospitality and catering industry to young aspiring workers in these fields.
What future developments do you have planned for DaVinci Brand?
We opened our second DaVinci restaurant in Kata Beach last December with many of the same decorative icons and a menu that’s 60 percent the same as Nai Harn. The balance of the cuisine reflects the ideas of my husband Claudio, who is Executive Chef of both restaurants, and our Italian Chef who oversees the new DaVinci.
How does doing business in Phuket compare with back home?
You need real passion to run a business here as there are many challenges. Obviously there are language and cultural barriers to cope with and we’ve found the bureaucracy and abundant paperwork an ongoing chore. Kitchens can be stressful at peak times, but here you can’t shout or lose your cool. you have to be conscious of not making employees 'lose face'. But there are also great compensations to working long hours; our staff are very loyal and committed and Phuket is such a great place to live and enjoy life.
Where do you live and what car do you drive?
We rent a four-bedroom villa at a wonderful location on Chalong Beach next to Serenity Terrace Resort. It’s built in a Hemingway-esque ‘Old Havana’ style it even has a pool. It’s wonderful getting up in the morning to enjoy the beach and Chalong Bay which is so full of activity. We have owned different houses which we sold, the last one in 2010. We’re looking forward to my mother and other family members coming to visit soon to enjoy this house; we're lucky to have a great maid and gardener to help us when we have guests. As for our car, we run an ordinary Toyota because for us it’s just a means for getting from A to B. I feel the same way about watches and jewelry; I don’t really care about these things and never wear them.
What do you like about living in Phuket?
Phuket allows you to live a well-balanced life with lots of peace and quiet, particularly during the low season. There are also many quiet natural places to visit close at hand, but at the same time good hospitals, schools and shopping giving a sense of equilibrium.
What frustrates you about living in Phuket?
The bureaucracy and endless form filling for the simplest things. Then there’s the traffic of course, particularly during high season. And the corruption, although that might improve with the recent political changes.
How old are you and do you have children?
I'm 47. We don’t have any children, but I'm very fond of animals, particularly cats. We have a monster nine-kilogramme Norwegian Forest cat as a pet.
What does the future hold for you?
I'm very focused on making the new Kata DaVinci restaurant a success and I hope to have many more years being with my husband Claudio, enjoying each other’s company. But I'm a great believer in destiny and luck, after all that’s how I come to be with DaVinci and it’s also how we found our lovely villa where we live. So, I’ll just wait and see what eventuates.
What does success mean to you?
Having a passion is important for happiness and also enough money to live on, although I'm not particularly materialistic. Much more important to me is a balanced life, with enough time for myself to relax and do the things I enjoy.
How do you spend your free time?
I love doing yoga at home, often with my cats joining in! I like to paint in oils on canvas – mainly abstracts – but occasionally natural subjects too. Reading is a passion and walking too, and of course we love to cook at home, often Italian or Czech dishes and sometimes Thai.
What clubs or charities do you support?
We like to stage fund-raising events at DaVinci, like our upcoming Soi Dogs gathering, and I belong to SKAL and to the Châine des Rôtisseurs.