Petra's story is one of relentless entrepreneurism, self-discovery, and empowerment.
After finishing her finance degree in the Czech Republic, Petra was an accountant at Siemens in Prague, then took au pair jobs in Germany and London, and finally New York in 2010, where she honed her cooking skills. Falling in love with the city, she knew she wanted to stay but was uncertain what to do, so she waited tables and managed projects at a luxury chandelier manufacturer.
"I always saw myself as an employee," she recalls, "but then everything started to change. My mind just started shifting. I was more interested in being an entrepreneur and my passion for cooking went crazy. I believe it was New York itself. I was looking for myself, I was looking for the true me for so long. I simply listen to my gut at all times... and it works."
In 2016, Petra took a $20,000 loan and turned a Whitestone deli into a taco place. She felt something "magical" about Vietnamese food, so she did two weeks of intensive training in Ho Chi Minh City with a private teacher. That opened the way to Ginger and Lemongrass, moving the taco restaurant down the block, opening a second Ginger and Lemongrass on the Lower East Side, and Eastern European snack joint Langos Bar, all in less than five years!
I bought this in a tiny Czech grocery store in Long Island City.
Everybody in my family would use those, even though me and my mom, we lived in a big city, we would still get those from our grandparents because they wouldn't use anything else.
In the very beginning [when I came to New York], I didn't use them. But then once I went to the store and saw it there, and it was when I had my restaurants, it was like my childhood was looking at me.
I said, "Oh my God, I have to start using this." It's like I found myself.
I just kept looking at them and using them because I feel like "it's me, the real me."
IT WAS LIKE MY CHILDHOOD
LOOKING AT ME.
Sometimes, to be honest, I have a tendency to lose my own identity because Ginger and Lemongrass is Vietnamese. You have a tendency to lose yourself and who you actually are, where you are from.
I'm a big believer you have to always... always remember where you are from.
I look at it and I remember all the weekends I spent with my grandparents. It's a very, very strong feeling.