A Chef should be creative and imaginative, what did you dream of when you were a boy? Has cooking always been your dream or were there other potential occupations?
Well, just cooking, definitely, though I must mention that there was always the sea in the subconscious. That means that if I did not decide for this job, I would probably work on a ship. Best of all, I would have been working on a ship for years and combining the love of the sea and cooking. Cooking is, however, is my life choice and I’m happy about it.
How did your professional direction flow? Did you have any specific pattern?
I cannot distinguish anything in particular; I met many famous chefs and learned from them along the way. You pick up some tricks that work the best for you and I do not need to point out that the Croatian gastro scene has top chefs. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with a lot of them and learn from them all and I am very grateful to them.
Presentation “On a Plate”
What are the trends in gastronomy now?
For me, the Mediterranean has always been an inspiration and will remain so. Gastronomy is changing very fast, and it is progressing day by day and the question is just the vision and presentation of my Mediterranean on a Plate.
Where is Croatia regarding Gastronomy?
It is hard to say. We can be grateful for tourism, but on the other hand, massiveness is beginning to lose quality. In this way, our work often falls into another plan, where quantity is more important than quality. With all the benefits of tourism, we did not prepare for such catering and tourism. All in all, we are progressing and there are great improvements and it is still being worked on, which is very important.
You have cooked for many well-known public figures. Who has a special place in your memory?
I cooked for many, but if I had to emphasize someone, that would be Novak Djoković. It was his calmness, way of communication and ultimately his enjoyment of food.
What makes a cook a true Chef?
I would say that this is the whole psychology of man. The Chef must have qualities like leadership and a quality personality; he has to be a leader in his kitchen, which is the most important thing. He must be a psychologist who will at any time know how to calm his people down, motivate them and find the best way to communicate with them. Likewise, they must be friends. It is a tough job that has its own emotion, adrenaline and passion, and it does not have to change much.
Everything is great when everything goes smoothly
Describe yourself as a Chef.
This is how I would define it: everything is great when everything goes smoothly. I like to have authority in the kitchen and that is essential for everything to work; I need to have all the control at all times. You are the Chef and the responsibility for everything good and bad is yours.
The entire region knows you because of your role of jury in the culinary show. Has this helped you in your career as expectations have increased and did you expect this kind of popularity?
Media is a miracle; their influence is really big. I think I managed everything well regardless of the fact I never did anything like that before. It is true that I lost my privacy, but it has also brought positive things which I am proud of. People get to know you, they want to try your food and that is what I like the most. What the most important thing is in this whole story is that when you come to my restaurant and try what I am preparing, you need to be satisfied, meaning it must be a really good meal.
Is it difficult to be objective in the jury? Do you experience emotions when someone is preparing a Dalmatian dish, and the other one for example is Slavonian?
First and foremost, I want to be professional, but of course that my emotions start working. I treat every ingredient equally; I judge in my own discretion, by professionalism and I try to be fair to everyone. It is not easy to try so many foods in one day, and they are still amateurs. However, it has some special charm to it.
Cooking is today the ultimate trend and we see numerous positive effects. Are there any negative effects that will appear?
There are a lot of negative effects, and more should be said about it than it is said at the moment. To become a Chef, a leader of a restaurant must go through years of hard work; he needs to have a great experience, starting from the most basics to the most complicated details. Young people go too fast and enter a kitchen without the proper experience. It is very important to know the basics of the kitchen, the basic postulate in the kitchen and I am glad work is being done on it. People need to be educated and then helped to continue working in the right way, because tourism and catering are number one in our economy, and that is an additional reason why we need to devote more attention to it.
You are a professional associate at Aspira High School at the first study of International Management in Gastronomy. How important is education for future Chefs?
It is so important that there is no reason to even talk about it. Congratulations to Aspira at this Gastro study, I like how these young people experienced this study and what kind of knowledge they get from us chefs. It is new in Croatia and I think it is fantastic and there should be more and more of it, especially for people who want to thrive in their business. That is what we need.
How is it to work with our students? Do we have some future experts for the Croatian gastronomic scene?
I would say there are those who really want to stay in the kitchen. These guys and girls are very motivated, looking for new knowledge and absorbing each word. When they come out of the study they will have concrete knowledge and that is the most important thing.
A message for future chefs?
You need to be patient, do a lot of work, spend a lot of time learning, and then you will definitely get results. Once the knowledge, work and emotion coincides, that is the moment to live for, that is the professional peak.