Slovenia is asking for its culinary spot

Following the success of its wines and of Ana Ros, the government in Ljubljana is at work so that the country can become a nice culinary destination

12-02-2018

Ana Ros on the stage of the event that launched the conferences within the Gourmet Cup in Ljubljana. Photo DDselection

I’m happy for the Slovenians. I’m a little less happy for us Italians: when it’s time to get working as a team, in order to draw the highest benefits from our restaurant industry, everything gets complicated. Team is a concept that in Italy is almost surreal, as it implies lots of respect, bright farsightedness and no jealousy. Many countries are now setting the good example. Long are the days when it was just France doing so. The latest country is Slovenia, little over 2 million inhabitants and an area that is only slightly larger than Apulia, which has twice its population.

On the last weekend of January, the third edition of the Gourmet Cup took place between Ljubljana and Krvavec, a ski resort some 50 km away. It followed two tracks: one was more playful and tasty, the other more cultural and programmatic.

A photo during the dinner in the cable car that takes skiers and tourists to the snowy slopes of Krvavec

A photo during the dinner in the cable car that takes skiers and tourists to the snowy slopes of Krvavec

This was thanks to the Jezersek family, exceptional organisers of catering and big events. This includes Franci, the father, now retired though he makes cured meat as a hobby, and his four sons, RokJureLuka and Martin. It all began on Saturday 27th with a dinner in a very unusual context: a gondola.

Indeed, a gondola, but not in the Italian way. The location was a cable car that takes you to the ski slopes and the various lodges. We stopped up on the mountain only for dessert, with tea and grappa. A hot soup of celery and mushrooms, a starter with scorzonera truffle and many more flavours and a main course, pork ribs with barley, were served in the candlelit cable car which was equipped for the occasion, while it went up and down for three times, a service each way, with darkness all around, and wine and a blanket to protect from the cold. Luka JezersekBine Volcic and Karim Merdjadi signed the menu.

Ivan Bombieri (left) and Giuseppe Mancino in the photo taken by Ziga Intihar

Ivan Bombieri (left) and Giuseppe Mancino in the photo taken by Ziga Intihar

On Sunday there were big celebrations on the snow, in a sort of amphitheatre where various slopes end. There were multiple stations and chefs. From Italy, Giuseppe Mancino of Piccolo Principe in Viareggio, Ivan Bombieri of Taverna in Colloredo di Monte Albano (Udine) and Cesare Battisti of Ratanà in Milan. There was a queue in front of every station. The longest was for the stew sandwich made by Ana Sustersic, chef working for the Jezersek family. To shape it, she used an old iron, the kind you put embers inside. It was a nice, attention-catching idea. Everything was repeated 48 hours later, on Tuesday, with the new chefs guided by Janez Bratovz, and a skiing contest.

On Monday, in Ljubljana the programme in the castle overlooking the town was completely different. First a conference during the day, then a gala dinner with Ana Ros - ever since the World’s 50 Best awarded here as the world’s best female chef, she’s become a national monument - Luka Jezersek, who’s very popular in Slovenia thanks to his role as judge in Masterchef, and Austrian Philip Rachinger, who’s a bright and young chef under 30.

As for the seminars, the first was on Slovenia’s potentials in terms of becoming a culinary destination, and the second was on professional training for catering and culinary tourism. This followed guidelines defined in 2006, twelve years ago.

Luka Jezersek in a photo by Dean Dubokovic

Luka Jezersek in a photo by Dean Dubokovic

This shows that the industry’s desire to grow overcomes any divisions, something unimaginable in Italy. The acknowledgement given to Ros has given even greater strength to these ambitions, which is what happened in Denmark with René Redzepi. Then you have the extraordinary wines, the beautiful nature and scenery, the lovely trattorias - gostilna in Slovenian - with good prices and the capacity to spot significant steps, such as the arrival, later in November, of the Gault&Millau guide, which is essential to place the best restaurants on the European culinary map.

Tomaz Kavcic was the first Slovenian chef to make his country’s cuisine known abroad, over 10 years ago. Here he’s in a photo with Ziga Intihar and his wife Flavia

Tomaz Kavcic was the first Slovenian chef to make his country’s cuisine known abroad, over 10 years ago. Here he’s in a photo with Ziga Intihar and his wife Flavia

The real issue for the contemporary scene is clear: while it’s easy to define some characterising features in the wine industry, cuisine is often confused with that of neighbouring countries, including Friuli and Venezia Giulia. Take jota, with krauts, beans and pork: the one in Trieste is just like the one in Ljubljana. It’s hard to be original.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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