More than 2,000 visitors enjoyed the company of famous chefs and learned all about trends in the food and gourmet industry at the Weekend Food Festival
The crème de la crème of the global gastronomy scene brought the program of the Weekend Food Festival to a close, which has proven to be the most important culinary event in Croatia and the region in its second edition. Over 2,000 visitors participated in lectures, panel discussions, and masterclasses last weekend, all while enjoying great entertainment, socializing, and of course, food!
The first day was marked by an incredible performance from Franco Pepe, the world’s best pizzaiolo, who held a cooking show demonstrating how he creates the pizza that attracts thousands of people every day on the streets of the Italian city of Caiazzo. This star of Netflix’s hit series Chef’s Table: Pizza, despite not speaking English or Croatian, received a standing ovation from foodies, pizza lovers, and gourmets of all ages who came to witness a true master at work. Other global and local culinary stars, including Ricard Camarena, Eduard Xaturch, Ana Roš, Eneko Atxa, Simon Rogan, Deni Srdoč, Mate Janković, as well as many other experts in the restaurant, hotel, and food industries, were equally successful in conveying this year’s festival message of sustainability.
Insights from the Best in the Business
Saturday kicked off with a lecture from Mate Janković, who shared his experience on how not to fail in the first year of business, while David Skoko sparked enthusiasm among the audience by advocating for a departure from the elitist approach to gastronomy which is the pinnacle of Croatian tourism and a return to authentic and local flavors. “We promote Kvarner prawns, which we barely have enough of for a slightly larger restaurant, and we don’t brand the small blue fish that we have in abundance at all,” explained Skoko who thinks that everything we do is wrong.
Sustainability in the kitchen is an essential topic in the food industry, and it was no exception at this year’s Festival as the restaurant industry is notorious for its long hours, dynamic everyday life, and frequent employee burnouts. The charming couple from the Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura restaurant, Karime Lopez and Takahiko “Taka” Kondo, talked about precisely that. One of the fundamental motives of their teamwork approach is mutual respect and care for their colleagues. “We have kept almost the same team of employees since the restaurant opened, so we are now somewhat like a family. It is not always easy, but we need to move away from the idea that quality means too much work and suffering. To me, suffering is not the same as sacrifice. Yes, we have to work hard, but we do what we love, and we need to take care of each other and have each other’s backs,” emphasized Takahiko.
Eric Vildgaard, known as one of the most exciting chefs in Copenhagen and co-owner of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Jordnæra, captivated the audience with his life story and approach to ingredients and business. “Copenhagen is recognized as a destination for foodies from all over the world, eager for gourmet experiences that they can only experience there. We in Denmark are considered a powerhouse when it comes to gourmet cuisine. But what I have to ask all of you is, have you ever compared the ingredients you find in supermarkets in Croatia and Denmark? If you have, you probably already know which country boasts better produce. The correct answer would be Croatia,” said Vildgaard, impressing those present with his stance.
The audience fell silent as the best chef in the world, Dabiz Muñoz, took to the stage and treated the Rovinj audience to something truly extraordinary – a culinary demonstration of two dishes from his restaurant, DiverXO. Following last year’s performance in Rovinj, Muñoz and the audience shared a special connection, and his demonstration was met with thunderous applause.
The Unforgettable Rasmus Munk
“In today’s world, sustainability is constantly being questioned in restaurants, even in establishments like ours. However, what I see as an advantage for successful restaurants is a humane approach to employees,” said Munk, delighting the audience. He went on to explain how his employees have the freedom and enough time for both family and business development. In his restaurant, the balance between work and personal life is fundamental to the business. “If you want to be one of the best restaurants in the world, you have to create a community where people can progress but also have time for their personal life and family,” Munk stated, receiving a standing ovation from the audience, thus concluding the festival’s program. On Sunday, the focus shifted to the exhibitors, with over sixty present, offering an excellent selection of food that delighted all attendees. At the Kaufland Buyers Meet Up, attendees had the opportunity to learn how to have their products placed on the store’s shelves.
Rovinj Took Center Stage as Culinary Hub
At this year’s Festival, visitors had the opportunity to connect and socialize in the excellent ambiance of the old Tobacco Factory Rovinj, in addition to getting to know new trends and attending lectures and panels by some of the industry’s most influential professionals. The festival also featured this year’s FoodTech Start-Up Competition, a competition for start-ups created in collaboration with Maistra, Infobip, Pepermint, and Kaufland. The competition was designed to discover new and innovative ideas and offer support to budding talents in the food, hospitality, and retail industries. Start-ups can apply here, and the winner will be announced at the Weekend Media Festival in Rovinj in September.