Slovenia entered 2021 as the holder of the prestigious title of the European Region of Gastronomy 2021 (ERG). The STB defined the development and promotion of gastronomy in the Action Plan for the Development and Marketing of Gastronomic Tourism of Slovenia 2019-2023.
Activities are aimed at raising international visibility and strengthening sustainable practices in gastronomy. The pyramid of Slovenian gastronomy has been refreshed and typical dishes, drinks and ingredients for Slovenia have been defined.
As a partner, the STB also helped carry out the European Food Summit, a key event in the field of food sustainability in Europe. Other internationally acclaimed gastronomy-related events, such as the Orange Wine Festival and the Masterclass Rebula in Brda, have also been supported. Another important bit of promoting Slovenian gastronomy was the campaign to promote the Restaurant Week in the neighboring countries.
The strategy of raising the visibility of Slovenian in terms of gastronomy is based on the strategy of co-marking, i.e. connecting the Slovenian gastronomic brand (Taste Slovenia) with world-famous brands, especially in the field of evaluating providers and destination gastronomic brands. Until 2018, Slovenia did not have internationally recognized quality marks in the field of gastronomy. An important milestone occurred in November 2018, when the first Slovenian edition of the Gault & Millau guide was issued, and another in 2020, when the first edition of the Michelin guide for Slovenia was launched.
In recent years, Slovenia has developed a respectable level of high cuisine and created a strong circle of gastronomic influencers. In terms of gastronomy, 2020 is marked mainly by the prestigious title of European Region of Gastronomy, within which Slovenia pursues the goal of maintaining or strenghtening the image of a foodie destination.
Prof. Dr. Janez Bogataj, an ERG ambassador, a member of the global network of IGCAT experts, indicated that “Slovenia definitely has many things to be proud about when it comes to gastronomy and is thanks to good design and results interesting for other gastronomic regions. In 2006, the Strategy of the Slovenian Gastronomy was formulated, as well as the pyramid with 24 gastronomic regions and more than 430 typical foods, dishes and drinks. In an increasingly globalized world, Slovenia has managed to preserve and develop quality natural flavours of food and drink. Beekeeping has made Slovenia known worldwide. We are successful in the field of motivating young people for gastronomy, especially in primary schools. We have set a professional certification system of collective brands, 12 of them already operate successfully with a typical local and regional representation, which is also a trend in global gastronomy.”
Mira Šemić, an ERG ambassador and a director of Gault & Millau Slovenia, highlighted that “the problem of staff shortage in Slovenian gastronomy has been present for a long time. Gault& Millau Slovenia noticed that the level of service does not follow high quality food. Years of neglect of the profession of waiter have resulted in only few restaurants having qualified waiters, sommelier and bartenders. Under the auspices of Gault & Millau Slovenia, workshops with chefs and sommelier were launched in 2019. I am glad that the STB and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology also recognized our efforts. In the first year, workshops for pupils and students from all over Slovenia took place; the intertwining of theory and practice, the exchange of knowledge and experience and the opportunity to talk to lecturers impressed them. In 2020, everything moved online. I do hope we will soon be able to meet in person. The goal of Gault & Millau Slovenia is to show young people that working in hospitality can be and motivate them to acquire comprehensive knowledge. My main contribution as an ERG ambassador, is to educate young people and implement activities related to the promotion of professions in the hospitality industry.”
The European Region of Gastronomy project partners carry out the activities defined in the Candidacy Book, of course adapted to the situation. More than 40 projects have been identified, and new proposals are being made. In addition to the founding partners, more than 100 interested companies and individuals have supported the project to date. The goal of the ERG is also to develop and implement sustainable gastronomy in the Green Scheme of Slovenian tourism. The green scheme has already been updated, and a call for the inclusion in the Green Scheme was recently published for catering providers and restaurants. They can obtain the Slovenia Green Cuisine label. The condition for obtaining the label is one of the international sustainability certificates (Green Key or L.E.A.F) and the signing of the Sustainable Gastronomic Commitment.
Luka Košir, a chef and an ERG Ambassador, particularly emphasized the development of sustainable gastronomy: “I think it is very important that the STB decided to take this step and also started developing the Green Cuisine scheme in the field of gastronomy. Such an approach confirms that the Slovenian gastronomic scene is developing in the right direction. This approach is based on the responsibility to include local farmers and producers and supports a sustainable philosophy. Our restaurant will definitely try to enter this scheme as I believe it is no longer just a matter of a trend. According to global guidelines, successful restaurants make the greatest effort to draw on ingredients from the local environment, which are produced with the utmost attention and authenticity. This also builds up visibility. If we can strengthen our visibility with the Green Cuisine logo, this is an additional proof for the guests that we want them to experience the best when visiting us.”
2021 puts a spotlight on gastronomy, as a main developmental and promotional theme of the Slovenian tourism. For this very purpose, a new presentation film for gastronomy will be launched. The STB will continue working with international gastronomic guides (Michelin, GM) and supporting activities for the Restaurant Week. Special attention will also be given to reducing the use of disposable plastics, both in restaurants and in the accommodation sector. The strengthening and development of local gastronomic brands will encourage even closer integration of agriculture and tourism with the aim of strengthening short supply chains. Communication support for the project will be focused on both domestic and foreign markets. The “My Slovenia” campaign is expected to be launched on the domestic market in February, and all partners of the ERG project and the general public will be invited to participate. The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of local gastronomy and responsible food consumption, including waste reduction.
Leon Pintarič, a chef and a young ERG ambassador, pinpointed that “the future of young people in the hospitality industry is bright. Despite the current coronavirus situation, I do hope that young people will be able to have more internships at restaurants, where they can learn more about practical work. The formula for success is, first and foremost, that you love this job and that you try to look for as much new information as possible. You also have to follow the trends and work hard. You can only succeed when you do things with your heart. I would advise to my colleagues to respect the environment in which they live, tradition and ingredients. It is nice if you can convince your guests with your creations and make them come back for more.”