TOP Slovenia Interview: Hrvoje Petrić

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Hrvoje Petrić has been an independent journalist writing about gastronomy and wine for 20 years. Alongside writing about food, Hrvoje Petrić works as a restaurant consultant and organizer of gastronomic events and festivals on an international scale. Petrić is also a trained chef and a sommelier.

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As part of his education, Hrvoje Petrić has attended various cooking workshops around the world, from Paris to Hong Kong. He also worked as a lecturer in the European project “Sweet Dietetics” – Development of a new training program for the profession of specialty dietitians. In 2014, he participated in the creation of Christian Cabalier’s cookbook – “Bistro Apetit”, which was selected by the expert jury of the prestigious awards Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2015 as the best Croatian cookbook. In the same year, Petrić participated in the Croatian-Japanese edition of the monograph Batič, one of the best Slovenian natural winemakers. His articles have been published in local and international magazines such as: Jutarnji list, Dobra hrana, StoryGourmet, GloriaGLAM, Gloria, Yachts magazine, Superyachts, Iće & Piće, Playboy, Večernji list, Gastro.hr, Akademija, Gusto Mediterraneo, Pan de Calidad, Global Gourmet China etc.

What was your dream job when you were a child? Which food did you like most?

I can’t say I had some precisely defined occupation that was the job of my dreams. I’ve always loved writing and cooking. About 20 years ago, those passions slowly began to merge from hobby to business. I love simple traditional dishes with top quality and fresh ingredients, but I also love creations from fine dining restaurants. Grilled shrimps, sarma, bean stew, good dry-aged cheese, and freshly baked bread.

Did you ever think you will be a journalist who writes about food and travels the world?

The moment I fell in love first in the world of wine and then in gastronomy, I knew that I wanted to go all the way and that Croatia would soon be too small for me.

What is the one project, article or achievement you are most proud of?

Participating in the writing of the book for Bistro Apetit from chef Christian Cabalier, which was proclaimed 3rd in the world in the category of Mediterranean cuisine, then also participating in the co-writing of the book about the Batič winery, the organization of the Weekend Food Festival, but also numerous gastro and wine educations that I held and later convinced that they had an effect and helped someone.

Since you traveled around the world quite a bit and had the opportunity to try many different dishes, can you tell us which was the most surprising dish that you ever tried?

“Cacio e Pepe” Cooked in a Pig’s Bladder from restaurant Lido 84, then percebes in fish restaurant Ramiro in Lisbon, Pork jowl sushi and homemade blood sausage in Casa do Porco Sao Paolo, Yogurt explosion in Gaggan, Frika in Hiša Polonka.

How do you evaluate restaurants? What is the most exciting thing?

The experience I bring from all the restaurants back home is the most important. Sometimes the food is excellent but the atmosphere, the service, the wine pairing is bad, the experience is ruined even though the food was fantastic. It’s all connected to function well.
I think it’s also important when a chef manages to hide his technical superiority behind the quality of the premium ingredient. Therefore, when the food is of exceptional quality when it is fresh and preferably local, then it must remain in the foreground. Sometimes classic combinations can give amazing dishes and sometimes you are delighted by incompatible combinations that in the hands of a real chef give a whole new meaning to eating and gastronomy.

Can you tell us, which is your favorite restaurant experience last year?

Hiša Franko has been a favorite restaurant of mine for many years, and there I feel always happy and fulfilled. The food is extremely good, the whole restaurant is progressing from month to month, ingredients are excellent, and it is a world-renowned restaurant that Slovenia needs to brag about. Last year I had an excellent meal at the restaurant Azurmendi, Lido84, Ramiro, Casa do Porco, Geranium, Suhring in Bangkok, DOM in Sao Paulo, Burnt Ends in Singapore, Twins Garden in Moscow, Nerua in Bilbao, Mugaritz, St. Hubertus in South Tyrol.

But also the dish with stuffed sheep’s intestines I ate on the Turkey-Syria border was phenomenal and was made by a local cook at a hotel.

Which gourmet festival do you always look forward to visiting again?

Ein Prosit in Udine because of the casual atmosphere and excellent selection of chefs and journalists, Twins science in Moscow, MAD in Copenhagen, Ongietori in Bilbao, Foggo in the south of Brazil because I learned a lot about baking and cooking on an open fire, Fru.to initiated by Alex Atala with excellent lecturers and subjects, and of course European food summit in Ljubljana.

Do you prefer your country’s dishes and flavors or do you prefer foreign cuisine? Perhaps a mix of both?

Both. In Croatia, we have very high-quality fish, shellfish, shrimp, vegetables. But I also love Italian cuisine, Spanish, Thai and Japanese cuisine. In fact, in all cuisines, you can find excellent dishes and less interesting ones.

Wine goes very well with or without food. What is your favorite wine?

I’m generally fond of natural wines, but I’m absolutely not exclusive about it. My favorite wine is currently Traminac amphora from the Tomac winery from Croatia. I also love Marko Fon, Klinec and Gravner.  I love other Slovenian and Italian winemakers such as Kabaj, Burja, Vodopivec, Podveršič, Aci Urbajs, Radikon. I like Sepp Muster, Andreas Tscheppe , Nestarec, but also a number of small growers from Champagne. Didier Dagueneau does brutal Silex and I adore him for years, Jacques Selosse is amazing, then old vintage from Viña Tondonia from Spain.

What is the difference between Slovenian and Croatian culinary scene?

The first difference is that you have Ana Roš and we don’t. We don’t have a restaurant or a chef who bounced off the others and can match anyone in the world on an equal footing. Then I think Slovenia has very good gostilne. With us, this type of restaurant is often extremely tourist-oriented because of the short and intense season, but Croatia has a wide range of fantastic food and a much larger number of restaurants, so among them, a few are very good especially as far as high cuisine is concerned.

Slovenia’s problem is that too many restaurants haven’t taken advantage of the world media attention that Slovenia received through the success of Hiša Franko. Every month you have the best and most important critics and gastro journalists coming to Slovenia and except Hiše Franko no one else manages to intrigue them with their originality by visiting and writing about other Slovenian restaurants. There’s too much gap between Hiša Franko and the other restaurants. There are still some great ones missing, and there’s a lot of good ones.

What would you recommend to young chefs?

If you cook the same thing that someone has already cooked before you, you will not progress. Give yourself in and give new meaning to your dishes. Less is more. Returning from all the internships young chefs want to show on each plate everything they have learned, which is why their dishes have too many components, they engage in techniques and lose the point of ingredients. Education is extremely important, and there is no end to learning. Look around you what surrounds you and cook that for us!

With the quarantine lockdown coming to an end, which restaurant or country are you looking forward to visiting first?

In Croatia, restaurants are open from 11.5. so I’ve already been to Mano2 restaurant in Zagreb and these days I travel to Boškinac on Pag to try the new menu. I can’t wait to visit Portugal and Spain. I miss Asia because it’s fascinating and their food is great, and I’m in love with Brazil. As soon as the situation calms down, I’m going to Argentina and Copenhagen

Slovenia is about to receive the first Michelin stars, Croatia already has some for a few years – how many recipients of the prestigious award do you expect?

Do not forget that Croatia received only 1 star in the first year, Monte from Rovinj. Next year, two more restaurants with one star. I expect that in Slovenia 2-3 restaurants will get the star and hoping that Hiša Franko gets 2 stars. Although this is not often, this year, for example, Alchemist in Copenhagen, immediately received 2 stars. Besides Hiša Franko, I think another 1-2 restaurants could get 1 star.

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