Biggest Barbecue Competition in the Region: Wild West Fest on Fire 2020

Total Croatia News

March 11, 2020 – Since Zagreb is still not overabundant with restaurants that prepare high-quality steak, Ribafish spoke with Nikola Božić from the Đurina Hiža restaurant in Varaždinske toplice about his barbecuing skills, education, what they offer, as well as about the Wild West Fest on Fire 2020 competition in Slovenia.

Đurina Hiža is about a forty minute drive away from Zagreb, and the distance is proving not to be a problem for barbecue fans from Zagreb (and the rest of Croatia) who have recognised their product as superior.

Not everything is perfect with young Nikola Božić, he’s had his ups and downs, but he dug his feet in, asked, searched and eventually – found his path. This man is dedicated to working hard, travelling, researching and tasting all over the world to do what’s best for his customers and peacefully enjoy the fruits of his labour with his family and friends.

Ribafish says that he’ll never forgive Nikola for keeping a tomahawk steak for him during the Advent before last, nor the fact that the tenth venison ćevap becomes hard although the first one was perfect, but this guy is just great to be around when he’s working and when he’s fooling around. And when Ribafish heard that Nikola applied on behalf of his team 385 by Reshetka for the World BBQ cup in Slovenia, as the first contestant ever from Croatia, he just had to go and have a drink with Nikola, talk a bit, and christen his aged Simmental cow. First, Ribafish spoke to Nikola, and later with the member of the organising team of SBBSQ from Slovenia, Peter Hajdu.

First of all, Nikola explained the three brands to Ribafish, Đurina Hiža, Reshetka and 385. It all started in 2007, when Nikola and his parents turned their lives around to start a restaurant called Đurina Hiža. It’s not just a restaurant, it’s their life, it’s their story they built together. For the first seven years, things weren’t easy, and in 2016 they started preparing more serious pieces of meat, and the rest is history. If you’re curious, you should go to Varaždinske toplice to find out what he’s talking about.

Reshetka is a mobile street food programme, a sub-brand of the family brand Đurina Hiža and is a ”side-effect” of his amplitudes. A lot is known about the brand as well, it managed to attract an audience when it first appeared at the Zagreb Burger Festival in 2019. Their burger Stari moj won at the competition right away, and they’ve since won numerous awards, but Nikola doesn’t want to brag about them.

Project 385 is still being developed, and you’ll be able to hear more about it soon. The project was conceived and is to be realised by Nikola and his childhood friend Domagoj Cingula, Hana Klain is their PR person, it will be an original and a successful story.

Ribafish asked Nikola about the dry ageing chamber he recently purchased. Nikola says that around 200 kg of meat is always in there, ageing, and there are different breeds and cuts, and he’s very satisfied with the chamber. He’s learned a lot about meat ageing, and that the process is different from what people think. There are many details, it’s not straightforward, he keeps learning new information, exchanging information with his colleagues about what to do. Nikola says he has 8 meat suppliers, he likes to be involved with them, visits them, talks to them about what they feed the animals, and the way they butcher the animals. Those are all important pieces of information, and without that, Nikola says they wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing.

Ribafish asked Nikola what the guests of the Hiža can expect, and what they need to make a reservation for. Nikola says it’s all about the flavours in the restaurant, the meat being soft after being done in a Kamado Grill.

Franjo and Andrija are waiters, and mother Biba, Ozren, Marin, Tea and Dragec can be found in the restaurant. The dad works in the vineyard and is in charge of charcuterie. The team is good, the flavours are full, the space is very nice, and the atmosphere pleasant. You should make a reservation during the weekend, but lately, it’s not a bad idea to make a reservation during the weekdays as well. Call 042/668-148 or email [email protected].

Next, we found out about the competition in Slovenia. Nikola says he always enjoys presenting his skills to the neighbours, and the people of Slovenia are very hospitable, with a great food scene, which is, of course, not without some challenges. The competition includes three days of smoking, not too many hours of sleep, competing with the best teams in the world. Nikola doesn’t have high expectations, as it is their first competition, and he needs to prepare, train, and learn the strict rules for grading. They’ll compete in four categories: ribs, pork, brisket and chicken.

Ribafish also met the contest organiser, Peter Hajdu from Ljubljana, a man who gets to live out his hobby and share joy wherever he can. Find out what he says about himself, his family, friends and his hobby which is taking over in the Balkans.

My name is Peter Hajdu and I’ve enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember, my grandma and my parents passed that skill down to me, and my other brother also caught the bug. Some seven years ago the idea appeared for the blog/project/community Žarovnije, when nobody was doing American-style barbecues in Slovenia. Back then, we didn’t know about baby back ribs or brisket, it’s not all that widespread today either and even if somebody says they know about it, it turns out they don’t…

The first thing I remember in my life is when I was three and barbecuing at my grandfather’s and a storm hit all of a sudden, which made me remember that barbecue forever. I still have the flavour of that barbecue on my tongue – barbecued chicken, crunchy skin, molten and burnt fat flavour. That’s it. Later, I found out that both the smoke and the fire were imbedded in our brains since time began when people managed to connect fire with roasted meat after a forest fire. It’s entirely possible that it’s how we started using fire to prepare food. The scientists say that it’s the moment in which humans started using more energy for the development of the brain, and after that art, culture and enjoying others’ company came about. You can say there’s no happiness without good food!

When I was thirty I was able to go my own way, and my wife and I live in a small apartment. In the few square metres of the garden, the first gas grill found its place and after a few months two more appeared, American style, with a lid. That’s when I realised I needed a smoker and got a Bullet smoker. In 2015, I met the people from the ProQ Smokers company in Cornwall, and became their representative immediately. I wrote an email, presented my blog and my Facebook, sent some photos and they let me know I was OK. They knew I’d not only sell, but also expand the proper philosophy and create my own path. And that’s the philosophy, low&slow.

The rhythm of our lives has become too much. If you can’t spend a Saturday in a month to prepare something on the grill, plan it, go shopping, invest some money to create food for the people you love, then screw it. Something’s really not right here, and you only need one grill with a lid. Well, anything with fire is enough. I’m happy today because I realise I’ve done and learned a lot in the past five years, and now the entire world of cooking with fire is opening for me. It’s a great world, we’ll set the Balkans on fire!

I organised BBQ meetups with tastings – they were open for all. We gave up on that because too many people came just to eat for free. In 2016, the first Slovenian BBQ team for competitions was created: the Rebel BBQ Brothers (two of my brothers I share my mother with, and two more I share smoke with). We met our friends and people who work with us in the Slovenian BBQ Society (SBBQS) at the course for the KCBS judging license (Kansas City BBQ Society).

We decided to organise a KCBS competition in Slovenia, a world cup, the highest-ranked American BBQ competition. In 2016 the organisation started, and the following year, the Wild West Fest Country Festival got united with their competition. In the last three years their festival is ranked within the top three such events in Europe, and in 2020 the Wild West Fest on Fire Festival will take place on August 7th – 9th on Zbilje Lake, near Ljubljana. Visit it, if you can!
BBQ is a great way to forge new friendships. Over the years, I’ve met many people from all over the Balkans, and I wish that the BBQ community continues to expand further, creating teams from all countries in our region. That would be awesome. For 2020, my goal is to find teams to come to the Cup in Slovenia, and Nikola’s Reshetka is team no. 1!

It takes a lot to raise awareness of ways to prepare meat, and the quality of the food takes even more work. Meat is a hot topic today. On one side you have veganism (I’m using the word deliberately) and on the other side our love for our culture, which has many meat-oriented traditions. A problem arose along the way, and for this industry. If you love your health and this planet of ours, look for high-quality local ingredients. Small eco farms are the answer to the horrors of industrialisation, and Žarovnije has lived that story since the beginning, we work with the best farms in Slovenia.

Those are all family stories. My story is also a family story. ProQ Smokers in England is a family story. Family, friends, neighbours, the street, the town, that is the strength of the high-quality nutrition and life and we’ll see about the future when it comes! Soon, we’ll connect with fans of the outdoor cooking philosophy in Croatia, so follow our Facebook. And we’d love to see you at the Wild West Fest on Fire 2020 Festival, as it will truly be great, you’ll see.×300.jpg 225w” sizes=”(max-width: 576px) 100vw, 576px” width=”576″ height=”768″>


In the end, Ribafish wanted to add that you should consider going to Slovenia, seeing who’s gotten closest to the American standards and maybe you’ll get a new hobby. We swear that we’ll help Nikola grade what he smokes, and we recommend that to anyone who enjoys good food.

Photos: Žarovnije, Ribafish, Vilicom kroz Hrvatsku


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