Chef Mixes Tradition and Modern Twists with ”Croatian Plate” Project

Lauren Simmonds

The innovative Croatian Plate project is primarily based on molecular gastronomy, and only foods from Croatian OPGs are used.

As Ivan Tominac/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of August, 2019, a great many culinary connoisseurs have said that a true chef has undying persistence and a constant desire to learn more and more, and the young Croatian chef in this story is not only persistent and eager to learn, but also boasts an enviable entrepreneurial streak.

Although only twenty years old, Dino Popović has already managed to become a chef and launch his own gastronomic project. As he notes, he always knew that cooking was his calling, and when he was a kid, he liked to make ”incompatible” foods and put them together on a plate. He started his culinary career immediately after graduating from the Hotel Palace and successfully conceived the concept of presenting traditional Croatian dishes with a modern twist, starting a food festival with his own signature.

“I recently became the head of the kitchen of the SOI Fusion Restaurant, and it’s a great honour for me, seeing as I’m only twenty years old. The responsibility is much greater, from the supply of groceries to everything functioning properly,” Dino Popović said, stating that his job as a chef is what he truly loves, and as the only flaw in working in a place like this one he works, is that there are no opening hours. Just working in the kitchen never satisfied all his affinities, and it was out of a desire to present something new to people that he decided to launch the Croatian Plate project.

As he explained, the idea was born overnight, and was conceived as a secret dinner concept with traditional cuisine prepared in an unusual way. “It allowed me to understand how Croats are afraid to step out of some of their old ways and try out some more new flavours,” Popović said.

The Croatian Plate project was initially launched with a primary focus on molecular gastronomy. It is a blend of natural sciences and culinary arts, and the choice of this young chef was to present traditional foods with a modern twist. In the field of molecular gastronomy, chemical ingredients such as alginate and calcium, as well as processes such as ice filtration for some types of soups and liquids, are frequently used.

As he noted, in the beginnings of his Croatian Plate project, he realised that Croats didn’t particularly like to leave their comfort zones (a habit which stretches much further afield than food and eating), so this year, as a result of his desire to have his culinary ideas presented to a wider audience, a new idea from the Croatian Plate project emerged.

This young Croatian chef launched a small food festival that bears the brand name Hrvatski Pjat (Croatian Plate). Unlike the concept of secret dinners where he used molecular gastronomy, he decided to present traditional foods in the form of fusion cuisine. Dino finished high school in Vrbovec, and returned there to present his new idea. The first Croatian Plate food festival was presented as part of the traditional summer event ”Kaj su jeli naši stari” (What our elders ate).

It is an event that gathers tens of thousands of visitors each year, which is precisely what proved to be a good choice for this ambitious young chef.

“At the first Croatian Plate Festival, about 15,000 people tasted our food in just three days,” Popović said. This talented young chef believes that it is important to support local producers and farms, so through collaborations and sponsorships, he seeks to reach foods that are locally produced.

With an emphasis on staying local and keeping traditions alive, he and his team presented this year’s offer at the Croatian Plate Festival, offering burgers and sausages made from black Slavonian pigs, duck with mlinci and modern versions of other old, traditional dishes. As Popović stated, in the meantime, he wants to devote himself to promoting food through PR.

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