Local Young Chef rejuvenates traditional Slovenian cuisine

The spotlight was on reinventing traditional recipes using local produce as Slovenia European Region of Gastronomy candidate 2021 held its first National Preliminary competition of the European Young Chef Award (EYCA).

With a creative dish of Bohinj trout, red beet sauce and buckwheat popcorn, Rok Žurman took home first prize on 5 June 2018 at the College of Hospitality and Tourism Maribor (VSGT Maribor). Rok will now represent Slovenia at this year’s European Young Chef Award finals in November 2018 in Galway-West of Ireland (European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2018), in line with the implementation of the Region’s bid book Taste Slovenia.

The purpose of the EYCA is to strengthen the links between the European Regions of Gastronomy Platform members through young chefs, by promoting culinary innovations using traditional cuisine and local produce. Furthermore, it seeks to encourage participation and engagement from young chefs, in the hope that they will later become proud ambassadors of their respective Regions.

An open call based on these principles was issued for the competition on the VSGT Maribor website, and was sent to all secondary and higher professional catering schools. Organisers also collaborated with key stakeholders the Association of Chefs and Confectioners of Slovenia (GZS) and the Gostinska Chambers within the framework of the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia.

Three students took part in the competition; Žiga Grofelnik (VSGT Maribor), Rok Žurman (VSG Bled) and Timotej Matjaž (SŠGT Celje). Participants were tasked with preparing a high-quality and modern interpretation of a traditional dish, which celebrated regional produce and was inspired by their own local environment.

The competition attracted a lot of media attention due to the interesting concept behind the Award. The expert panel, which was responsible for selecting the winner, consisted of IGCAT Expert Dr Janez Bogataj, Srečko Koklič (Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, Slovenian Chefs and Confectioners’ Association) and Filip Matjaž, who represented Slovenia at the 2017 EYCA finals in Catalonia, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2016 and was awarded third prize.

The evaluation criteria were based on the guidelines established by IGCAT. The participants were judged on the quality of dish preparation and technique, the inclusion of local ingredients, the extent of innovation and the final taste and sensory impression of the plate.

VSGT Maribor represents an established educational institution in the field of tourism and hospitality at a national and international level, with a renowned school restaurant and hotel. The school’s modern and well-equipped kitchens enabled the students to innovate, make their mark and impress.

The winning candidate convinced the judges with his dish of Bohinj trout, garnished with red beet sauce and buckwheat popcorn. Rok Žurman’s plate represented an interesting upgrade of Slovenia’s traditional flavours by incorporating local produce and applying appropriate modern preparation techniques to a traditional dish. Jury members and commentators specifically praised Rok for successfully imparting a taste and impression of the Bohinj Region to his dish, while tying all of the plate’s elements together.

State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology Eva Štravs Podlogar also attended the national competition, underlining the significance of this initiative for promoting young culinary skills in the Slovenian Region. She emphasized how competitions like the EYCA are very important for the future of the Region’s hotels, as fostering and developing well-trained staff is one of the cornerstones of Slovenia’s tourist development.

Eva also expressed her belief that Slovenia’s membership in the European Regions of Gastronomy Platform opens up new opportunities, not only for the employment of young catering staff but above all the international exchange of knowledge and understanding of various local and regional food cultures of Europe.

President of the Expert Commission and IGCAT Expert Prof. Janez Bogataj viewed the competition as an important way of furthering pedagogical work in the culinary field in Slovenia, where awareness of the importance of international collaboration and exchange has been steadily increasing. Prof. Bogataj stated that projects like the EYCA are the best way forward for the future promotion of Slovenia’s gastronomy, and hence its visibility in the wider world.

It was clear to organisers and experts alike in attendance that the European Young Chef Award successfully supplements the European Region of Gastronomy focus areas, by encouraging a debate on sustainable food practices, production and consumption. By ensuring that young chefs who support local food products are recognisable, Slovenia European Region of Gastronomy candidacy hopes to improve the Region’s sustainable tourism development and stimulate a conversation on how best to feed the planet.

About the European Region of Gastronomy

The European Region of Gastronomy Platform aims to contribute to better quality of life in European regions, by highlighting distinctive food cultures, educating for better health and sustainability and stimulating gastronomic innovation. Candidate regions are invited to join a knowledge-exchange platform of European regions in order to further cross-border collaborations and develop shared initiatives.


IGCAT is a non-profit institute established in 2012 working with regional stakeholder consortiums in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. It counts on the expertise of a worldwide network of experts and works in partnership with specialised intergovernmental organisations.

IGCAT founded the Region of Gastronomy Award and is the official secretariat for the European Regions of Gastronomy Platform. The Institute has also developed the European Young Chef Award, the Local Food Gift Challenge, the Top Food Experiences of the Year and the Food Film Festivals project.