Two years ago, the talented young chef Jorg Zupan took over Atelje – a traditional restaurant in Grand Hotel Union – one of Ljubljana’s oldest hotels. With a wealth of experience in the industry, which is reflected in his philosophy of fusion from Ireland, Australia, Norway, London and Ljubljana, this young Slovenian chef has stepped into a new mission. Zupan, shaped in prominent restaurants under the eyes of some of the world’s best chefs, rose to the challenge of turning a renowned and conservative hotel restaurant with regular guests and a traditional menu into a modern, trendy, affordable, and sophisticated restaurant with world-class cuisine.
Jorg Zupan has created a time-machine-like revolution through combining world cuisine with a traditional approach. His magic tattooed hands create superb dishes that are mind-blowing but unpretentious combinations of world-class cuisine. In contrast to his almost regal food creations, the atmosphere in Atelje is unexpectedly relaxed and homely.
Q: It’s been two years since you became head chef at the Atelje restaurant. How has this experience changed you?
It has given me a lot of new knowledge, be it managerial, social and also in terms of new cooking ideas. I have surrounded myself with great people, I have a great team and we are learning from each other every day, which I think is most important.
Q: Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
Hard work… ambition but a soft ego!
Q: What has been your greatest achievement and your greatest nightmare to date?
My greatest achievement would be 16 points in the Gault&Millau guide. I don’t have nightmares… I have a brand-new mattress!
Q: Can you tell us more about your Rezidenca project?
The Rezidenca project is a series of events that will take place in Atelje in the form of hosting different chefs. The theme is different every time and there is no fixed schedule. We will announce it as we go along and on dates that suit our tempo of work. Two events have already unfolded; the first with Luka Košir from Gostišče Grič – a very good friend of mine – and the second with Igor Jagodic from the Strelec restaurant – also a very good friend and my mentor. The next event will be with David Skoko from Batelina in Pula, Croatia – a cool and crazy guy that I met when he was interviewing me for Story Gourmet magazine. We clicked immediately and, considering the fact that he is an awesome chef that specializes in head-to-tail fish preparation, I thought it would be a great idea to host him. After David, the next chef in line is Bine Volčič, my first mentor and also a good friend – you can see the pattern here, it’s basically about hosting chefs and friends and having a jolly good time.
Q: Who are the most memorable people you have cooked for?
All of the ones I mentioned above and definitely my family… I love cooking for my family.
Q: What advice should you have given yourself five years ago?
Take a holiday and go backpacking in a far and distant land for at least a year… there is a lifetime of work ahead of you, anyway!