“Hard work, love for the guest and honesty” – the secret of Slovenian chefs – Jorg Zupan

This Spring, DC Slovenia met one of the most successful Slovenian chefs and an interesting and intriguing young man on the 3rd Weekend Food Festival in Rovinj. This Slovenian Michelin chef was one of three Slovenian chefs who participated in a panel discussion named “Why Slovenians are doing it better?

His name is Jorg Zupan and he describes himself on SM with following words: “I cook, I eat, I know things @breg.ljubljana and @aftr.lj First urban restaurant garden and 1st Michelin star restaurant in Ljubljana – exAtelje”

Mentioned WFF 2024 panel talk was moderated by the Croatian chef Mate Jankovic. The talk between the moderator and Vice President of European JRE Association Gašper Puhan, Grega Repovž Owner of Repovž and Jorg Zupan our today’s interlocutor focused on prominent Slovenian representatives who provide a broader picture of the Slovenian gastronomic scene and the challenges related to sourcing ingredients or more so distributing the ingredients from producers to restaurants. The panellists addressed the issues of exit prices set to make profit, mistakes made, and business moves that have proven to be a complete success. They also discussed about the constant education of restaurateurs and the workforce, and how they achieve it.

Jorg Zupan, Gašper Puhan and Grega Repovž, Weekend Food Festival 2024, photo Jovan Zlatkovic, DC Slovenia
Jorg Zupan, Gašper Puhan and Grega Repovž, Weekend Food Festival 2024, photo Jovan Zlatkovic, DC Slovenia


Jorg Zupan, Gašper Puhan and Grega Repovž, Weekend Food Festival 2024, photo Jovan Zlatkovic, DC Slovenia
Jorg Zupan, Gašper Puhan and Grega Repovž, Weekend Food Festival 2024, photo Jovan Zlatkovic, DC Slovenia


Jorg, what would you cook for a diplomat who is posted in Slovenia for the 1st time?

In this case something traditional would be appropriate, but I personally believe, that traditional dishes are best prepared by people with a long tradition of preparing them. I, myself am a 1st generation chef in my family so I cook different. I would definitely prepare something local, like some seasonal vegetable dish, some Adriatic fish or maybe better a trout, followed by the best lamb in the world – jezersko solčavska ovca from eco farm pri Šuštarju (Primož Krišelj). For dessert maybe štruklji “au gratain” or even a warm gibanica with some ice cream, but definitely no potica!

Jorg Zupan Head chef 2020
Jorg Zupan Head chef 2020

Which Slovenian music would you recommend to a diplomat in Slovenia?

Oh… good question. To represent Slovenia in the possible way I would start with bands like Katalena, Vlado Kreslin, Vlado Kreslin in Beltinška banda, some Slovenian evergreens like Bele Vrane, Marjana Deržaj, Ditka Haberl or Elda Viler, then some Pankrti, Laibach, Demolition group, Niet, Big foot Mama, definitely Magnifico and also some Marko Hatlak. Absolutely I would keep them as far away from “oberkrainer” and “turbofolk gasilska veselica” music that some people misfortunately deem as Slovenian traditional music.

What is the secret of Slovenian chefs and their restaurant success in terms of Michelin stars?

I think it’s mostly hard work, love for the guest and honesty. There is also the fact that we have an abundance of amazing ingredients on a very small area and are therefore widely available. We have learned how to prepare them well and I think that the sense of sustainably is almost engraved in our DNA.

How did you feel when the big news: “Jorg Zupan, Atelje, One Michelin Star 2020” reached you?

I was at home in bed with a fever actually. Did not believe we were going to get it, for different reasons, one being the staff problems we had that year and there were mistakes made, even if I was the only one that noticed them. I was shocked and my phone almost collapsed from all the buzzing when the texts started coming in. To be honest I was a bit dizzy.

Can you explain to DC Slovenia readers how does the process of getting a Michelin star worked in your case; how long did it take, what was required etc?

Well, it takes as long as the inspectors need to find you and pay you a visit. It can be a few years or just 3 months in some cases. What is required is consistency. High level hospitality and cooking, but it needs to be constant every day.

Jorg Zupan
Jorg Zupan

Are you a different person/chef after receiving the Michelin star? You lived in

Šiška, part of Ljubljana when you got the star; do you still live there 😉

I still live In Šiška 🙂

We can watch you now on Pop TV as a jury member in the tv program “Little chef” in

which Slovenian elementary school students compete in cooking? What you think of

these newbies of Slovenian culinary scene?

They are awesome. Some cook better, others have interesting personalities… its great fun and there is a future for Slovenian gastronomy after all 🙂

Does Slovenia have good culinary schools? Maybe one or two. The problem is they are all public government run schools and dependent on government funding. There is a need for private culinary institutions with higher tuitions from which the school can then invest in better equipment and motivation for the teachers.

Where did you learn your craft?

I started in vocational college of culinary and tourism in Maribor, then mostly working a lot around the world in different kitchens.

Jorg Zupan
Jorg Zupan

Which country/countries would you describe as culinary haven? Which cuisine inspires you? Well France, Italy, Spain, China and Japan of course. But Great Britain and Scandinavia have drastically repaired their reputation in the past two decades. Then there is Turkey and the Middle East, Mexico and USA… each one is unique and interesting and I try to draw inspiration from all of them…

What are your professional plans for 2024?

It’s a secret:-)