"I had learned how to manage a restaurant and that aspect of the industry was clear to me, but it was also clear to me that I needed to understand the kitchen aspect better if I wanted to run a successful restaurant, so I decided to invest in my skills and career and enrolled in the Culinary Arts program."
Roko Nikolić is a Kul IN alumni who is currently continuing his education at ALMA. As a college student, he had already acquired an abundance of work experience in the hospitality industry but something was missing! Read the article to find out what motivated Roko to pursue education in Culinary Arts, and get a scoop on his Kul IN experience.
You have worked as a waiter, as restaurant manager, you have also dabbled in social media marketing. Tell us more about your career path, what has the journey been like so far?
- I first dipped my toes into the hospitality industry when I started working at the Wine & Cheese Bar Paradox in Split, I had never worked in the hospitality industry before. I learned about wine there, and I became acquainted with the gastronomy scene in Croatia. Paradox was the first wine bar in Split, it defined gastronomy scene of the city. Then I enrolled at the RIT Croatia and specialized in hospitality and service management. During my studies, I worked at Hilton first as a waiter, then as a barman, and eventually became an assistant to the food & beverage manager. I learned about management, attended various trainings, online courses. After Hilton, I got an offer to work at the Amfora restaurant in Dubrovnik. I worked as a restaurant manager and spent one tourist season at Amfora. After that I worked as a manager at the Tamaris hotel in Tučepi, and later I rented a restaurant in Rovinj with a colleague from university, where I spent the last year. I did other odd jobs here and there – social media marketing for Dubrovnik Winter Festival, I worked in support and sales at the IT company Fox, which is an IT optimizer for booking systems and revenue management.
- I had learned how to manage a restaurant and that aspect of the industry was clear to me, but it was also clear to me that I needed to understand the food and kitchen aspect of the industry better if I wanted to run a successful restaurant. I decided to invest in my skills and career so I would not have to spend my entire life struggling and fighting with eccentric chefs. In the future, my goal is to create the menu, train the staff, supervise their efforts until everything is running smoothly and, eventually, let the staff prepare and serve the food on their own, and at that point I will focus on other things that need to be done.
Which Kul IN lesson appealed to you the most?
- The whole program is useful, especially for people who have not worked in the professional kitchen. Personally, I learned a lot, I was surprised at how well I was doing. One day, if I have the money and a successful restaurant, I want to enroll all of my employees in your Culinary Arts program so they could learn the ins and outs of the industry and thoroughly understand the basics, learn the names of all the techniques. That way I would not have to constantly explain the techniques and clarify the concepts to them.
If you want to hone your organizational skills, team management skills and get the knowledge necessary for running a business, check out the Culinary Management program, a joint program between Kul IN and Zagreb School of Economics and Management.
You are continuing your education at ALMA, what are your hopes for studying there?
- I honestly think that ALMA might currently be the only culinary academy in the world that has remained true to itself. All the other great academies changed their style, they no longer practice strictly French or any other cuisine - everyone is doing a kind of fusion cuisine. On the other hand, ALMA remained in Italy and still exclusively focuses on Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. I am from Dalmatia and I think our cuisine is very similar to Italian - the recipes and names of meals and techniques, so it is immensely important for me to learn Italian cuisine on a professional level.
Could you share your Kul IN experience with our prospective students?
- I would recommend this school to anyone who plans to work in the professional kitchen because there is a chronic lack of qualified professional staff. Restaurant owners are forced to hire people that have little or no formal culinary education. Culinary life is not a simple profession, both physically and mentally. You have to be able to work under pressure and at a high level at the same time. I believe that the importance of quality education goes beyond the bounds of personal importance for the individual. Quality professional education is important for the entire Croatian gastronomy. So, apply for Kul IN programs, be serious, but have fun and enjoy the process.
Roko's instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rokonix/