Even though I had made more than 100,000 desserts, I didn’t want to be just a self-taught pastry chef and I wasn’t happy with the level of knowledge I had at the time. I wanted to enroll in a school that would give me a foundation that would become the source of my confidence in the future.
Sanja Belac is a young and ambitious pastry chef who grew up preparing desserts in her family’s restaurant, but she put an official stamp of approval on her knowledge when she enrolled in the Professional Pastry and Confections program. She didn’t want to be just a self-taught pastry chef, and now her goal is to get better every day in what she does. She best described her ambitions herself when she said she wanted to become a walking pastry encyclopedia. Read the story of Sanja Belac!
ABOUT KUL IN
Kul IN: What lesson was your favorite?
- It was great to learn how to temper chocolate because I wasn’t confident enough to try it at home. I realized some things for the first time while I was in Kul IN and I got a better feeling for the pastry business. I experienced that "aha" effect on the program many times and really got to the heart of the reasons how and why ingredients behave in a certain way and how we achieve different results with different techniques, this was the most important takeaway for me.
Kul IN: Introduce us to one of the desserts you prepared for the final exam?
- The main topic was Spring Extravaganza, and my task was to focus on Slovenia. For the restaurant dessert, I was inspired by “Prekmurska gibanica”, a traditional cake from Slovenia, and I used the flavors that we find in gibanica, but in the form of deconstruction with different textures and shapes. Spring is the time of tarragon in Slovenia, so I made curd cream with tarragon, walnut crumble, poppy sponge, added apple gel caramelized in the oven, combined with tarragon and lemon sorbet. For decoration, I made tuile and added edible flowers to visually go with the idea of spring.
Kul IN: How did you spend your free time?
- We were a great team, we prepared dinners for each other, we read books and tried to study regularly and for each class. We would often buy wine and pair it with dinner, and we also liked to go for coffee to the town center.
Kul IN: When did you start showing interest in pastry?
- We have a family restaurant Starac i more in Novalja on the island of Pag, so I have always been enthusiastic about working in the restaurant and I always wanted to be close to the kitchen, and at the age of 12 I persuaded my parents to let me help in the kitchen. I started from simpler jobs, and over the years I started managing the cold kitchen. I instinctively found myself in that business and wanted to change things for the better every year to modernize our menu. Over time, I became more interested in desserts. Positive feedback from family and friends for whom I baked cakes encouraged me in this passion. I saw that I had talent and started investing more and more time in preparing desserts. I played handball for 13 years and I thought it would be my career, but I fell in love with pastry, enrolled in college, and in my free time I started investing in learning about confectionery, visiting restaurants, researching on the Internet. All of this helped me a lot, and even though I had made more than 100,000 desserts, I didn’t want to be just a self-taught pastry chef and I wasn’t happy with the level of knowledge I had at the time. I wanted to enroll in a school that would give me a foundation that would become the source of my confidence in the future. So, I decided to come to Kul IN.
Kul IN: Tell us more about your family restaurant
- Starac i more is a fish restaurant and we are based on working with local ingredients. We want to present Pag cuisine to our guests and give them the opportunity to drink good wine and enjoy an authentic dessert. Our goal is to attract people who are ready for quality and originality.
Kul IN: Plans for the future?
- I want to introduce the best possible desserts in our restaurant. Winters will be reserved for internships, first in Zagreb or Ljubljana, but I would also like to go abroad for an internship and experience as many different cultures as possible. My plan is to become a walking pastry encyclopedia (laughs).
REFLECTIONS ON GASTRONOMY
Kul IN: How would you describe the differences between Slovenian and Croatian gastronomy, what can we learn from each other?
- Slovenians like to enjoy local food and appreciate seasonality. In Slovenia, famous chefs often collaborate with the desire to influence public tastes and preferences. This has proven to be productive because people appreciate what these chefs do - they bring home-grown food closer to the audience in a new way.
Kul IN: The characteristics of a good pastry chef are ...
- Imagination, good organization of time, space, food, work. A good pastry chef thinks ahead and loves what he or she does.