When you learn the basic techniques, you can progress further, education and training expand your creative vision. A new creative world has opened for me, it is like a miracle.
An entrepreneur, winemaker, restaurant owner, professional chef and Kul IN alumni, Damir Josić had spent decades running successful gastronomy-related business projects. However, at the age of 52 he realized that a key ingredient had been missing and the puzzle of his professional life still wasn’t complete, so he decided to enroll in the Culinary Arts program at Kul IN and he is currently studying in Italy to become a Professional chef of Italian cuisine. Read about his business ventures, why his businesses motivated him to pursue a career in culinary arts and find out why all restaurant owners should “go back to the kitchen”.
Could you brief us on your life and career? At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in gastronomy?
- My professional life has been tied to gastronomy since 1995. I opened my winery in 2001, my own restaurant in 2009. Love for gastronomy has been a constant presence in my life since high school days but there were a lot of things and affairs I had to deal with during my life, and now I have a family by mi side and we share the same passion and vision. While I am studying at Kul IN and ALMA, they are in charge of the restaurant and winery business.
How did you decide to get into wine business, where did your love for wine and food come from?
- My love of wine dates back to my youth, and my wine story began in 1999 when I bought the first vineyard and it covered a one hectare area. We are currently working with twenty-two hectares of vineyards, and to complement my wine production business, the idea of opening a restaurant was born. Today we have the winery, accompanied by the restaurant and the cellar for wine tasting - a productive tourist complex and a perfect blend of wine business and gastronomy.
Could you describe your entrepreneurial beginnings?
- From today’s perspective, I can say that I have successfully realized my vision. With a little help of imagination and visualization I have earned the privilege to have and do what I do now. However, all these dreams sometimes made me oblivious to the obstacles that were in front of me. Initially, winemaking was just a passion of mine but as soon as I dipped my toes into production and sales, I realized the business would require a lot of effort on my part: learning how to sell wine, how to present it, and how to make a recognizable brand.
Describe the concept of your restaurant and what can a guest expect from you?
- Traditional flavors with a modern flare. I try to be innovative and make sure every dish delights the guest with its appearance and taste. The dishes must exhibit the richness of traditional flavors. The food is traditional, domestic, rural-provincial style prevails on our menu and the atmosphere is rustic. Most guests come in spring and fall, it is our peak season. In summer and winter there are fewer guests because we are quite removed from urban centers. Osijek is the closest city, and it is 35 km away. This means that guests who come, come intentionally, i.e. it is unlikely that you will accidentally find yourself in the vicinity. We have a large number of visitors from neighboring countries, Hungary, Serbia, Austria because infrastructure has been getting better in the last couple of years and we expect increasing numbers of foreign tourists to come in the future.
If you dream of opening a small business of your own, check out our Culinary Management program by clicking here.
- I put my trust in Kul IN because I heard good things about the school through the grapevine. I boldly took that step and decided to try. Restaurant guests are getting more knowledgeable, they have good understanding of gastronomy. You need to be educated to manage a successful restaurant these days.
- It is impossible to separate the two, for example, as soon as I get back from Sisak, I will make sure to implement all the techniques I have learned here and upgrade the quality of our food preparation.
Which lesson intrigued you the most?
- I was eager to learn about preparing rice, pasta. Actually, I was interested in everything in a way. Here we witnessed different ways of preparing food, and I immediately knew I wanted to implement those techniques in my restaurant. When someone shows you the correct technique you easily absorb the knowledge, and apply it, it is not that complex once you figure it out. At the beginning of the program I was apprehensive because I had never been able to focus on culinary arts - that aspect of the hospitality industry seemed foreign to me and I always observed it from afar but everything is possible if you have good instructors. My fear was that I did not possess the necessary dose of creativity every good chef must have. Now I believe I do have that creative spark and I hope to build on it and develop it further in ALMA.
- You should enroll because it will make you thrive both as a person and a professional.
What is your impression of the school?
- I am satisfied, I was neither an amateur nor a semi-professional when I enrolled – at 52, I didn't have any experience. It is difficult to master everything that is foreseen by the program in two months but the tempo you have put together offers a lot and I managed to adapt and fulfill the expectations.
How did you like living in Sisak?
- The accommodation is excellent, the food as well, the teachers and the staff are great, I have no objection. One can achieve a lot in two months. Before I enrolled, I did not know how to hold the knife. Now that I am analyzing my experience at Kul IN, I am very pleased. When you learn the basic techniques, you can progress further, education and training expand your creative vision. A new creative world has opened for me, it is like a miracle.
List the five qualities that must be a successful restaurant owner?
- It is very difficult to choose only five because it is a very complex "system" but the obvious ones are creativity, imagination, perseverance, high-quality staff and a team of people who believe in the owner’s vision.
Damir's restaurant and winery: http://josic.hr/