Written by Chef Uroš Štefelin, November 2018
Taste Radol'ca restaurants in November are doing really well and are full. However, we don't only want full restaurants but, above all, satisfied guests who return and are keen to discover ever-new culinary stories.
For six years in-a-row Taste Radol'ca has been inviting you to its restaurants and inns. Starting from 27th October, when we began the month with the sold-out opening dinner, the nine Taste Radol'ca restaurants in Radovljica and its surroundings invite you to come and try their local menus.
The opening event is an important one for us which we look forward to every year. It's the time when we chefs get together, and we also meet with our suppliers and you – our guests. And prior to that, in preparation for the group opening dinner, we relish the chance to meet, learn from each other, and try new combinations of local ingredients. Every time we discover how good it is that there are so many of us, but despite this, each of us has our own story and season our dishes our own way. It is this diversity that makes us particularly successful.
The chefs of the nine Taste Radol’ca restaurants jointly preparing the opening dinner of the Month of Local Cuisine (photo: Boris Pretnar)
In 2013 we began to awaken Vila Podvin from its long winter slumber. We faced uncertainty over our challenges and the locals in the surroundings weren't exactly enthusiastic about our arrival. Nevertheless, we came 'home', to the Municipality of Radovljica. We had a desire to show that through hard work and positive targeting, and above all through networking, success can be achieved. Many a restaurateur at that time would have rather seen us stay in Bled to leave more space for them. Now, however, they are of a different opinion.
In November 2013, together with the Radovljica Institute for Tourism and Culture and 13 Radol'ca restaurants, we held the first Month of Taste Radol'ca and we were the first group in Slovenia to actually connect in such a way. The opening of the first Month of Taste Radol'ca took place in the traditional Radovljica restaurant Gostilna Kunstelj, where for the first time in its 200-year history it was helped in service by Jože Andrejas from the other traditional Radovljica restaurant Gostilna Lectar, thus uniting the two biggest competitors in Radovljica's traditional culinary scene. It really was great to be part of the exceptionally positive energy and to have full restaurants during the usually quiet season, in terms of tourism, of November. Since then the Taste Radol'ca story has been continuing to unfurl, and every year we add a little something to our culinary story.
At the opening dinner of Taste Radol’ca in 2014, Anton Štiherle from Gostilna Kunstelj was among those serving diners in Gostilna Lectar. Photo: Žiga Intihar
That is why we also soon began to work together during the year at various events and occasions such as hosting journalists and tourist agents who visit Radovljica, co-operating at the annual Christmas bazaar of the Matevž Langus Centre for Training, Work and Care (CUDV Radovljica), enriching the summer Thursday concert evenings in Linhart Square with our range of street food, cooking up warming street food for the December Christmas light switch-on, and participating in the Radovljica Chocolate Festival. We love it!
Taste Radol’ca ensure the events in Radovljica are tasty too! Photo: Jošt Gantar
It's very important that we learn from each other, help each other during the busiest times, promote and have trust in each other. In co-operation with the Radovljica Institute for Tourism and Culture we have published a culinary guide to our destination - the Taste Radol'ca brochure, which is available in four languages. It's not just a guide as each restaurant has also included one of its own recipes. A new print run of the brochures has already taken place, which is yet another sign of our good work.
For some time we had been occupied by thinking about actual quality of our restaurants.
It's true that each of us is different, but are we presenting this in the best way? What can we still further improve? Because we are all-too engrossed in the actual process of work, sometimes it is difficult to in reality judge what is good, what is excellent, and where there is room for improvement. It was this that led us to invite food critics to assess Taste Radol'ca restaurants. We asked them for an independent and professional rating, which would help us on our continuing journey. If we want to follow our vision and become the centre of Slovenia's cuisine, culture and tradition, we must constantly and critically judge the existing state of play, add to our stories, further unite and develop.
We realised that the opinions of the food critics would have a decisive effect on our Taste Radol'ca 'family'. Those who didn't meet the minimum standards of quality would have to leave our 'family' until they had dealt with the issues at hand. To prepare for the unannounced visits of the food critics we honed our offers in terms of menus, service, uniforms and more.
Finally, we received feedback on our work. We read about where we need to improve, what is already good, and even what is excellent. Whilst this meant that, following the judgement of the food critics a few members of our 'family' left, those of us who remained undertake to strive for quality, constant improvements, upgrading and our unity.
In Radol'ca we want satisfied guests who return and who are keen to discover the ever-new culinary stories that we are developing for them, since, in this way, we are developing too. Together we have already accomplished quite a number of projects, the most recent was the filming of a promotional video. Although not all the restaurants appeared in it, we are all highly satisfied with the end result and are really pleased to be part of it. We are delighted to show it and are proud that we are part of this group story.
Dear guests, you still have time to enjoy this November's honey-based Taste Radol'ca story. I hope to see you, too, on 1st December in Radovljica's old town centre for the Christmas light switch-on, where Taste Radol'ca will add to this great event by cooking up street food. If, however, you don't make it, don't worry, we are here for you throughout the year and are delighted to see you whatever the season. So, whether you dine with us just once or on a regular basis, trust us and taste our new flavours and dishes.
Radol'ca, Slovenia's centre of cuisine, culture and tradition, yes, that's us!
Uroš Štefelin is a top chef and co-owner of Vila Podvin restaurant who finds inspiration for his culinary creations from local ingredients and traditions.