Born on the Croatian island of Krk, Deni first discovered his love for cooking as a child while sitting in the kitchen watching his grandmother, Marija, lovingly prepare traditional Kvarner specialties.
The culinary arts were not always in Deni’s future though, as after he completed high school, he planned to graduate from the University of Engineering in Rijeka as an Electrical Engineer. However, after two years of his studies, his passion for cooking overtook his intended career path, and Deni decided to attend a private cooking academy in Split instead.
The newly graduated chef accepted his first cooking position as an apprentice to one of the best chefs in Croatia, Dino Galvagno of Zagreb Restaurant, and after displaying his culinary prowess, he was quickly promoted to the position of sous-chef.
After spending time enriching his culinary talents with experience and knowledge in the kitchen, Deni accepted the position at the renowned Draga di Lovrana, a restaurant which at that time was headed by Zdravko Tomšič, the chef known as “the king of Croatian traditional cuisine”. Zdravko became an invaluable culinary mentor to Deni here. From creating the desserts to mastering Zdravko grandma’s recipe for šurlice pasta with lamb stew, Deni was a fast learner with incredible talent.
After only two years, Srdoč became the new head chef of Draga di Lovrana and was soon awarded the best young chef of Croatia and the 2018 young talent of the year by Gault&Millau. At only 27 years of age Deni proudly received his first Michelin star.
Srdoč’s cooking style blends modern with traditional touches underpinned by an Italian-French influence. He enjoys reinterpreting traditional dishes in a modern and innovative way. Although his heritage would suggest his cuisine remained rooted in the Mediterranean, he likes exploring recipes and dishes from all over Croatia. The chef also finds inspiration while traveling, where he discovers and immerses himself in local cuisines with great curiosity.
One of the pillars of Deni’s food is the produce he uses. He pays great attention to his ingredients, ensuring that they are organically grown and locally sourced – most of them come from the Kvarner area. One of his favorite countries to visit is France, the cradle of modern gastronomy, followed by Italy, where he indulges in high-quality dishes prepared using “ordinary” ingredients – a philosophy that he too follows in his own kitchen.
Describe your culinary philosophy in FOUR words:
Heritage, invention, passion, reminiscing.
What is your greatest inspiration?
Trying to enhance and improve every meal I try.
If you could take a plane ride to any restaurant in the world, just for one meal, where would you go?
The French Laundry.
What FOUR things would you take to a desert island?
A few bottles of wine, a hat, sun lotion and a knife.
- 1 Michelin Star at Draga di Lovrana | The Michelin Guide 2019
- Best young chef of Croatia
- The young talent of the year 2018 | Gault&Millau
Hotel Draga di Lovrana
Cesta za Lovransku Dragu 1
Images © Dean Dubokoviƒ