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Simon Bertoncelj

Julijana Restaurant

A culinary perfectionist who fuses traditional French cuisine with characteristic Slovenian ingredients.

About chef

On his path, Simon has been accompanied by a set of circumstances and coincidences, celebrities and cooking challenges, which upgrade his knowledge and enhance his life.

He has been a cook since he was little. He doesn’t know where his enthusiasm comes from, as none of his family members worked in this profession. He has just always been interested in cooking, so he enrolled in the school of hospitality. His path was sealed when he began working at Julijana Restaurant in Grand Hotel Toplice in Bled, where he became fascinated with cooking. And he stayed. Today, cooking is not a job for him, but rather a hobby and a way of life.

Favourite dish
A dessert with mousse

Simon likes sweet, be it a dessert or chocolate.

Favourite ingredient
Sea bass

It can be prepared in many different ways – as cream, a fillet or a roll.

Simon believes in the sense of creations and flavours: “You must have some talent and then you upgrade your knowledge. Half is talent and the other half is experience.” Simon gained experience abroad under great chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay, Marc Meurin and Bobby Bräuer. He admits that he learned a lot. And still does, as he has ‘practice’ every year in renowned Michelin-starred restaurants, such as BMW’s EssZimmer in Munich, Le Meurin in France and Petit Tirolia at Grand Tirolia Hotel in Kitzbühel. Abroad, he learns new techniques that he uses to rearrange traditional Slovenian recipes.

Simon Bertoncelj
Photo: DD Selection, Julijana Restaurant archive
“Food is food. If it’s purée, it should be purée.”

He is not a fan of molecular gastronomy. He is captivated by traditional French cuisine that is based on strong fondues and reductions with butter as the basis of everything. He likes strong and distinct flavours in classical combinations fused with Slovenian elements, such as smoked trout and Bled cheese. The emphasis is on top ingredients with a local touch: “Lobster isn’t Slovenian. Gourmet can be Slovenian vegetables with pasta from Monfalcone.” His guests are sophisticated people who know haute cuisine well, which is why his cuisine must be at the same level. With a Slovenian aftertaste.

Gastronomy in Julijana Restaurant
Photo: DD Selection, Julijana Restaurant archive

A good dish is manifested in satisfied guests and supported by not only a chef, but also the whole team.

A good dish is composed of several components and seasonal ingredients. Before they serve it to guests, other members of the team, bosses, deputies and sometimes a director taste it. Simon believes in experience: “The more experience you have, the more you know – you know the basics, raw ingredients and how to combine them.”
Experience is always directly related to persistence, which is crucial for a good cook. Sometimes, it is difficult and requires a lot of time. Working time and time that is really intended to be free time. Simon spends around 14 days on a seven-course menu, which is not easily done. How does he do it? “Like with everything in life, you must have a goal. And continuity not to deviate from the quality you set for yourself.”
Simon likes cooking challenges. He enjoys working for events with distinct special features like formal dinners and weddings from other cultures. They host many weddings, around 50 a year. He has fond memories of a vegan wedding for 120 guests, which was a pleasant challenge for him. And of an Arab wedding with 600 guests, for which the restaurant was transformed into the Garden of Eden. A 25-strong cooking team took care of the event and Simon’s cooking marathon lasted for a full 48 hours.

Photo: DD Selection, Julijana Restaurant archive

Chef's Restaurant

Julijana Restaurant

Royal indulgence for the taste buds by Lake Bled.

Read more